Content warning: This article contains references to murder some may find upsetting. There are also spoilers for Netflix's The Good Nurse. Reader discretion is advised.
Netflix is officially a hub for the most chilling true crime shows and documentaries in recent history. Following the record-breaking success of DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and The Watcher, the streaming platform's latest true crime movie The Good Nurse follows the real-life case of Charles Cullen, a nurse who admitted to murdering between 30 to 40 terminally ill patients over 16 years. He has since been arrested for his terrifying crimes, and per NJ.com, he could potentially be "the most prolific serial killer in history" as investigators found he could have killed up to 400 victims.
Based on the non-fiction book, The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber, the film stars Eddie Redmayne as Charles Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren, two ICU nurses who built a strong friendship while sharing long nights at the hospital. An investigation begins after several patients mysteriously die in similar ways, and with Charles as the prime suspect, Amy is forced to risk her life and the safety of her children to uncover the truth.
Upon watching the harrowing flick, you may be wondering how Eddie and Jessica's portrayals of Charles and Amy compare to their real-life counterparts. Ahead, find everything we know about The Good Nurse's cast versus the real people they're based on.
Eddie Redmayne as Charles Cullen
British actor Eddie Redmayne is notably known for his roles in films like Les Misérables, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Danish Girl. According to The Good Nurse director Tobias Lindholm, Redmayne was his first casting choice for the role of Charles Cullen.
"When [Cullen is] alone with Amy, he's not a serial killer. He's not manipulating her, he’s just her friend — and a genuinely good one — as if this other side of him just wasn't there," he explained in an interview with Netflix. "Human beings can be so complex in this way; Cullen was capable of being such good friends with Amy, while also being the worst beast on earth. There's no other person who can convey these magnitudes than Eddie."
When it came to tackling the role, Redmayne told Netflix that he "had no clue" who Cullen was and that he had pulled a lot of his research on Charles Graeber's book which the film is based on. He also revealed that the real Amy Loughren acted as a resource throughout the making of the movie. "Of course, Amy Loughren was generous enough to talk me through everything about their relationship and what he was like — the way he dressed, what his vanities, his kindnesses, his eccentricities were like," Redmayne explained to Netflix.
Charles Cullen worked as a nurse across several hospitals and nursing homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. According to The New York Daily News, Cullen was fired and forced out of at least six facilities where he was employed. He killed patients at nine hospitals between 1988 and 2003, according to Newsweek.
In December 2003, he was arrested after admitting his chilling crimes to investigators. NJ.com reports that Cullen murdered terminally ill patients by injecting lethal cocktails of heart and insulin medicines into IV fluid bags, switching the power button on ventilators, and medicating patients without consent or being under a doctor's supervision. He was ultimately faced with the death penalty but accepted a plea deal when he confessed to killing 22 people in New Jersey and seven in Pennsylvania.
Per The New York Post, Cullen is currently serving 11 life sentences under protective custody at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. The Department of Corrections reports that his earliest parole date in the state of New Jersey is June 10, 2388.
Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren
Oscar-winning actress Jessica Chastain has brought many characters to life in movies like IT, Interstellar, and Scenes From a Marriage. Most recently, she played Amy Loughren in The Good Nurse with the help of her real-life counterpart.
"She did come to set to observe us and that was a new thing for me. Whenever I played a true-to-life person, I'd never actually been observed by them while playing them on set!" Chastain said in an interview with Netflix. "That can make you quite self-conscious and I think Amy knew that intrinsically. She gave us a lot of space, was really supportive, and allowed Eddie and I to take ownership of the story we were telling."
The director of the film, Tobias Lindholm, revealed that Chastain was his first casting choice for the role of Loughren.
"It was always Jessica for me from the get-go. I have loved her since The Tree of Life and Zero Dark Thirty. The naturalistic humanity she brought to those two movies were a great navigation point for me," he told Netflix. "Early in our conversations, we spoke a lot about humanity and empathy — the lack of it and the absolute need for it in our world — and the question of how to tell [Amy Loughren's] story with that in mind."
In real life, Loughren formed a bond with Cullen as they worked long nights in the ICU and even introduced him to her children at the time. She eventually helped detectives and investigators crack the case of Cullen's terrifying actions. The ending of the film reveals that Loughren, her grown children, and her grandchildren have since moved to Florida. Loughren also served as a resource for the movie and was on set, according to Jessica Chastain.
