In Peacock’s Based on a True StoryAva Bartlett (Kaley Cuoco) and Nathan Bartlett (Chris Messina) struggle to make ends meet. Ava is a real estate agent who can’t sell a house, while Nathan is an ex-tennis pro giving lessons to rich people at a country club. The couple is expecting their first child, but they can’t even afford the house they live in. With hope for a better life slowly dwindling, Ava says a phrase many Americans have probably recited over the last five years: What if we make a podcast?
Ava, a true crime junkie, and Nathan enter the overpopulated true crime genre with a podcast of their own, but they have an ace in the hole: They know the identity of the serial killer known as “The West Side Ripper.” Instead of turning him in to the cops, Ava and Nathan make the irresponsible decision to start a podcast with the killer, named Matt, to capitalize on the true crime genre and eliminate their financial woes. You can probably guess that things don’t go according to plan, considering Ava and Nathan are partnering with someone who routinely murders humans.
Created by Craig Rosenberg, the satirical dark comedy stars Cuoco, Messina, Tom Bateman as Matt, Priscilla Quintana as Ruby, Liana Liberato as Tory, and Natalia Dyer as Chlore. Two of the show’s stars — Quintana and Liberato — spoke with Digital Trends about the show’s shocking reveal, their true crime preferences, and Bateman’s fantastic hairline.
Warning: This interview will contain major spoilers from the series.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: I’ll say it first. Matt is not a good guy.
Liana Liberato: He’s so lovely.
Priscilla Quintana: His hair is fantastic. He’s like a big teddy bear.
Set free: Great hairline.
Quintana: Great hairline. A+.
Set free: Strong genes.
I have to go back now and look at his hairline again. He is well-kept, though. When you’re doing a series with twists and turns, are you the type of actor who wants to know everything upfront about your character’s fate, or do you want to know as little as possible and go along with the story?
Quintana: I want to know everything upfront, personally, and showrunners don’t usually give that to us, but I always want to know.
Set free: Yeah. I feel I feel a bit of a mixture because, as an actor, I’d like to know as much as possible just because you never know if you want to throw some Easter eggs in your performance here and there. That’s really nice. But also, especially when you do TV, it’s fun to watch things unfold in a similar way as the audience will eventually. It’s kind of nice to get a gauge of, from your own opinion, how you think the show is going to perform and how entertaining it is. We didn’t really know much with each episode. I think we had little ideas here and there. Craig would kind of fill us in very vaguely.
Quintana: He would give us hints. Yeah. Very, very vague hints.
Set free: But for the most part, we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants.
How did you take it when you found out Ruby was going to die?
Quintana: I mean, I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was funny. I think her death scene is so good, especially when I yell fuck you. I’m so glad that they kept that. [To Liana] Oh, you haven’t watched that one yet?
released: No. Did you improvise that? I loved your dream scene. I loved that.
Quintana: Yeah. The dream scene, it was so much fun. I didn’t improvise it, but I definitely added to it.
Set free: Hell, yeah.
Quintana: It was so much fun. But yeah, it was a surprise when I read it. Craig had kind of told me [he] thinks this is probably going to happen since the beginning. I just didn’t know when it was going to happen. I just said, “Alright, if you’re going to kill me, make it epic,” and he did, so I’m happy.
Set free: I’m sad.
Quintana: You’re sad?
Set free: Well, yeah. I’m gonna miss you.
Quintana: I’m gonna miss you too. What if I come back as like a ghost or something? You know what I mean?
Set free: Oh my God. I’ll take it! Can you haunt me?
Quintana: Yes! I will.
Set free: Haunt me!
Quintana: I will haunt you and Matt. How crazy was that?
I was going to get into that. When did you find out about [Tory’s] relationship [with Matt]?
Set free: I didn’t really know. It’s weird because when I auditioned for the show, I got a very different script. In the script that I got, I was Kaley’s daughter, and I was like, “I’m way too old to play her daughter.” They had to fill me in on little things here and there, but I also felt like some of the things they told me didn’t make it in the script. I was like, “You know what, I’m just going to take everything with a grain of salt because he was writing the show as we were filming the show.” Yeah, that was pretty, pretty crazy. Tory really got herself in a pickle.
Quintana: Yeah, absolutely. Tory is in deep now.
Set free: Well, she’s having a great time, so I’m happy for her.
Quintana: [laughs] She’s having great sex with a serial killer. It’s fantastic.
Set free: Let her live in bliss.
Quintana: Ignorance is bliss. [laughs]
Set free: Right. It’s great. [laughs]
Did you go back and think, “Maybe I gave something away?”
Set free: I feel like yes and no because we would do takes where we would be a little bit more flirtatious and then takes that were a little bit more dry. Then, you just sort of trust that the powers that be will edit it in a way that doesn’t make it too suspecting. I don’t really know. I haven’t watched the last few episodes yet, so hopefully it’s still mysterious.
Quintana: Yeah. I don’t think you gave anything away at all.
Set free: Thanks.
Quintana: I was shook when I watched it and read it. It’s even more shocking to watch than when I read it, so that says a lot.
Set free: Really?
Set free: It’s really quite daunting to try and hold your own with Tom Bateman. He’s so tall.
Quintana: [laughs] He’s a large man with fantastic hair,
Set free: With a great hairline. You’re like, “Whoa.”
That’s going to be the headline when I introduce him: “Man with great hairline,” not “serial killer.” So the true crime phase has hit everyone, whether you watch a movie or TV, read a book, or listen to a podcast. Is there a line you won’t cross with true crime? Is there a certain type of story where you say, “No, that’s not for me?”
Quintana: Children. Animals. And I prefer not to commit them either. That’s ideal.
Set free: Commit them? [laughs] You prefer it?
Quintana: [laughs] I prefer it.
Set free: But if it has to be done?
Quintana: It would just ruin my day.
Set free: Nobody wants that.
Quintana: It’s a vibe killer.
Set free: Such a vibe killer … Yeah, there’s definitely a line. You know what, I listened to Root of Eviland I almost had to stop listening to that one. If the actual history of it wasn’t so intriguing to me, it kind of made me sick to listen to it.
Quintana: What’s that one about?
Set free: It’s about a murder in L.A… There’s just a lot of history in it. A lot of family stuff in it. The murderer and the whole family. It just makes you sick. It has a lot of family roots, obviously. There are children involved, and I think that that really stumped me. Do you know what’s funny? I can’t really watch American Horror Story.
Quintana: I can’t either!
Set free: It kind of makes me sick.
Quintana: I can do Paranormal Activities and weird stuff like that, but I can’t watch American Horror Story. Anything that’s creepy, gory, or the one where the girl crawls out of the TV.
Set free: The Ring.
Quintana: I don’t like that. No, thank you.
All episodes of Based on a True Story are now streaming on Peacock.