Not Dead Yet: Is the Series Based on a True Story or a Book?

Image Credit: Temma Hankin/ABC

Created by David Windsor and Casey Johnson, ABC’s ‘Not Dead Yet’ is a comedy series that revolves around a woman who wishes for a fresh start but ends up finding very unusual advisors. Freshly single and almost broke, Nell Serrano’s life is one inch away from falling apart. To get things back on track, she returns to LA from London and tries resuming the career she left behind five years ago. However, the only decent job Nell can land after her break is that of an obituary writer. As she struggles to connect with her new lifestyle and work, she receives advice from some unlikely (and unearthly) friends.

Featuring stellar performances from talented actors like Gina Rodriguez, Rick Glassman, Hannah Simone, and Lauren Ash, the show keeps the audience hooked with its engaging and hilarious narrative. Moreover, the relatable and quirky characters and the relevant themes like loneliness, belief in the afterlife, and feeling disconnected from one’s generation. All this makes one wonder about the inspiration behind ‘Not Dead Yet’ — is the show rooted in reality or adapted from a book? If you’re riding the same boat of curiosity, let’s find out together!

Not Dead Yet: An Adaptation of Alexandra Potter’s Novel

No, ‘Not Dead Yet’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it is an adaptation of Alexandra Potter’s debut novel, ‘Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up.’ Published in 2020, it follows Nell Stevens, a woman in her 40s who feels heavily intimidated seeing the picture-perfect lives of her peers on social media. As she questions what shape her future is taking, she meets and befriends an elderly widow named Cricket, thus changing her life forever. Though the novel is also fictional, Alexandra shared how she got the idea for the story that several readers could relate to.

Image Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

In an interview with Pan Macmillan, the author said, “What inspired me to write ‘Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up’ would be…well, there were a couple of things. One was social media and looking at everything on social media, scrolling through, and thinking that my life looked nothing like the lives I was seeing on social media. The next thing I thought about was I really was inspired to write a book where the characters were older, and I loved having an older character in it. She’s in her 80s and becomes best friends with the heroine of the book Nell who’s in her forties; I really wanted an intergenerational friendship because I think that’s really interesting.”

Alexandra continued, “I think the third thing that inspired me with the book was that there’s just so much pressure on women, especially to tick all these boxes and get everything done by the age of 30 or maybe 40. I used to think, ‘well, I didn’t do that,’ and I’d look around and see my friends, and they didn’t do that. And so, I wanted to write about that kind of pressure everybody feels and how we compare ourselves to everybody.” Staying true to its source material’s essence, the ABC show explores how the protagonist, Nell, feels like a misfit seeing all her friends get ahead in their careers and families while she still grapples with basic sustenance.

Besides Nell’s perception of people around her, the show focuses on her job and how she befriends the ghosts of the people she writes obituaries for. In another interview with AP News, creators David Windsor and Casey Johnson divulged how their personal experiences helped them develop Alexandra’s book into the TV adaptation. Before the project commenced, both writers had been grieving the recent loss of a parent and wished they could still consult them for guidance and advice.

Image Credit: Scott Everett White/ABC

“It was almost wish-fulfillment, thinking like, ‘Wow, what would happen if we could talk to them? What would happen if we could seek them out and get their advice?’” said David. Furthermore, the creators wanted to blend the comedy and emotional drama genres, to recreate the magical effect their previous show, ‘This Is Us,’ had on the viewers. Casey added, “We were wondering if there was a way to kind of meld the two worlds. Can we do a comedy that has hard jokes and is a lot of fun but then also goes for these really emotional, real moments? To us as writers, that was a really exciting experiment, and we were really thrilled that ABC was on board.”

In summation, ‘Not Dead Yet’ may not be based on actual people or events, yet it mostly sticks to the book it is adapted from. By adding a few more elements for a dramatic flair, the creators have created a narrative that strikes a chord with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. It invokes a fondness in the heart for loved ones lost and reassures us that there is no need to compare ourselves with others’ achievements; everyone has a different timeline. The incredible actors bring the oddball characters to life, making the viewers relate to their situations and laugh and cry along with them.

Read More: Where is Not Dead Yet Filmed?