‘The Bad Orphan’: Betsy Brandt on Why Natalia Grace-Inspired Lifetime Movie Will Keep You Guessing

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“I love those stories that whatever you think is happening — it’s not that,” says Betsy Brandt. And this psychological thriller fits the bill: “It’s a fantastic story, and it’s not what it looks like.”

If you’re familiar with last year’s true crime blockbuster The Curious Case of Natalia Grace and its 2024 follow-up, Natalia Speaks, you’ll recognize the bones of the jaw-dropping tale that is The Bad Orphan, premiering Saturday, June 22 at 8/7c on Lifetime. In the new film, Karl (Mark L. Taylor, Reacher) and Jessica (Brandt) — already parents of a daughter named Rhiannon (Eve Edwards, The Good Doctor) — spend years trying to expand their family. They ultimately adopt an 8-year-old orphan who might be more troubled than they first thought.

“They’re like, this is what we need. We don’t feel like our family’s complete,” says the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actress, who’s also an executive producer. “They adopt this adorable child, and then the rug is pulled out from under them.” (In the real-life case of Ukrainian Grace, who has dwarfism, her adoptive parents in Indiana believed she was actually an adult and a dangerous con artist.)

Jessica’s suspicions about Gabby (Chloe Coco Chapman, above right, with Brandt) start slowly as she notices actions that seem a little off. “Gabby does some things where Jessica says to herself and to her husband, ‘It just doesn’t add up,’” Brandt reveals. “But then there’s always a reason. It’s a lot of back and forth in their minds.”

Jessica finds it difficult to reconcile her doubts with her maternal instincts. “As she questions this little girl she adores, it’s tugging at her heartstrings. No matter what Gabby does, she looks at her and wants to mother her and love her,” Brandt says.

Gabby is the first-ever TV role for newcomer Chapman. “Chloe made my job incredibly easy, because she is just fantastic and a really special person. We were incredibly lucky. I don’t think this movie could have happened without her,” Brandt says. “Both these characters do things where they’re not their best selves. I leaned over to her after the first table read and said, ‘It’s fun to be bad, isn’t it?’” It’ll be fun to watch too.

The Bad Orphan, Original Movie Premiere, Saturday, June 22, 8/7c, Lifetime

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