Why did you think this was something that needed to be explored further?
Annie Sundberg: Last July when Epstein was arrested, I think everybody wanted to know more. I think there was a question of this is an incredibly riveting unfolding scandal that speak to some of the worst elements; there is sex abuse, there is power, there is money, there are a lot of people with famous names. I think that there will be continual fascination about how people became part of this world and what that meant for the people who are in it.
Ricki Stern: If I can just add to that, that is what directed us into focusing on the women’s voices. That there really was a lack of understanding in how so many women came to be victims of Jeffrey Epstein and so many of them found themselves in these situations, how did that happen? What was the machine that allowed this to happen? Who is behind that? And I think the series dives into that and understanding this pyramid scheme, this coercive and manipulative way that women were brought in by other women. It was like an expanding pyramid scheme and that why did women go back. That was a primary question that Annie and I were wondering ourselves and that’s a deep psychological unfolding in the series that I think we hadn’t seen before. We interview a forensic psychiatrist and a psychiatrist that help us understand the women and how their own narrative, their own background and stories played into certain vulnerabilities that allowed them to find themselves in situations with Jeffrey Epstein and that made them go back.
Was it difficult to get the women to talk part in the series?
Ricki Stern: We worked with their lawyers for the most part. Yeah it took a while to speak with the women, the lawyers were careful about the women that were ready to share their story. Annie and I spent a lot of time, for some women, speaking to them assuring them that they would be able to share their story in their own words, that speaking about their abuse would be their own words, that if they didn’t want to give details that was entirely up to them and that really want we were looking for was to tell deeper and richer stories of these women than we had seen prior on the news, which you know is very brief, or even in other shows that made the women in some ways, while they might have told some stories they were secondary. In the Lifetime series they are the spotlight, they are in the spotlight. We wanted them to feel assured that we would move at their own pace and we provide a safe and supportive environment for their interviews. Lifetime also provided psychological support before and after their interviews if they so chose to have that. That was very important for us and for Lifetime to provide that kind of space for those women.
Maybe a bit early to ask this but what do you think Epstein’s legacy will be?
Annie Sundberg: My sincere hope, I mean as part of the research we did on the series we sat down and talked with a variety of people in the criminal justice system…there were so many things that went wrong with this case from day one. I think if there is a legacy it’s that these crimes that there are changes in the criminal justice system that abolish certain statutes of limitation that really bring transparency to the ways in which power and money can corrupt the criminal justice system here. I do think that there needs to be a certain set of apologies, I think so many of these women will never have the justice that they needed, when Epstein died they were robbed of certain opportunities in court and they have a chance now with Ghislaine. But I think the legacy will be that there needs to some sort of accountability both from the criminal justice system and society to women in these kinds of abusive situations.
Surviving Jeffry Epstein airs on Lifetime (DStv 131) Monday, 7 September and Monday, 14 September, from 20:05