Although ‘Gaslit’ is set against the backdrop of the Watergate Scandal, the show doesn’t necessarily revolve around the infamous break-in and the subsequent shenanigans in American political and legal spheres. They are merely re-enacted in the show to give context to the main narrative, which focuses on Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts), the wife of Nixon’s Attorney General John N. Mitchell (Sean Penn).
Martha was one of the first people to shed light on the Watergate issue and was vilified for it. As a show, ‘Gaslit’ seeks to right that historical wrong. ‘Gaslit’ portrays Martha as she was — a complex woman. In the show, Martha is estranged from her son Jay Jennings (Johnny Berchtold), who first appears in episode 5, titled ‘Honeymoon.’ If you are wondering whether Jay is based on a real person, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Jay Jennings Based on a Real Person?
Yes, Jay Jennings is based on a real person. He is seemingly inspired by Clyde Jay Jennings, Martha’s son from a previous marriage. Jay’s father was the U.S. Army officer Clyde Jennings, Jr., who was originally from Lynchburg, Virginia. They tied the knot on October 5, 1946. Jennings Jr. had already retired from the army by then. The couple subsequently relocated to New York. While they lived in Queens, Martha gave birth to Jay in 1947. However, their marriage didn’t last long, and the couple split in May 1956. Clyde Jennings, Jr. and Martha’s divorce was reportedly finalized in August 1957.
Martha married John N. Mitchell in the same year, and they began living in Rye, New York. Meanwhile, Jay grew up and studied law at the University of Mississippi, where he met his future wife, Janis Crawford of Tylertown, Mississippi. They both reportedly dropped out of college at some point and exchanged wedding vows at the First Baptist Church in Crawford’s hometown in September 1974. Martha was present at the ceremony, arriving fashionably late due to a flat tire. By then, Martha had already separated from John.
Martha was later diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Jay took care of his mother and served as her spokesperson until she passed away in New York City on May 31, 1976. Her funeral took place at First Presbyterian Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, her hometown. Jay arrived along with John and half-sister Marty through the side door. One news outlet observed that Jay was fighting back the tears and swallowing hard during the ceremony. At the time, Jay was working as a researcher for the Senate Subcommittee on internal security.
In January 1980, he held a job as a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigator in Washington. It was reported that a storage company had auctioned off things belonging to Martha Mitchell in Manhattan. The said company reportedly stated that they reached out to John, but the latter apparently replied that he didn’t want to do anything with Martha’s belongings. An “upset” Jay told the press that most things that Martha acquired during her marriage to John were sold when she died.
“Mitchell [John] bought my mother a baby-grand piano, and it was worth $10,000 to $15,000. Was it hers or his when he sold it? You can find lawyers to argue either way. But these other things were from her earlier marriage,” Jay stated. On May 17, 2006, Jay’s father, Jennings, Jr., passed away. Jay was reportedly living in Woodbridge, Virginia, at the time. Beyond this, not much is known about Jay, including his current whereabouts.
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