Betsy Brandt: 'Saint X' parents never get over daughter's death

Betsy Brandt (L) and West Duchovny star in "Saint X." Photo courtesy of Hulu
1 of 5 | Betsy Brandt (L) and West Duchovny star in "Saint X." Photo courtesy of Hulu

NEW YORK, May 30 (UPI) -- Saint X, the Hulu mystery about a teenager who dies on vacation, may be a parent's worst nightmare, but it also offered up loads of juicy emotional and psychological challenges for the cast to artistically explore.

Set to wrap up Wednesday, the eight-episode adaptation of Alexis Schaitkin's novel follows Ivy League university student Alison (West Duchovny) as she vacations with her wealthy parents, Mia and Bill (Betsy Brandt and Michael Park), and younger sister, Claire (Kenlee Townsend), at the luxurious Caribbean island resort at which Edwin (Jayden Elijah) works.


Shortly after they strike up a flirtation, Alison goes missing and Edwin and his lifelong best friend, Gogo (Josh Bonzie), are called in for questioning.

A media circus ensues.

Alycia Debnam-Carey plays Claire, now known as Emily, as an adult documentary filmmaker trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to her sister on that fateful holiday 15 years earlier.


"Grief, obviously, has so many phases," Park told UPI about how Alison's family deals with the trauma of losing her in a recent Zoom interview.

"You can form a tighter bond and circle the wagons and figure out how we're going to preserve our familial stand or you can fracture. Unfortunately, both take so much time and so much effort."

Brandt added, "There is a line in the book that says, 'They were together in their aloneness, in their separateness.' I felt like we did that. They were there for each other and there was a lot of love and they supported each other, but it was almost kind of like parallel."

She pointed to a scene in which Mia calls the adult Claire, who is living in New York, far away from her parents who are in San Francisco.

The tension between mother and daughter is palpable.

"I feel like you see in that moment that Mia thinks she is doing better than she is. You never get over it," Brandt said.

"She talks about the moments that surprise her, that catch her off guard. I think every morning she's like, 'This is what I need to do to get through the day.'"


The tragedy also takes its toll on Claire's relationship with her dad.

"The communication was always there. We were always communicating. We were always teaching and learning from each other and helping each other out," Park said.

"When Claire goes to move to New York as Emily, that's fractured, too," he added. "We see Mia constantly wanting to communicate and constantly wanting answers, and Bill is kind of a go-between with them, trying to do the right thing all the time -- and these are things they never had to worry about."

Brandt was a fan of the novel and eager to see what showrunner Leila Gerstein would make of it.

"Even though I read the book, it managed to surprise me in some ways," the actress said of the series.

Gerstein said she loved the book, as well, but knew it had to be restructured if it was going to work as a TV drama.

"The characters are really real. They are really flawed. The book presents itself as a mystery on an island about what happened to a young girl, but actually it's a commentary about race and class and gender and culture's obsession with dead White girls and tourism and grief," Gerstein said. "It's a meaningful dialogue."


The biggest change between the book and the series is how they toggle back and forth between the past and present.

"In the adaptation, we wove together these timelines, which in the book are more separated," Gerstein said.

"We wove them together to inform the jury and put us on this march toward an eight-episode finale and growing the suspense and mystery and creating more of, 'Could it have been this person? Could it have been this person?'"

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