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The actress told Oxygen.com that she consistently had to remind herself while acting that, in real life, Jan wasn’t afraid of the man she affectionately called “Brother B.”
As Broberg has previously shared, Berchtold embedded himself within the Broberg family, taking the children to school and joining them for dinners. He would go on to allegedly abduct Jan, purportedly brainwashing her into believing that they were chosen to have a baby together so they could save an alien race from extinction. What’s more, he allegedly convinced her that she couldn’t tell anyone about their mission.
“I had to really get in her mind space and not think of it as an outside perspective,” Grace said. “It was just difficult to differentiate from my mindset thinking of it and be like, ‘Wow, I totally despise this man.’”
And while Grace deeply wanted to be part of the series based on this stranger-than-fiction tale, she was wary about starring in a dramatization as shocking as this one. “Doing this series was entirely dependent for me on Jan being involved and we’re so lucky that she was so involved,” she said.
In fact, Grace said that she worked closely with Broberg, who is an executive producer on the series, sharing that she and her co-stars became close acquaintances of the now-60-year-old. Grace was even given access to the diaries Broberg wrote in around the time she was allegedly abducted twice by Berchtold.
Through the actress’ research, Grace came to believe that Berchtold, who committed suicide in 2005, was a “horrible man.”
“It was just crazy, getting to read her old diary and getting to read all of the letters between her and B,” said Grace.
Grace noted that it was “a little bit hard to shake” off the sadness she felt for Jan while filming, but she felt a duty to accurately portray Broberg’s alleged abuse at the hands of Berchtold, who is played by Jake Lacy.
“It's someone's real life. And she's right here and you're speaking to her through the phone, and you're asking her about her life because you're going to play a character based on her,” Grace said. “I just wanted to make sure that I did it right.”
More than that, Grace wanted viewers to see that the Brobergs weren’t naïve or dumb in trusting Berchtold, who had affairs with both Mary Ann and Robert Broberg.
Grace said that she knows people might say, “That would never happen to me,” but she wants them to be aware that it could happen to anyone.
According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 93% of child sexual abuse victims who reported their abuse to law enforcement knew their abuser, and 59% of abusers are acquaintances of the victim or their family.
“I just hope that people can sympathize with the Brobergs," Grace said. “I hope that we can raise awareness as this does happen and is happening and it will continue to happen unless we do something.”
New episodes of “A Friend of the Family” stream Thursdays on Peacock.
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