Is Netflix’s Maid Based on a True Story?

Netflix’s ‘Maid’ is a drama miniseries about a young woman who finds herself homeless after escaping an abusive relationship. Alex (Margaret Qualley) is then faced with supporting her daughter and herself while staving off homelessness and unemployment. A convoluted bureaucratic process on every corner and a family that she cannot depend on make matters all the more desperate.

The show also depicts the opulent homes Alex works in as a maid, showing not just the troubles of someone fighting poverty but also the less-than-perfect lives of the wealthy. The stark contrast in lifestyles makes Alex’s troubles even more apparent but hints at a greater theme of how happiness cannot be bought. If you’re wondering how much of the story of ‘Maid’ is true, we’ve got some answers for you.

Is Maid Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Maid’ is based on a true story. The miniseries is based on Stephanie Land’s 2019 memoir ‘Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,’ which debuted at No.3 on the New York Times Best Seller list. The book originated from an article Land wrote in 2015 titled ‘I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich,’ which details her struggle with poverty as she supported her young daughter by working as a domestic cleaner.

The show’s central protagonist, Alex, embodies Land’s story quite accurately. Land mentioned escaping an abusive relationship in 2008, after which she was forced to move into a homeless shelter with her 9-month old daughter. She described working for relatively low wages while precariously holding a job from which she could get fired if she missed too many work hours, sending her and her daughter back into homelessness. All these aspects are depicted in heart-wrenching detail on the show as well.

Land’s 2015 article focuses on the seemingly perfect lives of the wealthy, which she got an unusually deep insight into from regularly cleaning wealthy clients’ houses. She noticed that even those with a life of luxury lived with problems and were frequently unhappy. She summarized that the bigger the house, the more prescription medication its owner generally consumed (or abused).

This aspect in the show is largely represented by Regina’s character, a short-tempered, highly successful woman that hires Alex. Initially seen to have an enviable life, when Regina finally opens up to Alex, the latter finds out that the self-made woman cannot have children and feels incapable of emotion after spending so many years focusing on being successful. Regina’s character was not part of Land’s book but was added to the show’s script.

The showrunner and creator of ‘Maid,’ Molly Smith Metzler (known for her writing on ‘Orange Is the New Black,’) was inspired to spread the word of the unseen plight of the single mother after she read Land’s book. Being a mother herself, Metzler mentioned feeling furious when she read how a doctor that Land took her sick daughter to told the already overworked mother to “do better.” The reality of how slippery a slope poverty is, and the difficulties of navigating a bureaucratic system to get basic government assistance, was something that the showrunner wanted to bring to a broader audience.

Interestingly, the character of Alex’s mother Paula is essayed by Andie MacDowell, who is actress Margaret Qualley’s mother in real life. This brings an added layer of authenticity to one of the central character’s major relationships in the show. ‘Maid’ retains much of its source book’s details and closely depicts the grueling time Land spent fighting poverty. It also includes the observation (or conclusion) that Land explores in her 2015 article about the wealthy often being unhappy.

This makes the show firmly based on Land’s real-life experiences. While some aspects have been modified for dramatic effect, ‘Maid’ faithfully depicts in harrowing detail the devastating effects of poverty through the perspective of a character that goes through many of the same situations that Land actually did.

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