Netflix’s new limited series Maid is a blistering look at living in poverty in modern America. Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a woman who leaves an abusive relationship to protect her toddler daughter only to find she has no support, no safety net, and no clear way to survive. Soon she finds herself working as a maid for an exploitive cleaning service, making pittance scouring the Instagram-worthy surfaces of rich people’s houses. Maid takes us not only inside Alex’s head, but through the horrific maze of trauma, abuse, legal red tape, and shame that traps millions at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
But do all the awful things that happen to Alex really happen to women in real life? (Yes, they do.) Okay, but is Maid based on a true story? (We’ll get to that.) And if so, how close to the real story does Maid get?
Here’s everything you need to know about the real life woman who inspired Maid on Netflix and how first-time showrunner Molly Smith Metzler attacked the complex story.
Yes, it is indeed! Netflix’s Maid is based on the best-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive written by Stephanie Land. Like Alex, Land struggled to make ends meet for her young child after fleeing an emotionally abusive home. She eventually became a maid before working her way to Montana’s Creative Writing program. Along the way, she wrote a viral Vox essay about her experiences as a maid that led to her book.
Recently Stephanie Land went on MSNBC to discuss her experiences as they pertain to the adaptation, where she explained how, like Alex, she was told taking her child out of an emotional abusive home was tantamount to ripping her out of a stable environment in the eyes of the court.View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Stephanie Land (@stepville)
Obviously, Maid takes certain dramatic liberties with Land’s memoir — expanding the role of at least one of Alex’s clients, for one thing — but it’s full of images and details readers will recognize from the book. There’s the My Little Ponies, the various descriptors describing Land’s clients, her dreams of writing, and of course struggle to prove she was a fit mother.
When Decider spoke to Maid showrunner Molly Smith Metzler, she said, “One of the things I’m very proud of about the show is that I think it’s emotionally very true to the memoir…There’s characters and big storylines that aren’t in the memoir, but I think emotionally, the show is telling a similar story to the book in that we are both chasing the same ending and chasing the same message.”
“I will say, when you sign on to adapt something like this just as a writer, a screenwriter, I think the big thing to look at is you don’t work for the book, right? You work for an audience, and so that part of it is really freeing and fun and also really challenging,” Metzler said. “With Maid, I did a ton of research. I read the book eight times. I highlighted the passages that had an emotional effect on me. And then you have to put all that aside and say, ‘How do I make this its own thing, its own entertainment? How do I make sure my cousin in Ohio has to watch this show?’ So it’s a really fun job to try to translate it.”
Stephanie Land is now a professional writer and journalist who lives with her husband and two children. She has a dog! And an Instagram, and a Twitter, and a website called stepville.com! Land’s next book Class will debut in 2022
Watch Maid on Netflix