BWW Interview: Gillian Pensavalle and Patrick Hinds, hosts of TRUE CRIME OBSESSED Podcast
When I was 12 years old, the Homecoming Queen in our small town in Pennsylvania was killed in a drunk driving accident. A few months later, her older brother shot the driver of the car that killed her point blank in the head four times. But did he really do it? Was he covering for his brother? Or his father? Now, 30 years later, this story still haunts our small town and is a topic that is still discussed at holiday dinners and when driving by the murder site. The brother was convicted of third degree murder and sentenced to 20 years, of which, he only served 10 for good behavior.
Thus began a lifelong obsession with True Crime. What exactly did happen that night? Was a grieving brother driven to madness over the loss of his sister? Or is there more to the story? It's not the gore, it's the mystery. And I'm not alone in my obsession with stories like these.
Enter Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle. Gillian's web series "The Residuals" is prominently featured on Broadway World and she is a co-host of the popular podcast, "The Hamilcast" about a tiny little show on Broadway called "Hamilton: An American Musical. (Look it up, it's pretty good.) Patrick, the podcast king, is host of "Theater People," and "Broadway Backstory," just to name a few.
With all these thriving projects in the theatre world, imagine their excitement when they discovered a mutual obsession of True Crime? Gillian and Patrick began a new podcast entitled "True Crime Obsessed," with the first episode premiering in early May. Being a theatre nerd as well as a true crime geek, I was familiar with both of their voices as they are in my head (phones) a lot.
I had the fortune of speaking to both (separately) and the energy and joy you hear when they speak is genuine. To be clear, it is not joy at the tragedy or the gore or the suffering. They are finding interest in the mystery, the psyche, the mentality and the reality of the cases.
My first question I posed to both was what it was that first drew them to True Crime. Was it a hometown murder like mine or was it something in the news that they couldn't turn their attention away from. Turns out, it was one of each.
For Gillian, it was the Manson family murders and everything related. In particular, the book, "Helter Skelter." Patrick traces his interest back to the discovery of a body hanging from a tree near a pond where he and neighborhood kids hunt out when they were little. He clearly remembers hearing that the body had been discovered, but more importantly that after the body had been cut down, they had left the rope on the tree for the better part of a decade, an image still clear in his mind.
When asked what famous cases they were drawn to, Gillian was all about the Zodiac killer. The Zodiac was a serial killer in Northern California in the 60's and 70's that left a series of unsolved murders and his identity remains a mystery to this day. Gillian will watch anything associated with the case including the 2007 feature film by David Fincher of the same name. For Patrick, it is the mystery of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip. I had never heard of this and he explained that she went missing September 10th, 2001 and to this day there is no proof if she died in 9/11 or if she took the opportunity to disappear. Both seem to be drawn to the unexplained and the unsolved. Neither are fascinated by the gore or the sensationalism of the victims, they just want answers. We all do. And after reading and watching all these stories of true crime, I asked which ones stuck with them and continues to haunt them. Gillian spoke of Sharon Tate and her unborn child.
"Anything to do with kids never really leaves you."
For Patrick, it was the subject of Season One of the Serial Podcast, Adnan Syed. Because not only is it still unsolved, it is looking more and more like this is yet another in a series of wrongful convictions and it is so upsetting when the investigators and the public find someone guilty, the investigation halts.
True Crime has had a resurgence lately, especially after the success of Serial. There are many documentaries and made for TV movies (Looking at you, O.J.) and Patrick and Gillian's new Podcast is ready to look at all of them. Through recaps and commentary, they explore the subjects of these topics. Some of the subjects they are looking forward to are "Zodiac," (obviously), "The Woman Who Wasn't There," "My Kid Could Paint That" and Patrick brought up an article in Strange Mag that he was fascinated by regarding the real story behind "The Exorcist."
"I don't know if it fits our format, but it's a great read!"
Gillian wanted to be clear that they are not celebrating destruction, they are trying to "bring levity to fear." In a world that is so frightening to know that these things do happen, it is important for her to consider them analytically, find out what happened, try and figure out just what drives a person to this point.
Patrick also gushed about working with Gillian. "She is effortlessly funny and I am more than happy to be the Seinfeld to her Kramer. I am the recapper and she is the brilliant analyst with humor. I had no idea what a natural comedian she is."
Lastly, I asked both for recommendations for the True Crime Obsessor:
GP: "West of Memphis" is required viewing.
PH: "The Staircase," obviously, but also "The Thin Blue Line." That is the first time a documentary helped a conviction be overturned. It's a little older, but it's incredible and everyone should see it.
Selfishly, I begged them both for a guest spot if they decide to discuss "The Staircase." And even more selfishly, if you think I didn't ask Gillian about Hamilton, you don't know me at all. But I shall discuss that on one of our upcoming episodes of Some Like it Pop.
The first four episodes are up now featuring the films, "The Imposter," "Catfish: The Movie," "Casting Jon Benet" and "Kurt and Courtney." New episodes drop on Tuesdays and all episodes can be found on all of your preferred podcast providers, as well as their website. Featured next will be HBO's, "Mommie, Dead and Dearest."
You can find more information on their website, http://www.truecrimeobsessed.com. They have a blog for your reading pleasure and a calendar of what is coming up next where you can choose to watch ahead of time or listen to their recap first and then watch.
Follow them all on Twitter @truecrimeobsess, Patrick is @PatrickHinds and Gillian is @GillianWithaG.