The Khloé Kardashian-produced true crime docuseries Twisted Sisters comes to Investigation Discovery on Labor Day (Sept. 3), and her fellow EPs agree that Kardashian’s passion for true crime and the show’s focus on authenticity and human stories are major draws.
Produced by 44 Blue Productions, a Red Arrow Studios company, Twisted Sisters (6 x 60 minutes) recounts true stories of sisters who committed crimes together — or against one another. The series is showrun by Tammy Wood.
The Labor Day ID roster will showcase several premieres as part of the “All DeLong Day” sneak peek marathon, hosted by Candice DeLong and culminating in the first episode of Twisted Sisters.
Realscreen recently caught up with Investigative Discovery VP and Twisted Sisters executive producer Pamela Deutsch, along with executive producers Stephanie Drachkovitch, president and co-founder of 44 Blue Productions, and David Hale, senior VP of programming at 44 Blue, to chat about the Kardashian’s inaugural true crime series.
All are keen to back up Kardashian’s credentials as a bonafide true crime connoisseur.
“We had heard that Khloé Kardashian was a big fan of true crime, and specifically of ID,” Deutsch tells realscreen. “From the very first call, it was very clear that she knew what she was talking about. She was reciting specific cases and episodes that we’d covered on other series.”
Kardashian also brings a brand with her that is tied to intimacy and authentic experience, having starred in E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians since 2007. That series follows the Kardashian-Jenner family in their day-to-day lives, offering glimpses into private family moments.
“I think one of the reasons that [Keeping Up with the Kardashians] has endured and is so popular is the dynamics between the sisters and all the spin-offs,” says Deutsch. “There’s an honesty and authenticity, a rawness, that we hope to convey in telling these stories.”
“Khloé’s like the girl next door,” adds Drachkovitch. “You just think she’s your girlfriend, and you wish you could hang out. That’s her personality and her accessibility.”
It’s also a natural fit for Kardashian, who grew to fame alongside her own four sisters, whose bonds, along with their successes, failures and feuds, were on display for viewers to see. Deutsch adds that “everyone who has a sister can kind of understand the complicated dynamic.” In many ways, that dynamic steers the series, she says.
Of course, the stakes are higher in Twisted Sisters, which seeks out stories outside of typical family drama, focusing on shocking crimes and relationships pushed to the extreme. The people depicted aren’t going about their daily lives. They’re reliving horrible moments.
“The nature of these interviews and some of the people that are speaking for the first time is just really revealing, really intimate,” says Deutsch.
That’s one of the obstacles that come with a project like this, too. The series makes extensive use of interviews with people who were close to the crimes committed, be they the families or even the victims, and opening up isn’t always easy. But the stories hinge on first-person testimonies. “I think the biggest challenge is always just getting access to the real people involved in the stories,” says Deutsch. “Sometimes, having people who are intimately involved as the primary storytellers is key to really satisfying our audience.”
“Getting these people to be willing to go to a dark place, a very vulnerable place, is a really big challenge,” adds 44 Blue’s Hale.
How do you gain the trust to overcome that challenge? How do you let people know their stories are in good hands? Hale explains that it often comes with just putting in the time. “Putting in the initial request, giving it a couple of days, letting them mull on it,” he says. “It is about not giving up, and really just finding the right recipe of patience and empathy and making them understand that this is their opportunity to tell their story.”
That relationship with the series subjects is also important to show onscreen. In Twisted Sisters, the process of unpacking the heavy baggage of these stories takes center stage. Stressing that these are real people also counterbalances the shocking, sometimes sensational nature of the crimes recounted.
“You see the reporter feeding his dog before he sits down in the chair and gets mic’d,” says Hale. “You see the clap slate. You see when someone is upset and the producer apologizes to them — I understand this is hard for you.
“We wanted for that producerial hand to be visible, because we wanted to make the viewer understand that these are real people in real towns, where these amazing, crazy things really happened.”
Another strategy to humanize these stories involved treating the individual locales as characters in and of themselves, says Hale, to really flesh out the context, the texture of the lives lived and lost. “Every show starts with a POV out the window of a car entering town, and you see the names of the small towns,” he explains. “We want the viewer to feel like the investigator, to feel like the reporter coming into town.”
It’s easy to feel like an outsider in small communities. To be held at arms length by the sense that you’re a tourist not getting the full story. Twisted Sisters sets out to break through that barrier and make these locations feel as familiar as the New Yorks and LAs of other shows.
“I think sometimes we’re so flooded and inundated by the coastal stories, and I love going back into these places, like Groton and North Carolina,” adds Drachkovitch. “There’s an element of escapism in just being transported into a place that I don’t get to visit very often.”
And don’t expect every story to be tied up neatly. These crimes are often messy, and their explanations can pose as many questions as they answer. That’s why the series moves away from a whodunit structure that offers all the answers and instead leans into the uncertainty.
“In the end of every episode, there is a question posed left unanswered, or a new revelation that is very much a jaw dropper,” says Hale, “so stay tuned until the very very end.”
Twisted Sisters premieres across Investigation Discovery on Sept. 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.