Showtime’s ‘The Woman in the Wall’ is a gothic thriller that employs all the best tropes of a crime drama, but what makes it more interesting is its connection to reality. The series follows Lorna Brady, who sleepwalks and, hence, cannot tell whether she was involved in a murder after she finds a dead body in her house. It soon becomes clear to Lorna that the dead person is connected to her past in a local Magdalene Laundry. As she digs for the truth, some startling revelations are made. Considering that the show is inspired by real events, one is bound to wonder if Lorna Brady is based on a real person.
Lorna Brady is Inspired by the Real Victims of the Magdalene Laundries
‘The Woman in the Wall,’ created by Joe Murtagh, is inspired by the real Magdalene Laundries scandal in Ireland, but it approaches the subject from a fictional rather than biographical lens. This means that while the backgrounds of the characters are rooted in reality, the characters themselves, including the dubious protagonist Lorna Brady, are fictional.
Murtagh decided to write a story with the premise of the Magdalene Laundries about ten years before the show saw the light of day. After seeing Peter Mullins’ ‘The Magdalene Sisters,’ he was appalled and outraged but disappointed that he didn’t know much about the case that had adversely impacted the women in Ireland. After talking to people, he realized that many didn’t know much or anything at all about the subject, and that’s when he decided to write a story on the subject.
While Murtagh wanted to inform the audience about the case, he also didn’t want the story to be so limited that it didn’t attract enough audience. From experience in the TV industry, he knew that the crime genre is one of the few to cast the widest nets when it comes to attracting viewers as opposed to a story that is told in a biographical or true story format. With that in mind, he cooked up a mystery that has the horrifying truth of the Magdalene Laundries woven into it. So the audience comes for the mystery but leaves aware and educated about the horrors of the institution, which existed fairly recently.
The writer found his protagonist in Lorna Brady, but he couldn’t have concocted her out of thin air. During the process of writing, Murtagh indulged in extensive research about the case. He poured through almost every article and book written about it, explored the films and documentaries made on the subject, and then also talked to the people who have been working tirelessly to bring justice to the victims of the Magdalene Laundries. Katherine O’Donnell from Justice for Magdalenes Research served as one of the consultants on the show, helping the show’s creators tell the story in a sensitive manner.
Through O’Donnell and others working for organizations aimed at helping the victims and bringing the truth out in the open, Murtagh also got to meet the women who have been in these places. Even after reading all the stuff, the writer could not believe the devastating things that women told him they’d suffered in these institutes. The first-hand accounts informed a lot of writing in the show, and some details from real life have made it into the narrative. However, when it came to choosing the protagonist and her story, he found it best to keep her fictional.
One of the reasons why Murtagh wanted a fictional character was because he didn’t want to limit the experiences of the victims by choosing one or the other as the story’s subject. Having a fictional character allowed him a wider space to get more stories into the narrative while also protecting the identities of the survivors in a way. The fictional aspect of the character also allowed him to create the crime part of the series, which completely veers off from reality as the murders, suspects, and investigators in the series are made up to serve the purpose of the show. To reiterate, Lorna Brady in ‘The Woman in the Wall’ is a fictional character who has been imbued with the real-life experiences of the women who survived the horrors of the Magdalene Laundries.