Meet the 'Gone Mom' actors who play Fotis and Jennifer Dulos and find out why one scene haunts them

There was a scene in the filming of “Gone Mom: The Disappearance of Jennifer Dulos” that still haunts Warren Christie and Annabeth Gish, the actors portraying Fotis and Jennifer Dulos in the Lifetime movie set to air next weekend.

The couple had just returned from her beloved father’s funeral. An argument over money ensued with the heated discussion ending when Fotis Dulos admitted he had a mistress — Michelle Troconis — and contended his wife would never divorce him because their family was her only accomplishment.

“It struck me as incredibly mean,” said Christie, who continually had to seek a balance in his portrayal of a charming high-end real estate developer and a man, according to his wife, who was prone to fits of rage and thoughts of revenge.

“Warren lasered me to the core,” during the scene, Gish said.

In interviews with Hearst Connecticut Media, the actors and the movie’s executive producer said they aimed to raise awareness to domestic violence while honoring the New Canaan mother’s memory and respecting her family and five children.

The movie, which premieres at 8 p.m. June 5 on Lifetime, chronicles the relationship of Fotis and Jennifer Dulos through the eyes of a friend. It starts with the couple’s chance encounter in 2003 to Fotis Dulos’ suicide in January 2020 as he faced murder, kidnapping and other charges in his estranged wife’s death and disappearance.

The disappearance drew international attention after friends reported Jennifer Dulos missing on May 24, 2019, sparking a massive search of New Canaan’s Waveny Park before heading upstate and leading to the initial arrests of Fotis Dulos and Troconis.

While Jennifer Dulos’ body has never been found, she is presumed dead by investigators and her family, who did not participate in the movie project for Lifetime. Troconis and Fotis Dulos’ friend and attorney, Kent Mawhinney, have each pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and their cases are still pending.

Gish and Christie, both veteran actors, came into the project with differing levels of exposure to the case. Gish had followed the disappearance in the news from the start. “It was salacious, scandalous, but there was a kinship I felt with Jennifer,” Gist said.

Christie, meanwhile, had to bring himself up to speed through the script.

“Sadly, it’s an all too common story of domestic violence and how you don’t know what happens between people when they are behind closed doors,” Christie said. “A lot of times someone’s life will look good on paper, but you don’t actually know what’s happening. My hope is that it will resonate with people and have people talking.”

In early scenes, Christie is consummately charming, playing off Fotis Dulos’ image as a driven competitor on water and later in the world of high-end real estate. During one exchange, Fotis Dulos tells Jennifer that she is impressive and doesn’t give herself enough credit. “How did you possibly get by me in college?” he asked his former Brown University classmate as they shared a glass of wine during their chance meeting in Colorado in 2003.

“I know a rogue when I see one,” Jennifer replies. It was one of several moments in the film when the writers used creative license to depict how the couple interacted to move the plot forward.

The movie was shot over 18 days in the Vancouver area during the pandemic. Gish had to quarantine for 14 days before filming began, leaving her and Christie ample time to discuss their portrayal of the couple and the material over Zoom chats, she said.

“We tried really hard to create the world of New Canaan and Farmington,” Executive Producer Ilene Kahn Power said. “Fotis was always dressed impeccably. Warren Christie did a fantastic job. He is the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet, but he captured the abuse, which was pervasive but never physical.”

The writers took liberties with the relationship and some of the plot twists, but the crew, including Kahn Power, were dedicated to honoring the memory of Jennifer Dulos while producing a thought-provoking film about domestic violence, the actors said. There were people on the set who opened up during filming about their own stories of abusive relationships, Kahn Power said.

“This one got my heart and soul,” the executive producer said. “I can’t tell you how deeply I was affected by this. It could have been any of us. She had it all, she was beautiful, sweet and funny.”

Kahn Power recently discussed the movie with Carrie Luft, the close friend of Jennifer Dulos who has served as the family’s spokesperson since the disappearance. Kahn Power said she assured Luft that care was taken in telling Jennifer’s story. “I feel we did justice to her,” Kahn Power said.

Luft did not participate in the movie and has declined to comment about it. The friend, “Audrey,” who describes to police the story of Fotis and Jennifer Dulos throughout the movie, is a composite of several people, the executive producer said.

At various points in the film, police recite lines from the actual arrest warrant served on Fotis Dulos, alleging he was “lying in wait” at her New Canaan home the morning of May 24, 2019. The film includes harrowing portrayals both of the attack on Jennifer and Fotis Dulos’ suicide.

Not every twist and turn, many of which played out in the media over the past two years, was documented in the film. But there were scenes depicting the ugly court battle over the custody of their five children and actual police footage of the search for her remains, which spanned several Connecticut counties and tons of trash at a Hartford garbage plant.

“We tried to take the high road as much as possible and be as truthful as possible with the story and touch other women who are victims of abuse,” Kahn Power said.

In the end, Gish said she wants people to understand that Jennifer Dulos was not a victim. “Although she did die, she did remove herself from the marriage and had separated her children from an abuser,” Gish said.

Gish and Christie hope the film will raise awareness to domestic violence in a way that is mindful of the fact the couple’s five children and family are still grieving and living with the case.

“Any time you are dealing with real people, there are children, parents and other family members who are impacted, you have to handle the story with integrity and heart,” Christie said. “And at the end of the day, you hope it sparks discussion and opens people’s eyes.”

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