This week, HBO released a new documentary that chronicled the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard by her daughter Gypsy Rose while also giving audiences a closer view into the abuse that Gypsy Rose endured at the hands of her mother. The documentary, MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST, is a harrowing look into the world that Gypsy was forced to live in due to her mother’s mental illness, the controversial Munchausen by Proxy. In preparation for the release of the documentary, Shannon had the chance to speak with director Erin Lee Carr as well as Gypsy’s father and step mother, Rod and Kristy Blanchard about Gypsy Rose and how she got to where she is today.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you everyone for speaking with us today. To start things off, Erin, can you tell us how you got involved with this documentary and what inspired you to tell the story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee?
Erin Lee Carr: Thank you so much for speaking with us, we are really excited for this film to come out. People like to throw around true crime as sort of a genre, but for me it’s always been a particular point of fascination because these are stories involving people’s liberties and there is no greater or more interesting power dynamic than that, this is life or death. As a filmmaker, and as a human, my curiosity extends into this. When I first heard about this case, it was my co-producer Alison Byrne who shared with me this thought catalog piece that was really long, intense and weird. I had never heard of anything like that and I needed to see if it was possible to make a documentary about that.
NC: How long did it take to gather information and put everything into place for the documentary?
Erin Lee Carr: It took a year and a half and it was a full year before I had spoken with Gypsy Rose. I interviewed her in prison, I was able to fly down and speak with her on the record but with no cameras. She had to get to know me, this wasn’t an easy decision, she wanted her story to be out there, but it’s very easily misconstrued.
NC: Rod, you mentioned in the documentary about Dee Dee moving Gypsy Rose away from you. Is that why you didn’t know the full extent of Dee Dee’s lies and what she was doing to Gypsy Rose?
Rod Blanchard: I think that had a big part to do with it. She was not only moving her away from me, she was moving her away from her home family and the people who knew her. For Dee Dee to be able to deceive the neighbors that lived next to her in their local neighborhood up in Missouri so easily, I think her manipulating me or keeping it under the wool from me 800 miles away was probably much easier regardless of if I was her father. It was just something that Dee Dee was good at and she was able to do it easily.
NC: I’m not condoning that murder is acceptable; however, do you think that the system failed Gypsy Rose so that for her the only escape from the torture of her mom was to have her killed?
Rod Blanchard: Yeah, I think the system failed her. I think there were opportunities and flags on the public system, the police force, the doctors, myself. She fell through every crack they had to fall through and we failed her. We really did. In that time of her life, that was her only way out and I can’t judge her for making that decision. I’ve said it before, I may have done the same thing.
NC: Are you hoping that this documentary will open the eyes of the people who work within social services to see how easy it is for kids or adults to slip through the cracks and be pushed to a place where Gypsy Rose was pushed too?
Rod Blanchard: We hope it does, we think there is opportunity for that and maybe some opportunities for Gypsy Rose to help with that down the road and to bring some awareness. I mean, if it helps one person, that’s great.
NC: Have you been able to have a lot of contact with Gypsy Rose and do you still visit her in prison?
Kristy Blanchard: Yes, we talk a lot on the phone a couple times a week. It could be an hour up to two hours every time we talk. We went and saw her this past March and basically talked about a lot of things she hadn’t been ready to talk about before. We didn’t push anything on her, she just told us what she wanted to at that time. Before, she really couldn’t say anything because of her plea deal so it was hard for her because she wanted to say something but her lawyers would advise her not too.
NC: In regards to Gypsy Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, do you or Gypsy still have contact with him? In the documentary, it’s brought up that Nicholas falls on the autism spectrum. Do you think this is another case in which the system failed him as well?
Erin Lee Carr: That’s a really good question. I have not met him, this is all through me looking carefully through the interrogation tapes and when people talked about him. He feels very, severely, mentally ill. Anybody’s reaction, 9 times out of 10, if Gypsy came to them and said this is what is going on at my house and I need you to kill my mother, everybody would have said no. I don’t know what I would do if I was Nicholas’ parents. I can’t put myself in their shoes either. They knew his life was over when this happened, but in a way he was left to his own devices and he was online all the time. I don’t assign any blame to his parents, but he was abusive and I think that this was a very tragic end for him as well.
Kristy Blanchard: We’ve never had contact with Nicholas.
Erin Lee Carr: He was physically and emotionally abusive to their kid so there would be no reason to be in contact.
NC: What are some of the misconceptions people have about what happened? Is there anything you wish to clear up?
Rod Blanchard: Initially when it came out, everyone was making assumptions. Kristy was big on seeing what was out there and what people were saying and there was a lot of trashy stuff. A lot of assumptions about us, about Gypsy, about Dee Dee. Hopefully the documentary itself will clear up a lot of that, showing our character throughout the film. We hope that a lot of that will go away and if people still have their own opinion that’s fine, they can make that choice after viewing the film.
Erin Lee Carr: For me, early on, especially when I was talking about doing a couple early interviews, one thing I thought was I wondered why Gypsy never tried to run away another time. A couple of people emailed me and said how can you say that? You were not in an abusive home for that many years, people don’t try to escape when there is physical violence on the table. So there was a misconception for me, as someone who was interacting with this story. I’ve come to understand that it’s really difficult for any of us to put ourselves in the footsteps of Gypsy.
NC: Do you think that Gypsy Rose has found peace with everything that has happened? Do you think that she has learned from what she’s done? Do you think she’s a happier person now?
Kristy Blanchard: She has some bad days, but when she’s ready she’ll be able to put behind the things that Dee Dee did to her. When you end that abuse after a long time, even though it’s someone you look up too, maybe a parent, maybe a friend of the family, it would feel like betrayal to tell on them.
Erin Lee Carr: There’s a lot of brainwashing in an abusive relationship and a lot of deprogramming of that. Gypsy thought she was going to be responsible for putting her mom in prison. It’s brainwashing, pure and simple, and it’s just hard to imagine.
Rod Blanchard: I think she’ll find her peace. I think she’s happier now, she says she is, I hope she is. She feels freer now than she did living with her mom. She will come to grips with what she’s done and she’s going to find her peace and she’s telling us she’s happier now.