After Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani reportedly refused to adapt the podcast, Dr. Natalia Mehlman says the series used key details of her work.
Welcome to your academic plagiarism nightmare. Dr. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, associate professor of history at the New School in New York, claims that her Spotify podcast “Welcome to Your Fantasy” was used for Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales” limited series without credit or payment.
Petrzela revealed that a year before “Welcome to Your Fantasy” was released, a producer shared early episodes with various Hollywood writers and producers to create a screen adaptation. Kumail Nanjiani and his wife and co-writer Emily V. Gordon were among those who rejected the podcast.
“Kumail and I listened to the podcast and it’s a really fun story, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s the right project to write,” Gordon wrote in an email to a producer, which Dr. Petrzela shared, as did the The New York Times. “As much as we love watching crime dramas, I don’t know if that’s our strength as a writing duo. It didn’t trigger an immediate kick-start in our brains.”
The podcast is back in July 2021. In May 2021, Hulu announced that “Welcome to Chippendales” (then titled “Immigrant”) would star Nanjiani; he also served as an executive producer with Gordon. Robert Siegel (“Pam & Tommy”) and Jenni Konner (“Girls”) served as hosts. The show was “inspired” by the non-fiction book “Dance of Death: The Chippendales Murders” written by K. Scot Macdonald and Patrick MontesDeOca. It was self-published in 2014 Macdonald owned Kerrera Press.
Nanjiani told IndieWire that Siegel gave him a “Chippendales” script in 2017: “Right after ‘The Big Sick’ came out. Nanjiani said: “I loved the script, but I didn’t feel ready for it. I had a bunch more conversations with him, and then one day he said, “I’m just going to tell you what the whole show is…” He talked to me episode by episode, everything that happened; my jaw was on the floor. I couldn’t believe it had actually happened and by the end of his career I felt I had no choice but to do it.”
However, the Times report claims that Hulu’s “Chippendales” only used exclusive content shared on the “Welcome to Your Fantasy” podcast, according to podcast executive producer Eleanor Kagan, who cited more than a dozen excerpts that only the “Welcome to Your Fantasy ” was shared with. Allegedly, the Hulu series used the original’s meaning and narrative focus without citations and based the series’ two key characters only on podcast excerpts. Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales” also led to Netflix canceling plans to turn “Welcome to Your Fantasy” into a streaming series.
Real-life Chippendales show producer Candace Mayeron is believed to be played by Juliette Lewis in the Hulu series. Mayeron told the NYT that she tried to contact the writers and producers of “Welcome to Chippendales” and Lewis’ talent manager to offer free consulting services, but no one responded.
“There’s no doubt they relied on the podcast,” Mayeron said.
Similarly, in the “Welcome to Chippendales” storyline, Nanjiani’s founding character calls a church to protest the obscenity of a live male strip show as a publicity stunt. The first Black Chippendales dancer, Hodari Sababu, who appears to be the basis for the Hulu character Otis played by Quentin Phair, only told this story in the episode “Welcome to Your Fantasy.” He believes “Welcome to Chippendales” used the podcast episode as the basis for the story arc.
“I only watched part of the TV show, but I thought, ‘How do they know this?’ The only way to know that is to listen to the podcast interview I did,” said Sababu.
Hulu representatives declined IndieWire’s request for comment.
“Welcome to Your Fantasy” podcast host Petrzela summed it up: “I’m really shocked by this whole situation. But again, I come from the world of footnotes and references.”
This isn’t the first viral true-crime streaming series to be the focus of allegations of misinformation. Ryan Murphy’s Golden Globe-winning limited series “Dahmer” reportedly failed to reach out to real-life victims and victims’ families during the research process. Murphy has since denied the claim, saying the production spent three years researching the true story and contacted 20 people connected to Dahmer’s victims.
Register: Stay up to date with the latest movie and TV news! Subscribe to our email newsletter here.