What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
Who is Toni Collette’s ‘Unbelievable’ Character Based On
Netflix’s Unbelievable follows Kaitlyn Dever’s Marie, a young woman who is brutally raped in her home and then charged with making a false crime report by police officers skeptical of her story. (The series is based on a true story originally reported by journalists for ProPublica and The Marshall Project in 2015.) And while Marie, who perseveres despite her dual traumas, is the hero of the tale, Toni Collette and Merritt Wever also give great performances as detectives on the hunt for a serial sex offender who, unbeknownst to everyone, happens to be Marie’s rapist. And just like Dever’s character, the detectives are inspired by real-life people—in Collette’s case, Colorado investigator Edna Hendershot.
Though Collette’s character is named Grace Rasmussen in the series, Rasmussen is based on Hendershot, who, at the time of the investigation, was a detective at Westminster, Colorado’s police department. While the series takes some creative liberties in telling the story—Rasmussen, for example, becomes engaged over the course of the show, while Hendershot was married during the investigation—it also accurately portrays many aspects of the case.
Just as in the series, Hendershot was contacted by Golden, Colorado Det. Stacy Galbraith (the inspiration behind Wever’s Det. Karen Duvall) in 2011 to inquire about a rape in her jurisdiction. Galbraith’s husband, a Westminster police officer, had told her that his precinct was working on a rape case similar to one Galbraith was investigating in Golden. The two detectives quickly realized that both of their departments were on the hunt for the same serial rapist, and they teamed up to track him down.
Hendershot was the more experienced of the pair, having already worked more than 100 rape cases by the time of the investigation. In their Pulitzer Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong describe Hendershot as being “careful, diligent,” and “exacting.” The reporters expanded the article into a book, and in it trace Hendershot’s professional history. The Colorado native became a police officer in 1994, and later worked in narcotics, where she found she had a particular knack for undercover work. “For twelve years straight,” wrote Armstrong and Miller, “when Hendershot’s bosses filled out her performance evaluations, they gave her the highest possible mark for teamwork: ‘exceptional.’”
She later moved onto her department’s Crimes Against Persons division, which is where she was working when she investigated the crimes of serial rapist Mark O’Leary—Marie’s attacker. In the end, the team’s efforts were successful: They apprehended O’Leary and he pled guilty to 28 counts of rape. At his sentencing, Hendershot addressed the court. “Sir, this crime has had a profound impact on my life, both personally and professionally,” she told the judge. “Mr. O’Leary demonstrated a level of arrogance and disdain that is incomprehensible.” She asked that he receive a life sentence, and O’Leary was sentenced to over 300 years in jail.
Merritt Wever and Toni Collette play Dets. Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen in Unbelievable. The characters are based on real-life investigators Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot.
Hendershot has continued her work as a member of the police department in the years since. She’s apparently earned a couple of promotions, as a local news article from 2018 refers to her as Commander Hendershot. And a CBS special from 2017 noted that she and Galbraith stay in touch with O’Leary’s victims.
Toni Collette didn’t meet with Hendershot to prepare for her role as Detective Rasmussen, reportedly due to issues over life rights. But Collette told Oprah Magazine that she’d learned that Hendershot requested she be played as “bitchin’ and badass”—a suggestion that that actress definitely fulfilled.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.