Ratched: Ryan Murphy Discusses his Prequel to the 1975 Best Picture Oscar Winner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Starring Sarah Paulson

Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s highly anticipated series, Ratched is a suspenseful drama that tells the origin story of asylum nurse Mildred Ratched.

In 1947, Mildred arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On clandestine mission, Mildred presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she begins to infiltrate the mental health care system and those within it, Mildred’s stylish exterior belies a growing darkness that has long been smoldering within, revealing that true monsters are made, not born.

created by Evan Romansky, Ratched inspired by the iconic and unforgettable character of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the 1975 Best Picture Oscar winner.

The series stars Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched, Cynthia Nixon as Gwendolyn Briggs, Judy Davis as Nurse Betsy Bucket, Sharon Stone as Lenore Osgood, Jon Jon Briones as Dr. Richard Hanover, Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson, Charlie Carver as Huck, Alice Englert as Dolly, Amanda Plummer as Louise, Sophie Okonedo as Charlotte Wells, Corey Stoll as Charles Wainwright, Brandon Flynn as Henry Osgood, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Gov. George Wilburn.

The series is executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Sarah Paulson, Alexis Martin Woodall, Aleen Keshishian, Jacob Epstein, Jennifer Salt, Margaret Riley, Michael Douglas, Robert Mitas, and Tim Minear.

Ratched will be available to Netflix members worldwide September 18, 2020.

In the Netflix original series, Ratched, Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning Writer, Director and Executive Producer Ryan Murphy and Emmy-nominated Writer, Director, Executive Producer Ian Brennan bring the origin story of Mildred Ratched to the screen. The eight-episode first season of the series will launch globally on Netflix on Friday, September 18, 2020, with a second season already greenlit.

Murphy is known for his uncanny ability to bring stories to the screen at the precise moment that audiences are hungry to talk about the themes within them. Ratched’s writer and executive producer Ian Brennan observes that, “Ryan has a sense of smell about culture that most people don’t have. It’s like a sixth sense of what is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and yet has not quite been put into words.”

In Ratched, Murphy and the team have created a series that champions feminism and explores the nature of women’s power in a society that doesn’t grant them any, especially at the time the series is set in the years immediately following World War II. “It’s a feminist story,” explains executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall. “It’s about finding your voice, figuring out how to be heard and how to do the right thing.”

However, as with most Murphy projects, Ratched is about more than one thing. “What I love about the series is that it’s not just about women,” adds Woodall. “And it’s not just about the war and it’s not just about mental health. It’s also about marginalized groups and how we can better help communities early on. What happens to our youth when they are from broken homes, when they don’t have stable influences and when they have to define their moral code for themselves?”.
Woodall says that this comes from Murphy’s passion for searching for the best scripts that aren’t being produced, and possessing the most interesting themes that aren’t being discussed. “He honestly comes from a place of, “What can I do to help? What can I do to make a platform for a new conversation?” We always want to tell important stories in interesting ways. That is one of the greatest gifts of working with Ryan.”

Ratched draws inspiration from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A story that features one of the greatest villains ever created, the terrifying asylum nurse, Mildred Ratched. It’s Hollywood lore that Kirk Douglas bought the stage and screen rights to the novel, performing the central role of McMurphy in a Broadway adaptation with the hope of making a big screen adaptation. In the early 1970s, he signed the rights over to his son Michael who produced the 1975 film and won the Oscar as its producer. Michael Douglas, who is an executive producer on Ratched says, “When Ryan Murphy first showed me the script for the pilot episode of Ratched, I knew he had the makings of something special. He has great style and is always very unpredictable.”

Newly out of film school, Ratched’s creator Evan Romansky was looking for a job as an assistant when at a pitch fest, his spec script for a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel secured him a manager. When Romansky signed with CAA, they connected Romansky with their client Ryan Murphy. “Evan’s draft was spectacular, even before Evan and Ryan started working together,” recalls Woodall. “It was different from the final story that is on screen. It was much more clinical in terms of the mental health process and Ryan knew that the way into any sort of message that we all wanted to tell was through character. Evan was a joy to work with. He was always optimistic, excited and grateful to be part of this and to be telling these stories. It made it really fun for all of us. After Evan and Ryan had been working together for awhile, then Ian Brennan and executive producer Tim Minear also joined the conversation about this character and this world.”

Brennan recalls seeing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when he was really young. “I was maybe a little bit too young!,” he says. “But I remember the Sixties institutional banal terror really getting to me. It’s so specific to its time, it really captures that era and that style is very evocative to me. So when I heard that Ryan was going to do a show about Mildred Ratched, it was one of those ideas where I thought, “Damn it. That’s a great idea. I can’t believe nobody’s done this before”. That usually means that it’s going to be sticky and attractive and have a lot of potential.”

Ratched brings to the screen a story that explores why and how Mildred Ratched became the iconic villain that viewers of the film adaptation in particular were shocked and thrilled by. This was, of course, in part thanks to Louise Fletcher’s memorable performance, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1976. “If we already know where she ends up, what made her that way?,” says Woodall. “Where did it start and how did it start? And how do we say what’s right and what’s wrong, because what Mildred’s doing to survive is right to her.”

The series begins in 1947 in the town of Lucia in Monterey County in Northern California. The chilling opening scenes take place in a rectory. Brennan recalls what led to him being the one chosen to write those scenes before going on to write much of the season. “We were shooting The
Politician when Ryan leaned over to me and said, “Hey, would you write the first act of this episode of Ratched?”. He told me that he wanted these scenes with the priests to be really terrifying and he felt that I knew that world because my dad is a former Catholic priest who left the priesthood when he met my mom,” Brennan remembers. “I understand that world. I know what rectories look like and I thought it would be amazing to write. Little did I know that I was agreeing to write every episode of the series, but it ended up being really fun because it was such a different tone for me. It’s dark and literate and it has that classic 1940s movie tone. It was also just plain scary.”

