Is The Clearing’s Freya Heywood and Adrienne Beaufort Based on Actual People?

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Created by Matt Cameron and Elise McCredie, ‘The Clearing’ is a Disney+ (Hulu in the US) series based on the 2019 novel ‘In the Clearing’ by JP Pomare, which uses the real-world cult the Family as a source of inspiration. Although the series initially hides this aspect of the story, we eventually learn that it is split into two timelines. In the past, a young girl named Sara is kidnapped by members of the Kindred and brought to Blackmarsh, a property in rural Victoria. When it becomes apparent that it is too late to return her, Adrienne Beaufort / Maitreya (Miranda Otto) asks May Beaufort (Julia Savage) to brainwash the girl to stay in the community. In the present day, the cult seems to have fallen apart, but May, who now goes by the name Freya Heywood (Teresa Palmer), continues to care for Adrienne, who appears to be suffering from dementia.

The Reality Behind Freya Heywood’s Character

Each episode of the series begins with the following note, “While certain story elements were inspired by actual events, this series is a work of fiction. The characters, names, places, and events have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes and no identification with actual persons (living or dead), places, or events, should be inferred.” This seems to imply that while certain aspects of the story of ‘The Clearing’ heavily draw from the incidents involving the Family, the show’s narrative is largely fictional.

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When the viewers are introduced to Freya, one can tell that she is a survivor of severe trauma. Palmer delivers a remarkable performance as a single mother trying to raise her child while dealing with the overwhelming nature of her trauma. “It’s such a redemption story,” the actress told UPI in an interview. “You see her unpack a lot of that trauma and work through it. Ultimately, you realize that no matter where you come from, there’s hope for healing.”

Palmer continued, “She’s showing up for him [Freya’s son, Billy] and taking him to school and just doing all the normal mom things while being completely in a trauma cycle. I’m not sure if she does a successful job or not of shielding him from it.”

Freya or Amy effectively serves as the point-of-view character in the story, though it seems she isn’t necessarily based on any particular real-life survivor. Even after the 1987 police raid on the Kai Lama property and the 1993 arrest of Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her husband Bill, the cult remained active in the years to come, though one of the survivors compared it to a “toothless tiger.”

Adrienne Beaufort: A Character Molded from Real Cult Histories

Certain aspects of the character of Adrienne Beaufort or Maitreya, the leader of the Kindred in ‘The Clearing,’ seem to be based on Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the leader of the Family. The philosophy of both the Kindred and the Family is a messy combination of Eastern and Western ideas. Both cults bleach the hair of the children to make them seem like biological siblings. Punishment and drugs such as LSD are used as tools to instill discipline. Just as Maitreya has Dr. Bryce Latham (Guy Pearce), Anne had Raynor Johnson, an English-born Australian parapsychologist, physicist, and author.

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Both groups are doomsday cults that believe the children they are raising will inherit Earth after a cataclysmic event. Anne saw herself as an incarnation of Jesus Christ and the members of her inner circle as incarnations of the Apostles of Jesus. Like Adrienne, Anne was diagnosed with dementia later in life. In 2013, there was reportedly an internal struggle within the group to ascertain who would succeed Anne.

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Like Anne in real life, Adrienne is incredibly charismatic and holds a significant amount of power over her disciples. Reflecting on this, Otto told Moviefone, “She’s definitely a hugely powerful figure in the series with the children. I think her power is very much about withholding from them, giving to them as a special moment and telling them how special and important they are when she wants something from them or she needs them to behave in a certain way, but then completely cutting off from them once that’s complete. It’s very transactional for her. She gives certain things to get things, and then she cuts off from them entirely. She seems to see them more as a photograph than actual real human beings. There’s sort of a definite lack of empathy.”

Read More: Is The Clearing’s Adrienne Beaufort (Maitreya) Based on Anne Hamilton-Byrne?