What if someone turned your life into a movie without asking you first? That’s exactly what happened to Toby Dorr, the real-life subject of the new movie Jailbreak Lovers. It premieres July 2 on Lifetime.
Dorr gained notoriety when she broke an inmate named John Maynard out of prison in a dog crate in 2006. She spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about the upcoming movie, her just-released memoir, and what she hopes people take away from her story.
Toby Dorr felt ‘surprised’ and ‘a bit betrayed’ when she heard about ‘Jailbreak Lovers’
For Dorr, the news that someone was making a movie about what she called her “worst mistake” came as a shock.
“I had no idea about the Lifetime movie until about two months ago,” she explained. She first learned of it when the network announced its 2022 slate of “ripped from the headlines” movies.
“It was like, ‘That’s my story,’” she said of her initial reaction to the news. “I was surprised. At first, I maybe felt a little bit betrayed because somebody had taken my story and made a movie out of it, and I didn’t have any input.”
It’s easy to see why Dorr’s doomed love affair with Maynard (and their daring prison break) appealed to Lifetime. The story of a mild-mannered Kansas woman – played by Good Witch star Catherine Bell in the film – who fell in love with an inmate at a maximum-security prison and then orchestrated his escape was big news when it happened, especially given that Dorr seemed like the least likely person to get caught up in such a situation.
Dorr was ‘head over heels in love’ with John Maynard
Back in 2006, Dorr (then known as Toby Young) was a 48-year-old married mother of two. Her relationship with her husband was unhappy, but she’d found an outlet by volunteering with a dog training program at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas. That’s where she met Maynard. He was serving a life sentence for his role in a carjacking that ended in a man’s murder.
After another inmate threatened her, Maynard stepped up to act as her bodyguard. A friendship developed, which turned into something more.
“I truly was in love with John, just head over heels in love with him,” she said.
Eventually, Dorr smuggled Maynard out of prison in a dog crate. The two went on the run before they were eventually apprehended in Tennessee two weeks later, after a dramatic police chase. Maynard ended up back behind bars. Dorr served 27 months in prison for her role in his escape.
So, what drove Dorr to blow up her life for a man serving time for murder? For one, Maynard saw her in a way that others in her life did not. His attention was “almost like pouring water on a dying plant.”
“I just felt invisible, totally invisible to the world,” she recalled, adding, “I was always doing what was asked of me … I was always making sure everything got done behind the scenes, but nobody ever noticed me. And then one day, John Maynard noticed me. That really was all it took [was] for somebody finally to notice me and realize that I was doing something of value in the world and to comment on it.”
Dorr wants to help other women ‘escape their prisons’
Dorr remarried after her release. She and her new husband have visited Maynard in prison, and she describes him as a friend. Her memoir, Living With Conviction, was released in late June, with publication pushed up by several months thanks to the release of Jailbreak Lovers. In it, she opens up about the lessons she learned behind bars. “My book is really about encouraging women to escape their prisons,” she said.
While incarcerated, Dorr had “the gift of time” to stop and think about her life, she added.
“I was free, finally, for the first time in my life, to spend every minute of my day looking inward and looking at my life,” she said. As a result, she was able to “[figure] out what parts of it needed to be healed and what parts of it I needed to do work in and what parts of it I could celebrate and rejoice as being good.”
Dorr admits she’s a bit nervous about the prospect of watching Jailbreak Lovers. “It’s like, ‘Oh, gosh, are they going to portray me as some idiot?’” she said. But she has faith that the movie will handle her story with care.
She hopes the film might “help other women who are facing crossroads in their own lives where they’re feeling desperate and contemplating making a decision that’s not the best decision for them.”
“I’m kind of excited to see how many people the Lifetime movie can reach, because that’s really what’s most important to me, is sharing my story with the world,” she said.
“None of us are our worst mistake,” Dorr added. “We all have so much more to offer the world than just the one thing that made headlines in a negative way.”
Jailbreak Lovers airs Saturday, July 2 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime. Dorr will host a Facebook event during the broadcast. She’ll share her thoughts on the movie and answer questions from viewers.