‘Dopesick’ is a drama series created by Danny Strong (‘Empire‘) that blends fiction and reality to paint an accurate picture of the American opioid crisis. It is based on the non-fiction book ‘Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America’ written by Beth Macy. Although it dramatizes the real-world events detailed in the book, the series still features various characters inspired by real people, such as Richard Sackler.
Two of the show’s most relatable characters are Billy Cutler and Betsy Mallum, and given the show’s non-fiction source material, it is easy to wonder whether the two are based on actual persons. We also got curious about the same and did a little research into the matter. Here’s everything we learned about the inspiration behind Billy Cutler and Betsy Mallum!
Are Dopesick’s Billy Cutler and Betsy Mallum Based on Real People?
In ‘Dopesick,’ actor Will Poulter (‘Midsommar‘) essays the role of Billy Cutler, a pharmaceutical sales rep working for Purdue Pharma. Actress Kaitlyn Dever (‘Unbelievable‘) plays the part of Betsy Mallum, a hardworking closeted lesbian young girl who works as a miner in a small Virginia town. Both characters represent a section of people affected by the opioid crisis while simultaneously being a part of the problem.
Billy markets Purdue Pharma’s drug OxyContin to various doctors and asks them to prescribe it to their patients. However, the company is using lies and made-up facts to market their drug as non-addictive through their sales reps. Thus, Billy finds himself in a moral conflict. On the other hand, after a back injury, Betsy finds herself addicted to OxyContin and fails to recover from her addiction, which, in turn, affects the lives of her family.
Both characters’ storylines are resonant and help the audience understand the multi-faceted problem triggered by the misbranding of OxyContin. Neither Billy nor Betsy is based on any single real person. The characters are an amalgamation of various real people the show’s makers interviewed to obtain material and craft a realistic story. Therefore, it is safe to say that the characters are a work of fiction and are inspired by the shared plight of various real people who have first-hand experience of the opioid crisis.
In an interview, creator Danny Strong said that he utilized composite characters to incorporate as many people’s stories as possible and give the narrative a sense of universal truth. Similarly, in a separate interview, Poulter said that his character was designed by keeping in mind employees who worked at Purdue.
Likewise, Dever also opened up about her character in an interview. Dever stated that although Betsy is a fictional character, she represents the various ordinary people who were affected by the epidemic. The actress also revealed that she went through a few interviews Strong conducted with real people to prepare for her role.
All things said, Billy and Betsy are both fictional characters who provide a voice to the issues of two completely different groups of people who found themselves at the center of the opioid epidemic. By creating composite characters, the makers are able to accurately depict the tragedy of the real-life epidemic that plagued the lives of millions of people.