Woodall describes the unique feel of the series overall and how it maneuvers between different tonal experiences. “Firstly, you don’t have to know anything about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest if you’re not familiar with the novel or movie. You could just be watching a very interesting story of a woman who is alone in the world and who’s trying to make things right, but has a set of very undefined moral codes and ethics when it comes to when the ends justify the means. I think Ratched is such a different, interesting, and artfully directed show. It follows a very narrow, tricky path where it’s very dark, but it can also be funny.”

As the production moved towards shooting, and with Ryan Murphy already on board to direct the opening two episodes, the creative team had firm ideas about the other directors they wanted to be part of bringing this story to life. Woodall explains, “We had worked with all of our directors before, except that it was our first time working with Jessica Yu. However, we worked with her again immediately on Hollywood because we had such a great experience with her on Ratched!”

Yu says that knowing that it was a Murphy show, she felt that she was going to be involved with a specific kind of storytelling that she doesn’t see anywhere else. “Ryan and his team swing for the rafters,” she says. “My episode is strange and there was a high bar, visually and tonally. It seemed like an incredible opportunity and a challenge. I loved the idea of Mildred Ratched as this antihero, but I think it was about striking the balance of trying to understand where all of her motivation stems from and keeping that afloat, even as she goes into darker and darker territory. That is the brilliant balancing act of the show.”

Michael Uppendahl who directed the season’s fourth and fifth episodes says, “Ryan has such integrity of taste on every level, from the very genesis of the material through to assembling exactly the right group of people to execute his vision. For me to be able to be part of that and to have a hand in helping create this series has been thrilling. Everyone knows that the actors are going to be stellar on Ryan’s shows. They’re going to be given interesting roles that won’t fade into the background and they’ll be looking spectacular in the capacity required for the specific story. To play in that sandbox is always a dream. There’s really not a whole lot of thought that goes into saying yes.”

Jennifer Lynch directed the season’s seventh episode . “I don’t mean to gush, but I think that for me, the experience of working on Ratched was one of the top experiences I’ve had in my career thus far. To be in the company of those performers, to have Ian and Ryan creating what they were creating, and to have a relationship with Sarah Paulson where I could speak to her as both an actor and as a producer to inform the scenes as we needed to together, it was incredible.”

Daniel Minahan, director of the season finale, felt similarly that this was a career highlight. “Ryan’s shows always take very high style approach, but then they’re also so beautifully written. The character work is such a gut punch and it kind of bounces between this very high style approach and really deep, truthful character work. There’s just nothing else like it.”

Netflix members will be able to view the series in 190 countries at 12:01am PST on this date.

Episodes: 8 x 60 minute episodes

Series Regulars: Sarah Paulson, Jon Jon Briones, Judy Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Finn Wittrock, Sharon Stone, Charlie Carver

Guest Stars: Amanda Plummer, Sophie Okonedo, Corey Stoll, Vincent D’Onofrio, Alice Englert, Brandon Flynn

Directed by: Ryan Murphy (Eps 1-2), Nelson Cragg (Ep 3), Michael Uppendahl (Eps 4-5), Jessica Yu (Ep 6), Jennifer Lynch (Ep 7), Dan Minahan (Ep 8)

Written By: Ryan Murphy, Evan Romansky, Ian Brennan, Jennifer Salt
Created By: Evan Romansky
Developed By: Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan
Executive Producers: Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Sarah Paulson, Alexis Martin Woodall, Aleen
Keshishian, Jacob Epstein, Jennifer Salt, Margaret Riley, Michael Douglas,
Robert Mitas, Tim Minear
Co-Costume Designers: Lou Eyrich & Rebecca Guzzi
Production Designer: Judy Becker
Head of Hair: Chris Clark
Head of Make Up: Eryn Krueger Mekash

Episode Credits:

Episode 1: Pilot
Written by: Evan Romansky
Directed by: Ryan Murphy

Episode 2: Ice Pick
Written by: Ian Brennan
Directed by: Ryan Murphy

Episode 3: Angel of Mercy
Written by: Ian Brennan
Directed by: Nelson Cragg

Episode 4: Angel of Mercy: Part Two
Written by: Evan Romansky
Directed by: Michael Uppendahl

Episode 5: The Dance
Written by: Ian Brennan
Directed by: Michael Uppendahl

Episode 6: Got No Strings
Written by: Ian Brennan, Jennifer Salt
Directed by: Jessica Yu

Episode 7: The Bucket List
Written by: Ian Brennan
Directed by: Jennifer Lynch

Episode 8: Mildred and Edmund
Written by: Jennifer Salt, Ian Brennan, Evan Romansky
Directed by: Dan Minahan

Characters

Sarah Paulson plays Mildred Ratched
Judy Davis plays Betsy Bucket
Jon Jon Briones plays Dr. Richard Hanover
Cynthia Nixon plays Gwendolyn Briggs
Finn Wittrock plays Edmund Tolleson
Sharon Stone plays Lenore Osgood
Brandon Flynn plays Henry Osgood

Charlie Carver plays Huck Finnegan
Alice Englert plays Dolly
Vincent D’Onofrio plays Gov. George Wilburn
Corey Stoll plays Charles Wainright
Amanda Plummer plays Louise
Sophie Okonedo plays Charlotte Wells