Before Dirty John was a dramatic TV series on Bravo, it was a podcast hosted by investigative journalist Christopher Goffard (and the podcast was based on the series of articles that he penned for The L.A. Times). This is one of those true tales that seems stranger than fiction, as the saying goes. When interior designer and businesswoman Debra Newell (Connie Britton) met John Meehan (Eric Bana) on a dating site, she had no idea that he was actually a con man (and a dangerous one at that).
Here are 5 ways that the TV show stuck to the real story and 4 things that the adaptation changed.
9 Fact: John's Lies Are The Exact Same
When viewers meet John Meehan in the pilot of Dirty John, he tells Debra a whole bunch of lies. Of course, we don't know that at the time, but it soon becomes clear that he's nothing like he says he is.
The show stuck to the real story by keeping John's lies the exact same. He pretended to have been in Iraq and he said that he was working at a hospital as an anesthesiologist. That wasn't actually the case (and he had a history of faking his job in order to steal drugs). It makes sense that the show would have stuck to the real story here since his lies are definitely crazy (and compelling, too).
8 Fact: Debra Fell For John Fast
Everyone hopes for a love story where everything seems perfect and both people are on the same page. For John and Debra, things happened very quickly... and it was way too quickly considering the truth about his life.
Another way that Dirty John stuck to the real story is Debra falling for John super quickly. After two months, they got married (although in secret) and they were living together in a beach house by that time as well.
In real life, Debra's daughters weren't cool with John and they definitely didn't want them living together so early on. While it can take kids a while to get on board with their mom dating again post-divorce, it's easy to see that the daughters knew that something sinister was going on.
7 Fact: John Took Debra's Car And Attempted To Set It On Fire
It says a lot about Dirty John that by the time John takes Debra's car and attempts to set it on fire in episode 7, it doesn't even seem like the craziest thing that he could do. When we think about it, though, this is definitely insane and if this was the only thing that he did, it would be bad enough.
John did this in real life, too, in August 2016. He was discovered taking the car from where it was parked near her office thanks to surveillance cameras. By this time, Debra had already found out the truth about John and was trying her best to get away from him and move on with her life.
6 Fact: Debra's Sister's Husband Really Did Kill Her
In episode four of Dirty John, a devastating family tragedy is revealed: Debra's sister, Cindi, was killed by her very own husband. This is another way that the TV series stuck to the real story as this really did occur in real life.
RELATED: 10 Best True Crime Shows On Netflix
Another thing that the TV series shows is that Cindi and Debra's mom, Arlane, said that she still loved Billy and that she was able to forgive him. Even more than that, she actually appeared in court in order to testify for him. It seems like this would be another time that truth is even weirder than fiction, but this is another example of truth and fiction being equally strange and confusing.
5 Fact: Terra Really Did Kill John And Think About Zombies
The finale of Dirty John is pretty surprising and dramatic, and viewers might wonder if the conclusion really happened. As it turns out, this is another time when the writers and producers stuck to the real story.
In August 2016, John came after Terra (played by Julia Garner) in a parking lot and Terra really did kill him. On the TV show, when she's speaking to a cop while recovering in the hospital, she says that she asked herself how she would survive a zombie attack or apocalypse if that ever happened. In real life, Terra has said that she was influenced by her love for The Walking Dead.
4 Changed: Debra Has 4 Kids, Not 3
E online says that Debra has four kids, not three, so this is one important change that the TV series made.
Debra is a woman who seems very close to her family and that's why it's so hard for her when they don't support her relationship with John. While we get the close family vibe while watching scenes that feature her two daughters and her son, it would have been interesting to see the fourth kid as well. But this change happened for a reason: showrunner Alexandra Cunningham said that the show had the life rights of Debra and her daughter Terra but not her oldest daughter.
3 Changed: Debra's Daughter Is Named Jacqueline, Not Veronica
Debra's two daughters, Terra and Veronica (Juno Temple), often bring some humor and a light-hearted tone to the otherwise dark drama. At the heart of the matter, they are two girls who still need their mother, and they care deeply about spending a lot of time with her.
Something else that the show changed was the name of Debra's daughter. On the show, she's Veronica (Ronnie for short) but she's actually named Jacqueline.
As Alexandra Cunningham told The Huffington Post, "I let it be known that I would do whatever Debra’s other daughter wanted me to do, and she did want us to change her first name. It was all about being respectful to their experience."
2 Changed: Debra's Nephew Has A Different Name, Too
The very nature of the true crime genre means that people are going to be investigating all kinds of deaths, violent acts, and wrongdoings. On Dirty John, Debra's daughter Veronica is totally committed to finding out the dark truth about John, and she enlists the help of Debra's nephew Tony in order to do so. They take a road trip and find the creepy trailer where John was living right before he met Debra.
It's always interesting to see how a TV adaptation stacks up to the truth. Debra's nephew is actually named Shad, so this was another name change that took place for the TV series.
1 Changed: Debra Was Actually In The Dark About John's Drug Use
One of the most dramatic scenes is in episode 5 when John says that he wants to stop using drugs and Debra decides to be there for him the entire time. He's in serious withdrawal (sweating, in pain, etc.) and it's tough to watch.
As it turns out, this didn't happen. Debra was actually in the dark about John's drug use. She said in an interview with Forbes, "When John and I were together I didn't ever see any signs of any heroin drug use. I only saw prescription drugs and since he'd just had back surgery, I thought they were for that."