Audiences were horrified by the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight when it was released on Netflix back in 2019. The story of Jan Broberg’s kidnappings—yes, kidnappings, plural, with an s—sounded too outlandish to be true. Now, Broberg’s story will be getting the fictionalization treatment with a new limited series on Peacock, A Friend of the Family.
The shocking story of the Broberg family and their relationship with Jan’s kidnapper Robert Berchtold seems like it was straight out of a messed-up soap opera. As a result, it makes sense that the story would be adapted into a miniseries.
"It’s easy to judge the Broberg family’s story from the outside. Sometimes when people first hear it, they get defensive: 'How could these parents have let this happen? I’m not like them,'" showrunner, executive producer and writer Nick Antosca said in a statement. "That’s understandable. It’s a surreal story. When I first heard it, I empathized with the family’s vulnerability, and I felt like I understood their story from the outside. But it stayed with me, and I wanted to understand from the inside—to know what their lives felt like, to live in each family member’s experience, to see how they were caught in such a bizarre web, and help audiences understand too."
"I hope people will come away from the series with a deeper understanding of the family and say: 'In that time, in that place, they were like me. They made terrible mistakes, but they loved their kids. And a master manipulator took advantage of them,'" Antosca added.
If you’re wondering what the limited series will be covering, we will be looking into all the questions you have.
Here is everything we know about Peacock’s A Friend of the Family.
What is A Friend of the Family based on?
A Friend of the Family is based on the true story of the kidnappings of Jan Broberg by a family friend, Robert Berchtold. Berchtold not only groomed Broberg from the time she was an adolescent for years prior to the first kidnapping, but he also manipulated her family during that time to gain access to Jan. Berchtold then used the trust he had built to sexually assault and brainwash Jan as well as to kidnap her, not once, but twice—when she was 12 and 14.
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Where can I watch A Friend of the Family?
A Friend of the Family will be released on the streaming service from NBCUniversal, Peacock, on Oct. 6, 2022. The first three episodes will drop at that time, followed by week-to-week releases for the remaining six. You can click here to watch.
Who is in the A Friend of the Family cast?
Of course, when dealing with such delicate and disturbing subject matter, the cast is extremely important. Luckily, Jan Broberg herself is in the entertainment industry as an actress and is even a producer on the series. As a result, Broberg has been able to give her blessing to the actor portraying her own kidnapper, Jake Lacy, as he set off on the journey of entering the mind of a disturbed manipulator and child predator. The cast of A Friend of the Family is stacked with familiar, famous faces. These include:
McKenna Grace as Jan Broberg
Ghostbusters: Afterlife star McKenna Grace plays Jan Broberg, the kidnapping victim whose story is the basis of the series. Grace plays Jan in her older years (though obviously still very young). "Jan is the oldest daughter of Bob and Mary Ann Broberg and leads a happy, traditional life in an idyllic American city," Peacock describes her onscreen persona. "Jan trusts family friend and neighbor Robert Berchtold, though he has plans for her abduction that she doesn’t suspect."
Grace worked directly with Jan on bringing her past to life, reading court transcripts, letters, and police reports from that time, as well as Jan's memoir, to better understand the survivor and her family.
Jake Lacy as Robert Berchtold ("B")
Jake Lacy plays kidnapper Robert Berchtold in the series. He is described as "a charming local businessman who appears to be a genial Mormon father and husband. An expert in manipulation, he puts everyone around him at ease as he carefully plots the abduction of Mary Ann’s daughter."
Lacy said in a statement that he only agreed to play Berchtold because Jan was directly involved with the series, and that she wrote him a heartfelt and moving letter giving him perspective on the "warmth" and charisma that eventually allowed Berchtold to commit unspeakable abuses against her and her family—while also assuring Lacy that he wouldn't be retraumatizing her by taking on the role.
Anna Paquin as Mary Ann Broberg, Jan Broberg’s mother
True Blood star Anna Paquin is Mary Ann Broberg, Jan's mother, in A Friend of the Family. According to Peacock, "Mary Ann is the mother of three daughters, and her life has felt safe, happy and rewarding until recently. She has realized too late that she may have missed warning signs and made a terrible mistake by becoming close to her charismatic neighbor Robert Berchtold—and trusting him around her oldest daughter, Jan."
Colin Hanks as Bob Broberg, Jan Broberg’s father
Colin Hanks, son of America's favorite dad Tom Hanks, plays Jan Broberg's father Bob Broberg in the show. "Bob is big-hearted, kind, and everyone’s best friend, the very model of a suburban patriarch," Peacock describes the character. "As his family gets closer to neighbor Robert Berchtold, Bob begins to fear that something is amiss."
Lio Tipton as Gail Berchtold
Gail Berchtold, Robert Berchtold's wife, is played by actress Lio Tipton. Peacock notes of Gail, "Her husband suffers from mood swings and this has led him to act erratically. Gail's concerns about her husband may keep her on edge, but she never could have expected what her husband would eventually do."
Austin Stowell as FBI Agent Pete Welsh
Austin Stowell is Pete Welsh, an FBI agent investigating Jan's kidnapping. He grows frustrated with the case, especially as a father himself, and with Robert Berchtold's continued manipulation of the Broberg family.
Hendrix Yancey as Young Jan Broberg
Hendrix Yancey plays Jan Broberg as a younger child. She previously appeared in Stranger Things Season 4 as 013 (Thirteen), a young test subject in the Nina Project's Hawkins lab.
Mila Harris as Young Karen Broberg
Mila Harris plays Karen Broberg, Jan's sister, as a young child.
Maggie Sonnier as Older Karen Broberg
Maggie Sonnier plays Karen Broberg as an older child.
Elle Lisic as Young Susan Broberg
Susan Broberg, another of Jan's sisters, is played by Elle Lisic.
Norah Murphy as Older Susan Broberg
Norah Murphy plays Susan Broberg as an older girl.
Patrick Fischler as Garth Pincock
Garth Pincock, the district attorney prosecuting Robert Berchtold, is played by Patrick Fischler.
Bree Elrod as Jennifer Ferguson
Bree Elrod plays local attorney Jennifer Ferguson. In the show, Ferguson is also a regular customer at the Broberg's flower shop.
Philip Ettinger as Joe Berchtold, Robert Berchtold’s brother
Philip Ettinger plays Robert Berchtold's brother, Joe.
Tyler Wojton as Joel Berchtold
Bruce McKinnon as Roger Flynn
Nyaling Marenah as Sister Margaret
Bonita Friedericy as Sister Ramona
Kelvin Hodge as Lockhart
Joe Chrest as Bishop Matthew Paulsen
Ella Jay Basco as Sofia
How many episodes of A Friend of the Family are there?
A Friend of the Family has a total of nine episodes in the miniseries. The first three will be released on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, and the remaining six will drop weekly.
Is A Friend of the Family a true story?
Unfortunately, A Friend of the Family is based on the true story of the kidnappings of Jan Broberg (who is a producer on the series) by her family friend Robert Berchtold, a child predator who had manipulated his way into Broberg’s life. Berchtold managed to kidnap Jan Broberg on two separate occasions (once when she was 12 and then again at age 14), during which he brainwashed and sexually assaulted her.
Jan, credited as a producer on the project, said in a statement about the series, "We were a loving, trusting, educated family. We were not stupid or careless. So how could this happen in our neighborhood, where we knew everyone, and everyone was a friend? The truth is that most predators are not strangers but people we know—people who can build trust, create special friendships, and separate family members psychologically."
"As little girls, we talked and we listened around the dinner table every night. Mom and Dad were always there. We were so safe, so loved, so carefree. Then, in 1972, we met the nicest new family at church, with children who matched us in age. A deep friendship ensued. Over several years, our families did hundreds of activities together: church parties, family dinners, boating and snowmobile trips, sleepovers, game nights, movies and barbecues. Then on a normal afternoon, the father kidnapped me—and from age 12 to 16 I was sexually assaulted and severely brainwashed by this man who I trusted," she continued.
"This story will make you talk, shout, cry—and it will make you angry. Good. T he team of writers, actors, designers, directors and producers led by Alex Hedlund, Eliza Hittman, and Nick Antosca have captured the heart of how good people can be manipulated and their children victimized," she said. "Our story is relatable because so many families have direct experience with this sort of abuse. I hope that our story will start conversations—because secrets live in darkness and silence."
Is there A Friend of the Family trailer?
In a trailer for A Friend of the Family, Detective Pete Welsh asks the Brobergs what their relationship to Robert Berchtold is. Mary Ann Broberg replies, "Well, he's practically a member of the family." We see Berchtold changing a tire for the Brobergs, and coming to their house in the morning, driving the kids around and spending time with them. Berchtold tells Bob that he admires him and wants to befriend him, dances with Mary Ann, throwing Jan a birthday party, and grooming the young girl. We also catch a glimpse of the Brobergs confronting the Berchtolds and hear Welsh telling the Brobergs that Berchtold is a psychopath.
How old is Jan Broberg now?
Jan Broberg was born on July 31, 1962. That means she is now 60 years old.
What did Bob Broberg do with Berchtold?
Robert Berchtold purposefully cultivated a relationship with Bob and Mary Ann Broberg in order to gain closer access to their daughter Jan, with whom he had a disturbing obsession. This started out as a close friendship and ended up turning into a twisted sexual affair with both of Jan’s parents. In the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, Bob Broberg admitted that he had engaged in a sexual act of “relieving” Berchtold in “an act of masturbation,” which left him feeling ashamed and opened the door for Berchtold to blackmail Broberg.
Meanwhile, Jan’s mother, Mary Ann, engaged in a full-on affair with Berchtold for a period of time. The couple’s marriage was negatively impacted by Berchtold’s manipulations but did manage to recover, and the two remained together until Bob’s death in 2018.
How did Robert Berchtold get caught?
The first time Robert Berchtold was caught after kidnapping Jan Broberg, he had taken her on Oct. 17, 1974, when she was just 12 years old. With her mother Mary Ann’s permission, he was supposed to pick Jan up from her piano lesson. Instead, he faked a scene with his car to look like the two had been taken against their will and knocked Jan unconscious, kidnapping her in a motorhome he owned.
The Brobergs called the police that night when Jan failed to show up and reached out to the FBI on Oct. 22, 1974.
As part of his larger plan to brainwash and sexually assault the girl, which he did during this time, he took Jan to Mexico. As the legal marrying age in Mexico was 12, Berchtold married Jan on Nov. 20, 1974.
Sometime around Nov. 20, 1974, Berchtold reached out to his brother Joe and told him to tell the Brobergs that he would bring Jan back if they agreed to consent to the marriage. The Brobergs refused this offer and Joe allowed the FBI to tap his phone, which allowed them to trace Berchtold and Jan to Mexico. Local authorities picked up Berchtold and Jan but allowed Berchtold to speak to Jan, during which time he further indoctrinated the young girl and swore her to secrecy.
Jan was returned to her family around Nov. 23, 1974, after over a month with Berchtold. On Christmas Eve of that year, Gail Berchtold arrived at the Broberg home with affidavits proclaiming that Jan’s kidnapping was a misunderstanding and blackmailed the two into signing them by threatening to reveal their affairs with her husband. The Brobergs signed, only to recant them four days later. However, the damage had been done. Berchtold was offered a plea deal in September 1976 for kidnapping and was sentenced to five years, only for a judge to reduce the time to just 45 days and for Berchtold to only spend a total of 10 days behind bars for the crime that same month.
During the subsequent two years between kidnappings, Berchtold continued his grooming and manipulation of Jan while also engaging in an affair with Mary Ann to further his access to Jan. He sent Jan love letters and called her on the phone, brainwashing her to the point where Jan thought she was in love with him. Jan was able to convince her mother to let her visit Berchtold on her own after he moved away to Wyoming. She spent two weeks alone with him in June-July 1976.
Jan disappeared once again on Aug. 10, 1976, when Berchtold broke into her bedroom at home and convinced her to leave with him. He had her leave a note claiming to leave of her own volition.
Mary Ann and Bob Broberg discovered her disappearance the next day, but did not call the FBI until two weeks later due to their fears of how this would look to the press. Meanwhile, Berchtold took Jan to Pasadena, Calif., and enrolled her in a Catholic girls school as his daughter. He claimed to the Brobergs that he had no idea where she was and kept up the guise with faux concerned phone calls for the next three months.
In November 1976, the FBI used their tap on the Broberg family’s phone to track Berchtold to his mobile home in Utah. The interior of the home was covered in posters of Jan. Around Nov. 11, 1976, the FBI was able to follow Berchtold to a pay phone, where he wrote a number in the phonebook that they found. The number was for the Catholic school where Berchtold had taken Jan. They found Jan and returned her to her family the next day and arrested Berchtold.
What happened to Robert Berchtold?
In 1977, Berchtold faced charges of kidnapping, burglary, and arson, the latter in connection with a fire that burned down Bob Broberg’s flower shop. In June of that year, he was acquitted of the charges by reason of insanity and instead committed to just six months in a maximum-security mental facility.
In 2003, Mary Ann Broberg's book, Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story came out. She and Jan were doing a press tour as a result when Robert Berchtold assaulted a member of a Bikers Against Child Abuse group that was acting as security for Jan in 2004. Jan was granted a restraining order against her former kidnapper for the rest of his life as a result. Berchtold was found guilty of the assault charges in November of 2005. While awaiting sentencing, on Nov. 11, 2005, Berchtold took his own life after telling his brother Joe that spending even one day in jail would destroy him.
Are Bob and Mary Ann Broberg still married?
Mary Ann and Bob Broberg eventually reconciled after their respective affairs with Robert Berchtold. They remained married until Bob's death in November 2018.
Did Jan Broberg ever get married?
Jan Broberg married Larry Felt. Still, Sky Borgman, the director of Abducted in Plain Sight, says that Broberg struggled with romantic relationships after the abuse she endured from Robert Berchtold.
"It had a huge, huge impact on her relationship with men. I remember talking to her at one point, and she said that she still looks at her relationships, and she's never felt as in love with any of the men she's been in relationships with as the kind of love she felt with Berchtold," Borgman told Vanity Fair. "To this day, Jan struggles with how to love and how not to associate that love with the love she felt for Berchtold when she was 12 and 13 years old."