Colin Hanks plays Bob Broberg in "A Friend of the Family." Photo courtesy of Peacock
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- A Friend of the Family cast members Colin Hanks, Jake Lacy, McKenna Grace and Lio Tipton said their true crime drama, premiering Thursday on Peacock, illustrates how a predator can groom his target's entire family.
In the '70s, Robert Berchtold, known as B in his Pocatello, Idaho, neighborhood, twice kidnapped his neighbor's daughter, Jan Broberg (Hendrix Yancey, Mckenna Grace), at ages 12 and 14.
Hanks plays Jan's father, Bob, and said B manipulated the whole Broberg family to earn Jan's trust and theirs, as well.
"They, themselves, were groomed," Hanks told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "They were basically at the mercy of a predator."
Friend of the Family shows B monopolize the Brobergs' time, drive Jan to horseback riding lessons and enlist Bob to ask his wife, Mary Ann (Anna Paquin), to give his wife bedroom advice. Hanks said it's easy to call that grooming in 2022, but in the '70s, the Brobergs were blindsided.
"There were not the terms that we all know now," Hanks said. "Law enforcement did not know at that time."
Friend of the Family creator Nick Antosca said Mary Ann's request indicates the subtle ways B manipulated Bob and others. Antosca also created the true crime drama The Act.
"It's flattering to the other man in the '70s who's like, 'Oh, my wife is so desirable,'" Antosca said. "It played on the specific vanities, insecurities and vulnerabilities that a person has."
Lacy said he researched Berchtold and the behaviors of groomers and pedophiles. Portraying B on the show, he said he identified a modus operandi of normalizing flamboyant behavior.
"He dresses a little bit snappier, he talks a little louder," Lacy said. "He is also very subtly defining himself as other. So then, when he behaves in ways that are ever so slightly more extreme, they are explained away by, 'Oh, that's just how B is.'"
B's family supports his giving attention to Jan. Tipton, who plays B's wife, Gail, said they believe B also was manipulating Gail.
"I believe that Gail experienced grooming very similarly," Tipton said. "She did Bob's bidding for him, in a way."
Grace played older Jan after the first kidnapping. At that age, Jan still believes B is her friend with noble intentions.
"Jan really did believe everything that B had told her until she was like 17," Grace said.
Jan was a producer on Friend of the Family, and said she hopes sharing her story -- with her mother's book upon which the series is based, the series and her continued speaking engagements -- will help other families notice the red flags that predators like B exhibit.
"Look a little closer to those who are close to you because this is the most common kind of child abuse," Broberg said. "When you feel that spidey sense, your antenna goes up and don't just dismiss it because that's my priest, bishop, favorite school teacher, the sports team, the doctor of the USA Gymnastics."
Antosca asked Broberg if she wanted to be involved in the series. When she agreed, he said he hoped the series would show how small, individual manipulations add up to a pattern of abuse.
"It was these complex chess moves that took place over years," Antosca said. "Our goal was to tell this over time so you could see how the temperature got turned up a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more until you realize, oh, my God, we're boiling."
New episodes of Friend of the Family premiere Thursdays on Peacock.