The new CBS series Doubt has the kind of premise that's made for TV dramas: with a seemingly impossible dilemma at its heart, it could provide seasons worth of content. Doubt stars Katherine Heigl as Sadie Ellis, a successful defense attorney with her own full set of personal baggage who finds her professional and private lives intersecting when she begins to fall for her client Billy Brennan (played by Steven Pasquale). As if that wasn't ethically questionable enough, Billy might also have murdered his girlfriend 24 years ago. It seems too unbelievable to be real, but is CBS' Doubt based on a true story?
There is no real life inspiration behind Doubt; it's just another procedural with a catchy hook and a complicated conflict fueling its story. The series may take inspiration from real events from time to time when a case of the week has been ripped from the headlines, but Sadie and Billy's ill-advised love story is an entirely fictional development. They aren't based on real people, though there have definitely been women who have fallen for men who have committed horrible crimes — murderers like Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, and the Menéndez brothers have all been married while behind bars. But even if there's technically no truth to Doubt, it's not trying to be unrealistic, either.
In the Gwinnett Daily Post, Heigl explained that she was drawn to Sadie's idealism, even though she also understood that the audience might find the situation unrealistic. "[Sadie] is obviously clouded a bit by her not terribly professional feelings for this man, but she's so determined to save him and so determined to prove his innocence that she's trying to separate herself emotionally, but struggling with it," she said. "I feel like that struggle can go one of two ways: 'Oh, come on, this isn't realistic at all,' or it can feel very human. And that's what I think we're trying to do, keep it feeling very relatable and human."
While its main plotline is fictional, Doubt will also pull some stories from real life. In an interview with Parade, Heigl revealed that utilizing real events in the show "makes it more compelling." While she isn't much of a news watcher herself, she thinks it's "a great way of hooking in an audience and not only engaging them in what is really going on in the world around us but doing it in a way that breaks it down and makes it more human."
It seems like Doubt is all about finding the very human, emotional truth in its situations even if it isn't based on a real story. With that in mind, there may be little doubt this series will prove to be a success. (See what I did there?)
Doubt makes its series debut at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 15 on CBS.