Virginia in the Spotlight

Roanoke author Beth Macy’s book got Hollywood’s attention.

Antony Platt HULU

Dopesick

Dopesick — “Breakthrough Pain” – Episode 102 — OxyContin is on the market but faces a potential threat, Purdue’s vast influence reaches the town of Finch Creek, Bridget steps outside her DEA authority, and the criminal investigation of OxyContin begins. Dr. Samuel Finnix (Michael Keaton) and Billy (Will Poulter), shown. (Photo by: Antony Platt/Hulu)

(Photo courtesy of Hulu)

Virginia’s film industry has helped produce hits like Homeland, The Walking Dead, and Wonder Woman 1984. But Hulu’s recent eight-part series Dopesick, based on the book by Roanoke author Beth Macy, hits especially close to home. It has also just been nominated for 14 Emmy Awards.

Starring Michael Keaton, Dopesick has earned critical acclaim for exposing the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, for their role in the opioid crisis. When OxyContin was introduced in 1996, the company targeted physicians in Virginia’s coal mining communities, claiming the powerful prescription narcotic was not addictive.

David Hungate

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Berglund Automotive Group C.E.O William Farrell

(Beth Macy)

“It was important for me to have the series filmed in Virginia—Dopesick is a Virginia story; the epidemic began in rural southwestern Virginia, and those communities are still among the hardest hit in the nation,” says Macy, who co-executive produced the series with Warren Littlefield, the hitmaker behind Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale.

It was Litttlefield who championed the true story by Macy, a former reporter for The Roanoke Times. “We were blown away when Warren Littlefield showed us Beth Macy’s book,” said Bert Salke, president of FOX 21 television studios in a statement.

Filmed in Clifton Forge, Petersburg, Cartersville, Hopewell, and Richmond in 2021, the series employed hundreds of Virginia-based crew members, says Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, including caterers, prop masters, technicians, costume designers, extras, and more.

As in the book, the series shows how patients who were prescribed OxyContin to relieve legitimate pain became addicted. The drug left patients facing intense withdrawal symptoms that created a desperate need for anything—including heroin—to provide relief.

Macy hopes the Hulu series will help those still impacted by OxyContin: “Whatever attention the show can bring to the causes of the crisis— and how much work is yet to be done in places where OxyContin first landed—will help, ultimately, remove barriers to care and stigma.”

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