Ghislaine Maxwell nearly survived the production window for “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” without being arrested for allegedly assisting the disgraced and deceased financier in his sex trafficking ring.
Maxwell was arrested on July 2, one month to the day before the Lifetime docuseries had to shut down production in order to make its premiere date. The arrest completely changed the fourth and final episode of “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.”
“It built out a fourth episode, in a way, that we had intended to be very different,” Ricki Stern, who co-directed the docuseries with Annie Sundberg, said during the show’s virtual presentation at the Summer CTAM tour Monday. “[Maxwell’s arrest] really becomes the fourth episode.”
“And it’s as much about Ghislaine’s arrest as it is about the women…having this moment to say, ‘We are going to get our day in court,'” she continued. “This is going to be a moment, and it’s maybe a different kind of day in court, but it allows them to have their voice in a public arena and to continue to have press be focused on their stories in a way to make change, to move the dial. So that we’re talking about statute of limitations on sexual abuse, why do we have those and should we pass laws to get rid of those statute of limitations? Things that have been impediments in these women’s lives and in their stories… now, people are listening. So this is an opportunity, I think, to continue this conversation.”
Sundberg says that “from a storytelling standpoint,” Ghislaine’s arrest received a “very mixed reaction” from the women featured in “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.”
“I think people felt very robbed of an opportunity to see a final stab at justice run its course,” she said, adding that with “Epstein’s death, the trial, the criminal charges, everything went away.” “If you look at the response and the interest when Ghislaine was picked up in New Hampshire, it’s overwhelming. People really want to see justice happen here.”
“The survivors we profile in this story, they bring a different understanding to who [Ghislaine] was and how she affected their lives,” Sundberg said.
Producers had “no room” to change the airdate, executive producer Bob Friedman said, because Lifetime wanted to air it on the one-year anniversary of Epstein’s Aug. 10, 2019 death. “And I’m glad we weren’t able to,” he added.
“They thought it was very important to tell this story, not only about him and the focus about him, but really to have this focus about the reactions to and what could change as a result of his death,” Friedman said. “So in terms of the timing, Ghislaine was such an important part of this story.”
“Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” will have a two-night premiere beginning Aug. 9 on Lifetime.