The Crowded Room: Is Rya Goodwin Inspired by a Real Person?

Apple TV+’s psychological thriller ‘The Crowded Room’ stars Tom Holland as Danny Sullivan, whose life story unravels a shocking insight into his mental health. The story unfolds over a series of interviews conducted by a psychiatrist, Rya Goodwin. She is brought in to confirm whether Danny is a psychopathic serial killer, but as she discovers more about his past, she becomes fascinated.

She is tasked with getting the truth out of Danny, in the course of which she also resolves to help him. Played by Amanda Seyfried, Rya becomes instrumental in solving the crimes that Danny is accused of committing. If you are wondering whether a real-life person inspires her character, then here’s what you should know about her. SPOILERS AHEAD

Rya Goodwin: Fictional Blend of Real Psychiatrists

‘The Crowded Room’ is inspired by the real story of Billy Milligan, who was acquitted of three rapes and robberies due to his dissociative identity disorder. When he was arrested for the 1977 crimes, he was analyzed by several psychiatrists to determine what was going on with him. In the Apple TV+ series, all those psychiatrists are morphed into one and presented as Rya Goodwin.

Of all the psychiatrists who analyzed Milligan, Cornelia Wilbur was the one to decisively prove his situation. She was a reputed figure in the field and was known for her work on a patient named Sybil, who also serves as the inspiration for the book and the movie of the same name. She met Milligan after his arrest and, in her evaluation, confirmed that he had several personalities. According to the Netflix docuseries, ‘Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan,’ it took only twenty minutes for Wilbur to know Milligan had DID. She talked with at least three of his personalities during that time.

Milligan also received an evaluation from Dr. Geroge Harding, known for running the Harding Hospital, considered the best facility for treating mental illness at the time. Milligan was treated by Dr. David Caul at the Athens Mental Health Center. Caul helped him fuse all the personalities into one harmless one.

While the show is inspired by Milligan’s case, it presents the story through a fictional lens, taking creative liberties and changing several things about how the events transpired. While crafting Rya Goodwin, the show’s creator, Akiva Goldman, based the character on his mother, Mira Rothenberg, a child psychologist who had dedicated her life to helping others.

Goldman’s mother came to America in 1939 following Hitler’s rise in Germany and the beginning of the Second World War. Her father, who stayed back in Lithuania, died in the Holocaust. Later, while volunteering at a local synagogue when she was studying at Columbia, she met children who were rescued from concentration camps. This experience “shaped her pioneering therapy for autistic and schizophrenic children,” making her a reputed person in the field.

In 1958, she, with two other therapists, conducted “an immersive therapeutic program” to help eleven children, which was later detailed in her book ‘The Children of Raquette Lake: One Summer That Helped Change the Course of Treatment for Autism.’ This is where she met Tev Goldsman, whom she later married and had a son with. Together, they founded Blueberry Treatment Centres, helping more than 200 children and teenagers. She died in 2015 at 93 due to respiratory distress.

When it came to bringing Rya Goodwin alive on the screen, Amanda Seyfried tapped into the flair and confidence it would require for a woman to be in the field of psychiatry in the 70. “As a professor in the ’70s, men are constantly trying to bury her, get her out of the way, and she just won’t take it. I always have this hope that I would absorb that confidence when I play characters like this,” she said.

Seyfried also found a relatability with her character wherein she has to find a balance between her personal and professional life while dealing with the guilt of not being more present at home. The experience was amazing for the Emmy-winning actress, who said: “It was a gift to play her.” “I love her voice, and I love the way she formulates her questions and how sensitive she is to certain people and how much compassion she has,” she added. Considering all this, we can say that Rya Goodwin is a mix of several real-life psychiatrists while being a sensible and sharp character who can stand on her own.

Read More: Who Was Billy Milligan’s Psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur?