Telling the story of the Broberg family, A Friend of the Family is a harrowing true tale of a predator laying in wait. It explores how one man who is charismatic and charming was able to worm his way into being trusted only to commit horrific acts and kidnap a young woman multiple times over the course of a year. Coming to Peacock starting October 6th, A Friend of the Family is an engrossing take on true events that feel far too fantastical to have actually happened.
In the run-up to the show, CGMagazine was lucky enough to sit down with Colin Hanks, who plays Bob Broberg and Mckenna Grace, who plays the older version of Jan in A Friend of the Family. Sitting down in a short but candid talk, the pair delve into the process of bringing the show together, the challenges a series like this faces, and staying true to the events. Even with the many potential problems, and the often hard-to-accept events, both actors showed the care and compassion that went into their roles, along with the respect they have for each other and the family they represent.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. To get started, can you just tell me a bit about both of your characters in A Friend of the Family?
Colin Hanks: I played Bob Broberg, the Father of Jan Rober, who went through quite an ordeal when his daughter was kidnapped twice.
Mckenna Grace: And I play Jen Broberg in A Friend of the Family, kidnapped twice by a family friend.
CGMagazine: Colin, in A Friend of the Family, you play a parent that has a child that’s kidnapped. As a parent, yourself, was this a harder role to take on than some of the others you’ve done?
Colin Hanks: I mean, it was harder, in so much as the story in A Friend of the Family is almost too crazy to believe. The fact that I am a father was helpful for me in some regards, in terms of trying to get to a certain emotional state or anything like that. But really, I think anybody who has a heart can understand the pain and trauma that this family was put through at the hands of somebody else. I think that, in and of itself, was enough to get me started, at least in terms of trying to bring Bob to life.
CGMagazine: Now, McKenna, you play the older version of Jen in A Friend of the Family. Did you and Hendrix work together to form the character?
Mckenna Grace: Well, it was a little bit complicated. I came in after she’d already been working for a good minute. For about the first two or three weeks that I was there, Hendricks was also there, so we spent a lot of time together. And I tried to pick up on her little things because I was trying to capture that feeling she brought to the screen. But it was fun because I was trying to learn what she did with Jan, but also had input from Jan, about her mannerisms and what she’d do.
She had a very bad habit of biting her nails, which I also have. So this show started that up again. It was really special to have a younger version of myself finally and to be able to work with her and figure out the character together.
CGMagazine: A Friend of the Family takes place in the 70s. Were there any challenges you encountered working in the film series? And how did you prepare for the roles?
Colin Hanks: It was incredibly challenging, just the material alone. I think it’s a pretty dark headspace to be in for months at a time. But then you realize that the Broberg family was in that headspace for years and will carry it for the rest of their lives. A certain amount of homework needs to be done in terms of knowing the story. Knowing a little bit more about the Mormon faith and what Mormon life is like was very helpful.
I threw everything at the wall and just did as much research as I could and leaned on as many sorts of “active” things as I could to try and help me feel a little bit more comfortable in Bob’s shoes, and luckily, I was able to transform my look a little bit. So that felt like I had this great freedom to not worry about how I was coming across, just more trying to bring Bob to life so that people had a better understanding of who the man was.
Mckenna Grace: I mean, for me, it was scary playing Jan. My first question coming on to it was “How involved is her family?” And luckily, they’ve been such a big part of what we’re doing. And I think that that was amazing. It’s a dark story, and it’s horrible. But I’m just honoured to have been a part of telling Jan’s story, but also to be a part of something that puts out awareness and can be a teaching and learning experience for people, and hopefully helps people understand the program more.
CGMagazine: How’d the production work on A Friend of the Family to make sure this story was treated sensitively and make sure that the characters were treated with respect due to the fact that it’s a real series of events?
Mckenna Grace: I think that all of us really wanted to make sure that we were doing this family right. For me, I know that all of us did. I really did talk to Jan a lot. I wanted to know how she was feeling and what was going on in her mind. And I would always tell her—she would read the sides every day—and I’d always tell her ‘if there’s something that’s not right, please, please, please, please tell me because I want to make sure that although I’m playing a character version of you, I want to make sure that I’m doing it right.”
She was just so open and such a big part of this, and it really meant the world to me. There’s always a big safe space on a set like this. Whenever it comes to more mature subject matter. There’s always an intimacy coordinator and an onset counsellor to make sure that you feel safe.