Loughren told Digital Spy that watching Chastain bring her story to life instilled a sense of pride within herself. "Watching Jessica play me from 20 years ago and being able to finally feel proud of what I did... I wasn't able to do that," she explained to the outlet. "I really wasn't able to do that until I saw Jessica, because I was so in judgment mode: judgment that I didn't see [Cullen's actions] sooner, judgment that I did get pulled into a friendship with someone that was that dark."
Aside from being a nurse, Loughren's official website reveals that she has taken on many other jobs with different skill sets. "I am now a Reiki Master, a Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, Meditation Instructor, DreamSculptor Practitioner, Reconnective Healer, Integrative Energy Healer, Past Life Regressionist, Crystal Language Reader, Medical Intuitive, and learned 'The Work' from Byron Katie," she wrote. Loughren has also spoken to multiple media outlets on the press tour for The Good Nurse and attended events and premieres coinciding with the film.
Noah Emmerich as Tim Braun
This isn't the first time Noah Emmerich has played law enforcement on screen — he also played an FBI agent in the TV show, The Americans. He also had roles in The Truman Show and Super 8. In The Good Nurse, he portrays detective Tim Braun, who investigated the case of Charles Cullen's twisted killing spree with Danny Baldwin and Amy Loughren.
Detective Tim Braun was already in law enforcement for 23 years when he worked alongside Danny Baldwin and Amy Loughren during their investigation of the murders conducted by Charles Cullen. At that point, he'd received nearly 50 departmental awards, and the "good nurse" was his last major case before he retired in 2005. That year, he became a consultant at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and currently still serves as a law enforcement liaison for the organization.
The Cinemaholic reports that Braun now resides in New Jersey with his family and serves as an official for a high school lacrosse team. He also owns his own firm, Tim Braun Consulting, where he is Chief Consultant, and even attended the New York City premiere of The Good Nurse with fellow detective Danny Baldwin.
Nnamdi Asomugha as Danny Baldwin
Nnamdi Asomugha is an actor, producer, and former football comeback who played for NFL teams, including the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers. He is also married to The School for Good and Evil and Scandal star Kerry Washington. He portrays detective Danny Baldwin in The Good Nurse as he investigates the case of Charles Cullen with his partner, Tim Braun, and Amy Loughren.
In real life, Danny Baldwin had worked in law enforcement and investigated around 150 homicides — most of which he successfully closed — during the Cullen investigation. He worked with detective Tim Braun and Amy Loughren to crack the case and ultimately convict Cullen of his chilling crimes.
Since then, The Cinemaholic found that Baldwin earned a Master’s Degree in Administrative Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2006, served as the Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor at Brookdale Community College from 2008 to 2011, and was also a professor at Monmouth University from 2014 to 2016. Baldwin eventually left law enforcement and became the Principal-CEO of Triton Security & Investigations before working as an investigator for Duke University from 2018 to 2022.
He is also an Investigative Consultant for NCMEC and as of January 2022, he is a Private Detective with his own firm, Baldwin Consulting & Investigations.
Kim Dickens as Linda Garran
Kim Dickens is known for her roles in Gone Girl and Fear of the Walking Dead. In The Good Nurse, she plays the hospital's risk manager, Linda Garran, who prompts the hospital's employees to never talk to authorities without the guidance of the hospital's attorney. Throughout the film, her presence during the staff interviews ends up affecting the investigation as employees were hesitant to speak up about Cullen's actions when she was around.
Kim Dickens' character, Linda, is allegedly based on real-life risk manager Mary Lund. There don't seem to be many photos of Lund on the web, if at all. According to her LinkedIn profile, she still works at Somerset Medical Centers as their Vice President of Quality and Risk Services.
Per The Cinemaholic, she was a risk manager and liaison to Danny Baldwin while Charles Cullen committed his crimes at Somerset. The outlet also claims that Lund reported four unnatural deaths to New Jersey's Department of Health after speaking with Dr. Steven Marcus, the then-director of the New Jersey Poison Control.
Hospital administration requested Lund’s presence during the interviews, which was granted by the assistant prosecutor. Lund’s presence, however, influenced the interviewees.
"Danny couldn’t be sure if the nurses didn’t know anything, or if they were just being quiet in front of Mary Lund. Each time his detectives asked a question, it seemed like the nurse would reflexively glance over at Lund before speaking," Charles Graeber wrote in his book.
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