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Netflix Originals: Is ‘Ratched’ Based on a True Story?

Sarah Paulson wowed viewers with her portrayal of Mildred Ratched in the Netflix original, 'Ratched,' in 2020. The role is a unique take on the storied character of Nurse Ratched. Interestingly, the story of Nurse Ratched isn't real, but a real nurse inspired the characterization.

Netflix original Ratched premiered in September 2020. Following the life of a nurse at Lucia State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric hospital, the series was an instant hit. The story delves into a mysterious nurse who arrives at the facility when a convicted serial killer is placed there. Season one contained eight episodes, and the drama and suspense have left fans wanting more. More importantly, though, they want to know if Ratched is based on a true story. 

What is the Netflix original, ‘Ratched’, based on? 

Ratched might seem like a true story, but it is not. The Netflix original is the origin story of Nurse Mildred Ratched, who rose to fame in a 1962 novel by Ken Kesey. The novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, was optioned soon after its publication. First, it was turned into a play. The 1963 production starred Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder. Twelve years later, the book was turned into a movie starring Jack Nicholson. 

Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched speaks to Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson in season 1, episode 2 of 'Ratched'
Sarah Paulson and Finn Wittrock in ‘Ratched’ | SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX © 2020

The movie was not Nicholson’s breakout role, that distinction goes to the 1969 movie Easy Rider, but it’s a role he is known for. It would take more than 40 years for someone to consider the book for adaptation again. The Netflix original didn’t want to tell the same story, though. Instead, Ratched explores the life of Nurse Mildred before the events of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

While the storyline of Ratched is fiction, the title character is actually based on a real person. 

While the dramatic storyline in Ratched isn’t true, the character of Nurse Mildred is based on a real person. Kesey drew inspiration for his 1962 novel from working in a psychiatric wing at a large hospital. Kesey worked overnight in a locked psychiatric ward. A head nurse from the ward was the inspiration for Nurse Ratched. 

Alice Englert as Nurse Dolly dressed in a nursing uniform during the filming of 'Ratched'
Alice Englert as Nurse Dolly | SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX © 2020

Kesey told the New York Times that he remembered the head nurse as a large and imposing figure who was cold and authoritarian. He used that inspiration when crafting the famed character. Later, he told the publication, he ran into her at an aquarium. The meeting happened many years after he wrote his novel. He said that she approached him and seemed smaller and far more human than he had remembered. 

Ratched, the Netflix original, isn’t the same story that Kesey told, though. Instead, it aims to tell the story of the nurse’s origin story. Still, the persona is the same. He was not involved in the creation of the story. Kesey died in 2001 in Eugene, Oregon.

Fans want to know if ‘Ratched’ will get a second season on Netflix

Fans of the series are in luck; Ratched will get a second season on Netflix. Season 1 premiered in September 2020, so it feels like it’s been forever since Netflix released new episodes. That isn’t because Netflix isn’t invested in the series, though. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused a massive slow down in current television, and several shows are just now getting back into the studio. 

Ratched is one of the shows that has been heavily sidelined. The cast has not yet gone back into the studio. Several insiders claim a fall 2022 release date is likely, though. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a 10-episode second season has been in the works since the show was originally pitched, way back in 2017. How and if the series will continue past that second season, however, is anyone’s guess. 

Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Paulson act in a scene for 'Ratched' season 1
Cynthia Nixon as Gwendolyn Briggs and Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched | SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX © 2020

Does Sarah Paulson See Nurse Ratched as a Villain?

Cynthia Nixon, the actor who portrayed Gwendolyn Briggs, is tied to the HBO Max reboot of Sex and the City. Gwendolyn factored deeply into Ratched. It’s unknown if she’ll reprise the role or if her commitment to And Just Like That… will impact her return.