Warning: This article contains spoilers about Netflix's Stay Close.
Megan Pierce (Cush Jumbo) reopened the door to her past and nothing will ever be the same.
In Netflix's limited series Stay Close, a quick trip down memory lane for Megan, who had a past life working at strip club Vipers as Cassie Morris, turns into a deadly search for the truth. Over the course of the season, a string of murders and a recent killing all tie back to one person: Vipers employee Lorraine Griggs (Sarah Parish). The journey to unveiling her long-hidden murderous secret crushes DS Michael Broome (James Nesbitt), almost ruins the new life Megan built with her family, and shows photographer Ray Levine (Richard Armitage) the steep price for blind devotion.
We spoke to showrunner Harlan Coben, who also wrote the book Stay Close is based on, about crafting a thrilling story, Lorraine's motivations, how Megan's story ended, and much more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Apart from the setting, what else did you change when adapting your book? What remained the same?
HARLAN COBEN: Most of the story was the same. All of that backbone is still mainly from the book. We changed the ending and added one more twist. We added some characters, gave the teens a bigger role. [Megan's] children did not have the same track in the book. We were able to expand the world a little more and gave each character a bit more to do than they had in the book.
Lorraine going after men who hurt women is a mission people can understand, and you can see that in the response on social media. What inspired her motive?
There are a lot of people who consider the serial killer the hero of the story, which has been an interesting reaction people have had. Lorraine seems to have a fairly sympathetic motive to a lot of people. When I was writing the story, I was seeing not quite the start of [the Me Too movement] yet, but it was starting to come to the forefront, how scummy men can be. I thought I would do something with that, explore a little bit and then take it too far, which is part of what I do.
DS Broome and Lorraine have a wonderful relationship that is destroyed when Lorraine confesses. Can you talk about the development of that dynamic?
I love the idea of a romance later in life. They have been through the wars and have come to each other. I remember when I first met with James Nesbitt and Sarah Parish, I said this show, in many ways, is going to hinge on how much we love the two of you together. I want you to cheer them on and fall in love with them as a couple, then make your heart break at the end. A lot of the emotional backbone was going to rest on Broome and Lorraine's relationship.
There's been a big response to the Ken and Barbie killers. Can you share what inspired them and what it was like for you to see this unique pair of characters on the show?
They're fairly similar in the book, but the idea came from in the '80s and '90s in America at halftime of NFL games; they used to have this group called "Up With People," which was sort of this wholesome religious group who looked like Ken and Barbie. They would do these dance routines and sing hard rock songs in this choir sort of way with those painted smiles, and my mind went, "what is behind that?" They can't be quite as wholesome as they look, and then I tweaked them to make them killers.
Also, the second time they appear, when they're going after [Harry Sutton (Eddie Izzard)], we intentionally filmed it so you weren't sure if they were actually dancing or if Harry, who is a drug addict, was seeing them in his mind. We even hear the voices are a little funny, and I leave that up to [the audience].
Ray pays a high price for his devotion to Megan, or, as he knew her, Cassie. Tell me a bit about how you chose his ending. Where do you imagine he goes from here?
This story is about something that happened 17 years ago, and all of the main characters have demons to exorcise. That doesn't mean their lives are better now. I'm not sure Broome, Ray, or Megan's lives are better, but that demon is gone.
Ray is in a pretty good position, though. He seems to be getting back on track and returning to his old job. I started him as low as you can be, as a paparazzi for hire. Ray is going to be okay, or as okay as Ray can be. He's got issues, but I don't want him to be good suddenly. He got his answers, but his heart might still need to be repaired.
Stay Close is full of twists. Do you have one you were most excited to see on the show?
The twist I was dying to see is the final one. When I was watching, I remember the rough cut, and we have shot of her from the back as it's all coming together at the wedding. I got a chill. Both twists I love weren't in the book, but at the end of episode 2, when we see somebody push the car in the water, then we see that it's Dave. Those two twists, in particular, really landed.
Megan's new secret was a twist you added. Can you share what was behind that choice?
I love twists and turns. I was thinking about the story — and we did this to The Stranger also — and I wanted to give people who read the books one last punch. I like them to be smugly watching, thinking they know what's going on, and then throw something new at them. I came up with this idea for how to make people other than the serial killer guilty.
Do you know whether or not Megan tells her family the truth about Carlton's death?
I would rather have the audience do it, but it's complicated. Once again, it falls on a woman to have to make that decision to either live with that or not. I have a fairly good idea of what happens, but I'm big on raising issues and letting audiences decide. In the end, she has this great weight on her mind, and she has to decide what's going to be best for her and her family.
What do you think about how people have been reacting to Stay Close?
It's fun. Some of the responses I don't quite get. I don't know why people think [Megan] lives in the same town, for example. We have them drive across a long bridge each time, and she stays in the hotel when she goes to that town. The other thing is asking why [Megan] would run away to a house that close 17 years ago, but she didn't run away to that big house. But that's how it always is, and all the reactions are fun.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Stay Close is currently streaming on Netflix.
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