I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is the latest true crime docuseries to hit HBO. Based on the book of the same name written by Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt’s late wife, the series details Michelle’s passionate obsession with finding the Golden State Killer and bringing justice to his more than 50 victims and survivors.
Broken into six episodes, with each more gripping than the last, the series uses voice recordings, home videos, and pictures of the late author, combined with commentary from the remaining survivors, lead detectives, and researchers that Michelle worked with during her investigation. Women’s Health caught up with Patton upon the series’ release date and four years after Michelle’s death to talk through his role as an executive producer, seeking closure, and what he hopes everyone will get out of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark.
“You can say you’re through with grief all you want, but grief will let you know when it’s done,” Patton says during the series.
The comedian admitted that his grieving process is not over, but being on the production team and lending himself to this project has definitely helped. “For me, it’s just another step in this long journey,” Patton tells WH. “But it’s definitely a big one.”
In releasing tons of personal audio files, anecdotes, photos, and videos of Michelle and her investigation process to the series’ director, Liz Garbus, Patton hoped to center the story on the people that mattered most. “I wanted the focus to be on her, on the victims, on the crime solvers—and not have it be on the killer,” he explains.
Unlike other true crime series centered on the suspect, viewers won’t really see or hear from the Golden State Killer until the final episode. Almost every minute of filming is instead dedicated to unpacking Michelle’s thoughts, giving screen time to the survivors to share their experiences, or introducing key players and advocates in Michelle’s life and investigation, including Patton. All of this adds a deeply personal angle to the sometimes cold-blooded nature of true crime.
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While Patton notes he can’t say what his late wife would have thought of the docuseries, he does hope it will add something to her legacy. And, of course, “I hope that it serves as something for the survivors and victims, but I don’t think I can decide what that is,” Patton adds.
The comedian did say there’s one person whose interaction with the series he will be deciding on—and that’s his daughter, Alice. We see glimpses of her younger self playing with Michelle in home videos. But Patton says the now 11-year-old is still too young to see her mother’s work and won’t watch the series until she’s much older. “I’ll just know when she’s ready,” he says. “I’ll know when I know.” Until then, they’re taking it day by day, Patton (who has remarried since Michelle’s death) says.
“You have to wake up every day and go to sleep every night. I don’t know any other way to do it,” he tells Women’s Health. “You just have to walk your way out of it somehow.” Being a part of this series has helped to finally make that pathway clearer.
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