Is 'The Crowded Room' on Apple TV about Billy Milligan? What to know

William Stanley "Billy" Milligan leaves the Franklin County Hall of Justice on December 4, 1978 after being found innocent by reason of insanity of a series of Ohio State University-area crimes. He is being escorted by Franklin County Sheriff's Sgt. Frank Bonner, left, and Deputy Jack Reiser. Probate Court Judge Richard Metcalf later sent Milligan to a mental hospital for treatment, according to court sources.
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On Friday, Apple TV+ will unveil the first batch of episodes in a new 10-part crime drama, “The Crowded Room.”

The show features “Spider-Man” star Tom Holland as Danny Sullivan, who sits accused of committing a crime. In the show, Danny comes under the questioning of Rya (Amanda Seyfried), an investigator attempting to sort out what happened and why.

What is the Columbus connection?

“The Crowded Room” has a surprising Columbus connection: Created by Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “A Beautiful Mind,” the show is said to draw inspiration from Daniel Keyes’ nonfiction book “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” which takes as its subject the real-life case of Columbus man Billy Milligan.

More: Multiple-personality case of Billy Milligan still fascinates

Who was Billy Milligan?

Milligan was accused in the kidnapping, robbing and raping of three women in 1977. In mounting his defense, Milligan’s attorneys advanced the notion that their client exhibited multiple personalities; it was claimed that two such personalities—a Yugoslavian man named “Ragen” and a 19-year-old woman named “Adalana”—were, in Milligan’s mind, responsible for the acts of which he was accused.

Milligan, who died in 2014, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

How does 'The Crowded Room' relate to Billy Milligan?

Until the show drops, it will be unclear how much of “The Crowded Room” is based on the Milligan case, or to what degree the story follows the specifics of the case. Based on publicly available information, it’s clear that show creator Goldsman has, at minimum, taken liberties with the setting and some basic facts.

For example, “The Crowded Room” is set in New York, not Columbus. Also, the incident of which the lead character stands accused takes place in 1979, not 1977. Furthermore, the character possibly inspired by Milligan is not named as such; Holland’s character is named the similar-sounding “Danny Sullivan.”

In a review, UPI entertainment writer Fred Topel noted the show’s debt to the Milligan case. Topel also expressed frustration with the way the series apparently seeks to disguise its source material.

“The show is inspired by the book, ‘The Minds of Billy Milligan,’ by Daniel Keyes, and credits the book in the opening titles,” Topel wrote. “But the series treats the very premise of the book and true story of Milligan as a mystery, which doesn’t work for new viewers, let alone those who have been waiting for ‘The Crowded Room.’”

Are there other films about Billy Milligan?

The 2021 Netflix documentary “Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan” was an exhaustive examination of the real-life case. The documentary included interviews with, among others, Milligan’s brother, Jim Morrison, and sister, Kathy Preston; prosecutors Ron O’Brien and Terry Sherman; and former Dispatch reporters Mark Ellis and Bob Ruth.

What are critics saying about the new show?

“The Crowded Room” has been drawing mixed reviews, including Topel’s article. In another review, Daily Beast entertainment critic Nick Schager faulted the series for departing from the Milligan story.

“Whereas Milligan was a violent predator who was acquitted due to an intensely controversial reason (and diagnosis), this saga casts its main character as an unsuccessful killer whose actions and motives are justifiable because he’s a passive victim of something I’m not allowed to mention, which saddled him with a condition that I’m forbidden from disclosing,” wrote Schager, expressing impatience with AppleTV+’s request that critics keep secret certain plot elements.

How can I watch 'The Crowded Room'?

Subscribers to Apple TV+ ( can make up their own minds about “The Crowded Room” by watching the show starting Friday.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 'The Crowded Room' drama draws inspiration from Ohio's Billy Milligan