The Shenandoah Valley will figure in a new limited series on Hulu starring actor Michael Keaton.
The series, “Dopesick,” is based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name by author and former journalist Beth Macy, according to a June 17 news release from streaming service Hulu.
The straight-to-series order will cover eight episodes and focus on the opioid epidemic in small communities around the country.
Macy’s book, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” was published in 2018 by Little, Brown and Company and included decades of research that she did on the drug epidemic, according to the publisher’s website, littlebrown.com/titles/beth-macy/dopesick/9780316551281.
“Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy sets out to answer a grieving mother’s question — why her only son died — and comes away with a gripping, unputdownable story of greed and need,” the publisher said.
Macy, a former reporter based in Roanoke, said in a 2018 interview with KUNC radio (kunc.org/post/dispatches-dopesick-america#stream/0) that she had been inspired to tell this story after talking with a mother in Strasburg about her son who had died from a drug overdose.
“This mother first met me at his grave,” she said in the interview. “His name was Jesse Bolstridge, and he had been the high school football star.”
Bolstridge, a 2012 Strasburg High School graduate, was 19 when he died, according to a Legacy obituary published by the Northern Virginia Daily on Sept. 24, 2013, at legacy.com/obituaries/nvdaily/obituary.aspx?n=jesse-anthony-bolstridge& pid=167125537&fhid=11951.
He’s buried at Riverview Cemetery.
“He had died of a heroin overdose and she wanted me to find out, why was her beautiful, burly son who never missed a day of work, why did he end up dead on somebody else’s bathroom floor?”
Macy said she learned through her research that Ronnie Jones, a twice-convicted drug dealer came to the valley, landed in Woodstock and decided he could make money selling heroin to people already addicted to pain pills following workplace injuries or other injuries.
By the time federal officers caught him, there were 84 people on a pyramid chart with Jones’ name at the top, she said. His drug sales led to hundreds of overdose deaths, she said.
“They were tree trimmers, they were high school wrestlers, they were young women who had grown up in foster care and they were people who had been addicted to pills and now they were addicted to heroin,” she said.
Bolstridge, she said, had injuries from snowboarding and football. Other parents she spoke with while researching her book said their children had started out with Ritalin.
The Hulu series by Emmy Award-winning writer Danny Strong (“Empire,” “Recount,” “Game Change”) will be directed by Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson (“Paterno,” “Rain Man”).
“The minute we met with Danny Strong about Beth Macy’s bestselling book, we immediately knew it was the kind of groundbreaking series we just had to bring to Hulu,” Craig Erwich, SVP of Originals, Hulu, states in the news release. “Danny’s unflinching and deeply compelling take on America’s opioid crisis will bring to life one of the most important stories impacting our culture.”
The project comes to Hulu from FOX 21 Television Studios and The Littlefield Company. “Dopesick” is set to premiere in 2021.