Christina Ricci Will Play Nellie Bly in a New Lifetime Movie

Photos via the Library of Congress, Getty.
Photos via the Library of Congress, Getty.

Christina Ricci and Judith Light have signed on for a Lifetime movie about Nellie Bly’s famous investigation into patient abuse at a New York asylum.

Variety reports that Ricci will play Bly, a.k.a. Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, the groundbreaking journalist who went undercover in 1887 at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum, on Blackwell’s Island, to document shocking treatment of patients. Light has signed on for the role of “Matron Grady, the head nurse who tortured her patients into submission.” Variety says:

The movie will deliver a fictionalized account of actual events surrounding Nellie’s stay beginning after Nellie has undergone treatment, leaving her with no recollection of how she came to the asylum or her real identity. Production has already begun with the movie eyed for a 2018 debut on Lifetime. This marks Ricci’s return to the network following her performance in the limited series “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” and the prequel movie, “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe.”


This means that Ricci will have played Bly, Wednesday Addams, and Lizzie Borden, which feels like a real trifecta of girlhood icons.

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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Am I reading this right? The movie is going to pretend that Nellie Bly actually had amnesia rather than being clever enough that she managed to fool numerous doctors, nurses, judges, police, etc. into thinking she was insane, and that she therefore endured much of her treatment at Blackwell’s Island because she didn’t know she had a choice in the matter rather than entirely because she argued her way into a job as an undercover reporter determined to expose corruption and abuse in an era where that was not at all a normal occupation for a young woman?

Ugh. I would be excited about this if it were an actual biographical account, but I really, really don’t like the way that premise effectively strips a lot of Bly’s actual brilliance, capability, and resolve away from her. It’s fairly ridiculous that her real story apparently wasn’t considered sufficiently compelling, because it’s a whole lot better than this one, IMHO.