In the new Peacock series “Based on a True Story,” debuting Thursday, Kaley Cuoco plays Ava, a woman obsessed with true crime. She consumes these dark stories all day, analyzes the cases with her friends and murder-centric podcasts help lull her to sleep at night.
“Do we have to wake up to murder every morning?” her husband Nathan, played by Chris Messina, asks in a scene.
The series highlights an explosion of coverage of true crime in recent years. It is the subject of podcasts, documentary series, books, and social media posts where amateur sleuths breathlessly weigh in on the latest crime du jour.
In “Based on a True Story,” Ava hatches a plan to start a podcast — hosted by the couple — to interview a serial killer. She is confident that it will be lucrative and add excitement into their otherwise middle-aged monotony.
The choices made by Ava and Nathan in the series, argues Cuoco, are similar to the subjects of actual true crime stories whose fate is determined by one bad decision.
“It happens all the time,” said Cuoco. “That’s why this was very believable to me. They are in a desperate situation, make a really ridiculous choice out of desperation and end up in a very bad place. In my opinion, they’re as bad as the killer by the end of this.”
Cuoco admits to being a fan of true crime herself and likens it to “looking at an accident” on the road. "We're rubberneckers,” she said.
Co-star Liana Liberato, who plays Ava's younger sister, has a list of true crime podcasts to recommend. “Some of my favorites are 'S-Town', 'Root of Evil', ' To Live and Die in LA. ' I'm a little too obsessed. I relate very much to Kaley's character,” Liberato said.
She's not the only one. On the morning of the cast's interviews, Priscilla Quintana, who plays Ava's friend Ruby on the show, woke extra early and tuned into, what else but true crime.
"I woke up at 4:30 a.m., and I didn’t have to be here until like seven, so I cleaned my whole kitchen (and) listened to the newest episode of 'Crime Junkie.' Why is it the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning,” she wondered aloud.
In one episode, Cuoco and Messina's characters attend CrimeCon in Las Vegas — which is similar to Comic-Con but for fans of true crime. It’s an actual event, by the way, that will be held later this year in Orlando.
“I see the addiction of it,” Messina said who doesn't seek out the genre but can get caught up by an episode of say, “Dateline,” like the rest of us.
He likes to use it as his own mental exercise to be prepared if things go south. “For me, it’s always a nice puzzle to figure out how people got into this situation and how can I not. And if I do, how can I be saved?”