More than three years ago, when American screenwriter Dara Resnik first started work on Home Before Dark, she had no idea it would be released at such a chaotic time for the world.
But while the mystery and teen drama, inspired by the extraordinary journalism of Hilde Lysiak, 13, seemingly has very little to do with the coronavirus pandemic and near worldwide quarantines, Resnik tells The National she was quick to recognise the parallels. Particularly when it came to how parents were informing their children about the crisis.
“This is a show for the moment,” says Resnik, who is the series co-creator, writer and producer. “This is a show about telling your children the truth, even in difficult times. It’s also about children wanting to know the truth. It’s a show about facts, truth and journalism. It has actually only become more current.”
Resnik was reminded of Home Before Dark's importance when she sat down with her eight-year-old daughter to explain why they had to be quarantined. "I went deep into it with her," she says. Rather than just saying everything was going to be fine, she taught her child about the virus and the potential repercussions. Because, as she puts it: "Kids know when you're lying."
It was Resnik’s divorce that made her drastically change her style of parenting. After trying to keep the disintegration of her marriage hidden from her daughter, Resnik says her sister, who works as an elementary teacher, told her, “There is no such thing as secrets in a house with children. They always know.”
That really resonated with the writer, and since becoming a single mother, she only tells her child the truth and lives her "life out loud". This epiphany also inspired the framework for season one of Home Before Dark, which revolves around Matthew Lisko (Jim Sturgess) moving his family from Brooklyn back to his small home town after he is fired as a print journalist.
Lisko’s work emboldens his youngest daughter, Hilde (Brooklynn Prince), to follow him into the profession. Despite being only 11 years old, she starts to investigate her own leads, even launching an online newspaper. But when Hilde learns that her dad was present for the disappearance of his best friend when he was the same age as her, she starts to uncover some ugly truths that everyone in the town, including her father, was trying to keep hidden.
Unsurprisingly, the dark plot of Home Before Dark did not actually happen to the real Lisko and Hilde. But the characters Sturgess and Brooklynn play are still incredibly close to the real people.
The father-daughter duo were “active and generous consultants” throughout the creation of the show, constantly providing a breakdown of their daily lives.
They were so impressed by Hilde’s knowledge, maturity and ability, that during the early stages of production, Resnik admits she, Fox and the show’s writing team repeatedly wondered aloud: “Is there actually a magical human out there who can play her?”
Those fears were quashed when they met Brooklynn, 9, who had been lavished with praise for her performance in 2017's The Florida Project.
Both Brooklynn’s on-screen presence and the manner in which Hilde has remained so grounded in the face of her fame has only reinforced Resnik’s belief that children have a better understanding of the world than adults give them credit for.
Resnik feels so strongly on this matter that she has vowed to be even more hands-off with her daughter going forward.
“The reason the real Hilde is such an incredible person is because her parents let her. They did not stop her. She had a fire to do something, and they said: ‘OK.’ That was what I had always wanted to do,” Resnik says.
“But working on this show has convinced me that’s the right way to do it. It made me realise that I need to let my child be and become her own person.”
All 10 episodes of 'Home Before Dark' are on Apple TV+ now