Connie Britton Explains the Importance of ‘Dirty John’ in Today’s World

Stepping into brand new shoes – Debra Newell’s shoes, to be exact. Connie Britton had never done anything like Bravo’s new series, Dirty John, based on the true crime story told in The L.A. Times podcast. That was part of the charm.

“I always want to play characters that feel like they’re showing a different facet of womanhood. This really felt like a departure from what I’ve done,” Britton, 51, tells Us Weekly exclusively. “I was interested in what makes Debra tick. When I was listening to the podcast, I really heard her as someone who was really relatable. She was conned by this guy who was just preying on her own ideas of herself as a woman, and who she should be as a woman.”

Newell fell head over heels in love for John Meehan (played by Eric Bana); she didn’t see the many red flags since she was blinded by love. Regardless of the warnings she received from her family, the four-time divorcee was completely focused on her new romance. While fans of the series have voiced their frustrations with Newell on social media, Britton never saw it that way.

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Connie Britton as Debra Newell in Dirty John. Bravo

“This guy was so good and made her believe so completely that he loved her. He treated her so well. He had a whole backstory. Every single thing he ever said to her supported who he was presenting himself to be to her,” the American Horror Story vet explained. “I think the knee jerk reaction to say, ‘Oh, my gosh. Why isn’t she listening to him? Why isn’t she listening to the signs? It’s so obvious. It’s so obvious.’ What interests me is that, actually, I don’t think it’s so obvious. I think there are so many people who have been conned … I think that we’re living in a culture right now where it’s harder and harder to know what the truth is, and easier and easier to be conned.”

The 2018 culture was also part of the reason the actress was attracted to the role.

“In light of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, we are all really looking at how women are treated. As women, we’re looking at ourselves and the things that we confront in the culture that impact our lives,” she shared. “I really looked at Debra and was really honest about the things in her life that made her into the woman that she is. She’s a lovely woman. She really is just a wonderful human being who sees the best in people. And she was taught that that’s what she was supposed to do. I just think all of us as women, we really have to look at the legacy that our families give us and that our communities give us. Just the traditions that have been handed down to us, as women, do really affect not only the choices we make, but the way we value ourselves.”

Connie Britton Debra Newell
Connie Britton and Debra Newell attend the after party for Bravo’s anthology series “Dirty John” world premiere at NeueHouse Los Angeles on November 13, 2018 in Hollywood, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images

To get into her mindset, the former Nashville star met with Newell and asked a lot of questions.

“I’ve spoken to her quite a bit, which was so helpful and important for me in terms of being able to really understand her and get some insight into her,” she told Us. “She was extremely generous with me with her time and sharing her experiences.”

Dirty John premieres on Bravo Sunday, November 25, at 10 p.m. ET. However, the first episode is already available to watch here.

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