There is an old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, and this has never been more true than in Captive Audience: A True American Horror Story. The three-part documentary series, now broadcast on Hulu, tells the true and tragic story of the Steiner family, who suffered the abduction of one son and the arrest of another son decades later. Carrie Steinerfor the murders of four women.
To tell this story, director Jessica Dimok drew key players in the Steiner saga, including Ashley Steiner, the daughter of Stephen Steiner, the child who was abducted in 1972 and returned 8 years later to his family. In an interview with Digital Trends, Ashley talks about her father’s legacy, the media review of her uncle’s arrest for the 1999 murders of four women and what it’s like to be involved in a real crime story that has fascinated millions for the past 40 years. .
Digital Trends: What was it like for you to talk about your father knowing that millions of people will listen and watch?
Ashley Steiner: It was a little annoying just because I’m not used to talking about my father and my family, and this is the first time for me. So it was a little scary to talk to people, especially about something so emotional for me. It was a little difficult.
How did you get involved in the project?
Ashley: Andrew Jacobs [a producer of Captive Audience] he grabbed me first. He sent me a message on Facebook and asked me if I was interested in an interview. I had never been offered or participated in anything like this, so I said, “Of course, why not?”
There is a section in the documentary that summarizes the appeal of the real crime: “Normal people do normal things until something bad happens.” What is it like for you to be not only a fan of the genre, but also a participant in it?
Ashley: I never thought of it that way until you said it. I guess no one really sits down and says, “Oh, yeah, I’m part of this complicated genre of television and movies.” Now it’s cool to think about it.
Which was the hardest thing you learned about your family while filming Captivated audience?
Ashley: In fact, I didn’t realize all the horrible things my grandparents had been going through. Losing a child is really difficult, and knowing their actual experiences has somehow put them in a bigger perspective on what they really went through and how difficult it really was for them. And since I know my grandparents now and my grandfather before he died, I knew how they were like grandparents, but I didn’t know who they were at the time my father was abducted and then came back.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced during this process?
Ashley: The hardest part was just talking about my father. It was very emotional, just because I didn’t really know him. So, talking about it still happens to me sometimes. I know everyone thinks their father is their character, but I think watching the show and really seeing all the things he’s been through really gives me a deeper idea of the type of person he was. I loved him before, but I loved him even more just because he was a good man. This cannot be taken away from him.
What was it like going through this media experience, just demanding an answer from you that you can’t give?
Ashley: correct. I mean, when my uncle was arrested for murder, I was in seventh grade. They all look at it as if you should have known about it. And my reaction was, “I’m as surprised as you are.” It seemed like a shock to me. I think this disappoints people because they think that since you are his family, you should know everything about him. But he was always far away, even from his mother and father. Nobody knew.
You try to do the best you can because you still want to give people information if they want it. I am more than ready to give any information I can in this situation. But whether or not this is the answer journalists want, I can’t do more than I know.
What was it about Jessica this time that was different?
Ashley: I love Jessica. She’s great. She made this whole experience so casual and really easy to express yourself and your feelings. The questions she asks make it really easy to go back to past situations and bring out those memories.
What do you hope viewers take away after watching Captivated audience?
Ashley: This is a good question. I think what I would like to take away is that no family is perfect. Everyone’s family has problems and secrets. I think it was just more with my family. After all, we are all just human beings who go through life together and try to understand everything.
My father and grandmother and grandfather were super young when he was abducted. Mistakes have been made, but great things have happened that are not talked about. I guess you can’t judge people by what you see in the media and the news. If you step back and take a closer look at everything, you can actually see a family that is really traumatized.
I would like Captured audience to bring greater sensitivity to the topic. That’s right, but there’s a lot of emotion behind it. And I think Jessica revealed that she had a lot of feelings and a lot of trauma, and that’s more than a real crime story. This is my family story.
You can now stream all three episodes of Captive Audience: A True American Horror Story of Hulu.
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