Is FX's 'The Patient' Based on a True Story?

In FX on Hulu's The Patient, audiences will see The Office's Steve Carell and Ex Machina's Domhnall Gleeson like you've never seen them before.

The 10-part series, which drops every Tuesday on FX on Hulu, tells the story of a therapist held captive by one of his patients, who later reveals himself to be a tormented serial killer.

Carell portrays a quietly troubled therapist, Dr. Alan Strauss, and Gleeson takes on the role of Sam Fortner, a serial killer seeking redemption.

The gripping series comes from The Americans creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, who told Newsweek all about the inspiration behind The Patient.

Is The Patient Based on a True Story?

No, The Patient is not based on one true story.

Instead, the series is loosely inspired by the fact both co-creators, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, experienced therapy and generally found the practice "really interesting."

Reflecting on what inspired Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to tell the story of The Patient, Joe Weisberg shared with Newsweek: "We were doing what TV writers do, which is wandering around trying to think about what our next show should be and we'd like to start with just stuff that interests us that we feel passionate about and we started talking about the fact that we both had a lot of therapy and we thought therapy is really interesting and important in our lives and therefore theoretically something you should write about."

For Fields and Weisberg, their therapy sessions didn't involve a terrifying serial killer or their therapist being chained by the ankle to the bed frame, as seen in The Patient. But coming up with a thrilling storyline for their next show — with therapy at its core — was the next part of their creative journey.

steve carell the patient
Steve Carell as Dr. Alan Strauss in The Patient. The 10-part series drops every Tuesday on FX on Hulu. Suzanne Tenner/FX

Weisberg explained: "The next thing we do, which is trying to come up with characters and stories...we realized that there was a problem which was that therapy doesn't have a lot of you know inherent propulsion to it. It's just people talking and it's very important work but it's not the kind that works for a TV show.

"So we sort of put it aside and started thinking, 'what if we go some of the more traditional routes of a serial killer and what if we had a serial killer that wanted to get better?' That was kind of an interesting take but we weren't sure if that worked either and they were like 'wait a minute, what if that serial killer goes into therapy?' then we were like 'hang on! wait a minute, what if he kidnaps the therapist?' and then we had a show and at that point, we just knew we could write that in an interesting and fun way and we were really excited about it from that point on."

To bring the story of Sam and Dr. Alan Strauss to life, Weisberg and Fields drew on their own experience with therapy as well as doing some deep research into serial killers and working closely with therapist Dennis Palumbo.

Domhnall Gleeson
Domhnall Gleeson as Sam in The Patient on FX on Hulu. The Irish star plays a serial killer. Suzanne Tenner/FX

Fields told Newsweek: "We definitely did some research into serial killers read some books, articles, watched some documentaries and we also spent time working with, a bit later in the process but not too much later, an amazing therapist named Dennis Palumbo who is a co-producer on the project. He's also a writer, he's written some extraordinary books about writing from a therapeutic point of view, and you know all of that sort of came together for us in these characters really."

Audiences may notice a striking similarity between Palumbo, a real-life writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues. and Carell's character Dr. Strauss who is also a leading author about therapy as well as practicing therapy himself.

Field explained: "What we tried to do was always keep the characters feeling authentic and dimensional and we felt like if we could do that and not fall into them feeling like cliches, then we could have something that would be of interest to us and we hoped it if was of interest to us, maybe it will be to others too."

The character of Alan Strauss is also Jewish, with his faith playing a huge role in his own psyche and trauma.

Weisberg and Fields shared with Newsweek how their Jewish upbringing influenced the character of Alan Strauss.

Weisberg shared: "[The Jewish faith] that was initially just one of the constant efforts you make when you're creating characters to add specificity and dimension and things that make them more individual, but I think as soon as we had that idea for this guy we pretty quickly realized, as two Jews, it was giving us a window into certain aspects of his psyche and his personality.

"We immediately knew we were going to bear a lot of fruit and we didn't know exactly which fruit and that's part of what's fun about writing is you find out what the fruit is, as you go along and then you pick it, but for example, I don't think we would have immediately said this is going to start tapping into images and feelings about the Holocaust that you have inside of you somewhere if you're Jewish, but that was one of the many places that it went. It just got richer and richer."

Steve Carell plays a therapist held captive by his serial killer patient in "The Patient."

The story of The Patient is mainly a work of fiction, but that does not mean the series won't leave you feeling or thinking about something, Fields and Weisberg hope.

Weisberg said: "In a very simple way we want people to watch it and be moved that's what we're always after always trying to get people to be emotionally moved.

"We seek a feeling and what they [the audience] take away in terms of 'I'm thinking this way' or 'I'm not thinking that way'... I'm not pretending we are not deep into those issues but they could take anything away we're good with that, as long as they're you know emotionally struck."

Fields added: "I'd even add something over the emotionally struck, which is connected to it, which is, first of all, we just hope people are entertained and they just like it, that they appreciate the genius that is Steve [Carell] and Domhnall [Gleeson] and David Alan Grier and Linda [Emond] and Andrew Leeds and Laura Niemi, that they have fun and then yeah that people are moved and the rest well the rest is, it is up to everybody who watches."

The Patient airs Tuesdays on FX on Hulu