In Netflix’s true crime docuseries “Heist,” director Derek Doneen chose to have an actress portray convicted criminal and former fugitive Heather Tallchief — a reveal he withheld until the very end of the episode.
Tallchief was convicted of stealing $3.1 million from Las Vegas casinos in an armored car when she was 21. She served 63 months in prison after turning herself in to authorities in 2005, 12 years after the heist. While concealing her identity was necessary to protect her from any potential retaliation from her accomplice and former partner, Roberto Solis, Doneen said the extremely late reveal also lets “the audience go along for the ride” and allows Tallchief’s story to shine without any distractions.
“Ultimately, I wanted the audience to feel immersed in the story. I didn’t want them questioning or second-guessing,” Doneen told TheWrap, adding, “Holding it to the end allowed us to meet the real Heather.”
Doneen said the option to conceal Tallchief’s identity was always there, and Tallchief ultimately decided to go that route in an effort to prioritize her safety. (According to the documentary, she’s reintegrated herself back into society and now works in healthcare; Solis, meanwhile, has never been found.) Tallchief did participate in a full interview with Doneen, but then it was up to actress Lisa Lord — who portrayed her as a talking head — to recreate the conversation word for word.
“[Having an actress play Heather] changes the dynamic,” Doneen said. “She’s not Heather and she shouldn’t be. I wanted her to have a bit of freedom as an actress.”
Doneen added that Lord welcomed the challenge of portraying a convicted criminal and really “became Heather” for the “Sex Magick Money Murder” chapter of “Heist.”
Besides Tallchief’s story, the docuseries follows an additional two heist plots: “The Money Plane,” which features interviews with heist mastermind Karls Monzon, and “The Bourbon King,” which features interviews with “The Bourbon King” himself, Toby Curtsinger.
“Heist” is now available to stream on Netflix.