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Ryan Murphy Kept The Cast Of The Watcher On The Edge Of Their Seats With The Rest Of Us

Netflix's "The Watcher" is a Ryan Murphy production loosely based on real events. While the inspiration behind the series is true, as the homeowners of 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, did receive a number of terrifying letters in 2014, almost everything else about the series has been up for interpretation. That's partly because there isn't a lot of information about the original crime available to the public.

According to the true story that inspired "The Watcher," the new homeowners, Derek and Maria Broaddus, received four threatening and disturbing letters from an unknown sender who ridiculed them for making changes to their new home, purported to be watching them at all times, and made claims like the house demanding "young blood." During the investigation, it came to light that the previous owners of the home also received similar letters, and so did one of their neighbors. The investigation didn't really go much further than that, however. The sender was never identified and many members of their community believed that the Broaddus family was sending the letters to themselves.

Given the mysterious nature of this crime, Ryan Murphy, the creator of "American Horror Story," had a lot of room to play with creative liberties. As seen multiple times on "AHS," He loves to take inspiration from real-world events and figures. Also the talented mind behind "American Crime Story" and "Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," Murphy has proven he can produce accurate historical recollections as well as imaginative retellings. One clever trick he applied to the filming of "The Watcher" ensured an earnest performance from the cast of this creative reimagining, though.

None of the cast knew who the Watcher really was

While tackling a story like "The Watcher," some of the actors were concerned with being as respectful to the actual story as possible, while others were focused on the vision that Ryan Murphy had when creating the Netflix series. "The Watcher" only keeps the location and the actual letters left for the homeowners. The trailer showcases sequences that the real Broaddus family never experienced. Given this fact, there has been some worry about the series being disrespectful or exploitative.

Most of the members involved in the project trusted Ryan Murphy, though. As such, they were able to push past the worry of the story, but one question weighed on everyone's mind, viewer and cast member alike. Who actually is the titular Watcher?

According to Jennifer Coolidge, the identity of the Watcher was kept secret from the cast throughout filming. Even the person playing the Watcher didn't actually know. "We were getting the scripts just one at a time, so we couldn't tip off if we were the watcher if we wanted to cause we didn't know. But it ended up being this huge advantage," Coolidge reported during an interview with Decider. "You're getting information so slowly that you could actually play a real person and then do Ryan's brilliant dialogue."

While the series took creative liberty with the real story, it still felt authentic. The adaptation works because even though much of it is fictitious, it could be anyone's story. Coolidge concluded her own thoughts by saying, "There was a lot to play, and I like that I was guessing. We're all written as complicated people." This tactic, as it seemed, added to the real feel of the series.