GAZETTE: What was it like for you to be in the writer’s room, and why did you want to be involved in the series?
MACY: I wanted to make sure that we didn’t stereotype Appalachia, to begin with. I wanted these people to be given their due. Purdue Pharma targeted Appalachia because that region had higher-than-average workplace injuries due to coal mining, logging, and farming. I wanted to show that they weren’t just “pillbillies,” because that’s the stereotype. Second, I thought we could make people empathize with the victims. Most Americans, even though they say that addiction is a disease, still don’t want opioid users in their family or as a co-worker or living next to them. And third, there’s a real strong message in the last two episodes about medication-assisted treatment. Danny Strong, the showrunner, was totally on board with it, and I helped craft the storyline. You see what happens when people do have access to those medicines and when they don’t, and you see them being stigmatized for being on them.
Those were my goals going in, but I just learned so much. Writing for the screen is like learning another language. I wanted to learn a new skill while protecting my work and making sure it has the journalistic integrity that I want it to have.
GAZETTE: You have a cameo appearance in episode three of the show. What was it like?
MACY: It was way harder than it looks. I initially had 12 lines. Just memorizing them was harder than you would think, and Danny was coaching me the whole time. I was playing the editor of the Journal of Pain and I was saying, “These addicts are the problem,” exactly the opposite of what I think. It was hard to make it look natural. I was on a little panel, sitting between two pros, and they were very nice to me. We did 14 takes, and they ended up cutting a lot of it, but it was fun.
GAZETTE: What was your reaction to the bankruptcy settlement that grants the Sacklers immunity from opioid lawsuits?
MACY: It’s wrong. Our jails are full of people with substance-abuse disorders, and a lot of them got started with OxyContin, with this false narrative that opioids were safe that Purdue Pharma pushed so cunningly. When you talk to the families of the dead, they are furious at the bankruptcy judge because whenever he could have made a decision that seemed like he was at least nodding to the carnage in this country, he didn’t. He sided with Purdue over and over again. Several states are appealing the ruling, but we don’t know how those appeals are going to turn out yet. I think we should be protesting in front of the Department of Justice. The DOJ should prosecute, full stop. The parents deserve better. America deserves better than one system for people who got addicted initially through no fault of their own, and another system of justice for billionaires. It’s just wrong.
The Daily Gazette
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