The director of “The Keepers” shared how his mom actually inspired the true crime docuseries
Since The Keepers premiered, people have become fixated by the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, who was killed in 1969 and is the subject of the Netflix documentary. Indeed, there has even been a petition launched against the Archdiocese of Baltimore to release files on Joseph Maskell, one of individuals the series suggests could be responsible for the murder (and who was later at the heart of a huge legal battle regarding historic sexual abuse crimes).
While you might think the inspiration for The Keepers came from an obsession with the case, it seems that the director actually got the idea for the series from his mom.
In a new interview with Vulture, Ryan White explained how his mom first introduced him to the case of Sister Cathy.
“I had never heard of her murder until three years ago when my aunt and mom reached out to me because they found out who Jane Doe was,” White said, referring to woman who, in the 1990s, came forward with historic sexual abuse accusations against Joseph Maskell from the 1960s.
Continuing, White shared that his aunt actually went toArchbishop Keough High School where Sister Cathy taught.
“That generation of women, especially in Baltimore, had always wondered who Jane Doe was. My mom and aunt were shocked because it was a woman they had grown up with and were friends with, and [they] had no idea about Jane Doe or this horrific past,” he said.
"They connected me with her. That was the summer of 2014. I flew out and met Jean [Wehner] in Baltimore and had a five-hour conversation with her at her dining room table and left wanting to partner with her. She spent a few months deciding if that was the next best step for her. Lucky for me, and I think the world, she decided she wanted to do it."
White admitted that he was initially hesitant to take on the project, mainly because he thought it sounded too much like a horror film.
“I remember saying to my aunt and my mom, because I had no budget, ‘Are you sure this is worth flying out to Baltimore? Are you sure this woman isn’t crazy? Is it worth it?’ They both said they don’t know her that well this late in life, but they were like, ‘She’s a lovely woman, I think it’s worth your time.’ They actually persuaded me,” he said.
"Obviously, once I sat down with Jean and got a sense of who she was and how raw and honest she is, I felt so compelled by her in those very first few minutes and increasingly as the hours went on."
White said that he wouldn’t return to the story of The Keepers for a second season, which makes sense. The show reaches a pretty up-to-date conclusion, and while the mystery of who killed Sister Cathy is still unsolved, it feels like just enough was given to let us reach our own verdict.