The Crowded Room: Is Candy Sullivan Based on a Real Person?

Apple TV+’s ‘The Crowded Room’ unfolds the story of Danny Sullivan, who is arrested following a shooting in New York. Danny claims he had an accomplice who fled the scene. To find this accomplice and how Danny came into their contact in the first place, he is interviewed by a psychiatrist, Rya Goodwin. She digs into his past to highlight the events that seem out of place and shed light on Danny’s mental state when the shooting took place.

It turns out that Danny had a turbulent childhood, through which his mother, Candy Sullivan, was his only support. While trying to protect her son and give him a good life, Candy goes through some tough times, making her a sympathetic character. If you are wondering whether she is based on a real person, here’s what you should know. SPOILERS AHEAD

Is Candy Sullivan is Inspired by Billy’s Mother Dorothy Sands

‘The Crowded Room’ is loosely based on the life of Billy Milligan, who came into the spotlight after being arrested for the rape and robbery of three women in the Ohio University area. The show presents him through a fictional lens in Danny Sullivan. His mother, Candy Sullivan, is based on Billy’s mother, Dorothy Sands.

Dorothy grew up in Ohio, raised in a Catholic household by her grandparents after her mother’s death. She married Dick Jonas at the age of eighteen but later divorced him. She moved to Florida to become a singer and later met John Morrison, a comedian. They had three children together— Jim, Billy, and Kathy. Morrison died by suicide after battling depression and alcoholism. Following this, Dorothy moved back to Circleville, where she remarried Jonas. However, the marriage didn’t last long, and they divorced again.

In 1963, Dorothy married Chalmer Milligan, a WWII army veteran, who had a daughter. They raised their children together after moving to Lancaster. Years later, when Billy was arrested and diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, he accused his stepfather of sexual and physical abuse. By then, Dorothy had already divorced Chalmer. After him, she married Delmos Moore, with whom she remained for the rest of their lives. She passed away on August 25, 2012, at 83 and is laid to rest in Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Lancaster, Ohio.

When the doctors diagnosed Billy with DID, Dorothy talked about the signs that had always been there. He would lose time, forgetting how he got from school to home. He spoke in accents, which others interpreted as a joke even though he seemed serious. When Billy’s case subsided from the public and media’s memory, he slipped into a quiet life. Reportedly, he got out of touch with everyone, including his mother, who had no contact with him for fifteen years.

While the show is inspired by Billy’s life, it gives a fictional touch to the characters, which means that Candy Sullivan is not an accurate representation of Dorothy Sands. For actress Emmy Rossum, what drew her towards the role was that she “fell in love with the relationship between mother and son and the closeness and everything that they’re grieving in later episodes.” Playing the character allowed her to see “our imperfections as people, the unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves, and how we are really just a product of our own upbringings.”

Considering all this, it is clear that Candy is loosely based on Dorothy. Despite the difference between them, their heart remains in the same place. Elaborating on how the show focuses on Candy and Danny’s relationship, she said: “The show has a lot to say about love and empathy and understanding of those who are different than we are. It’s really shocking and thought-provoking, and it really has a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together.”

Read More: Where is Billy Milligan’s Brother Jim Morrison Now?