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Character Breakdown/Backstory


 (In order of screen time)


A one-time star athlete and “A” student from Dorchester, a working-class Boston neighborhood. Jimmy is an only child whose mother ran away when he was very young. Consequently, Jimmie was raised by his father – a hard man and a violent drunk who would beat on Jimmy at the least provocation. This being the case, Jimmy essentially grew up on the streets, where he developed close childhood friendships and learned how to use his intelligence and gift of gab to protect himself and get what he wanted. Jimmy’s athletic and academic prowess earned him a free-ride at BC to play basketball. But a knee injury got him addicted to painkillers, cost him his scholarship, and eventually led to him dropping out of school. When the prescription painkillers weren’t doing it for him, he turned to his buddies from the neighborhood for moral support, companionship, and stronger drugs.

For a while, Jimmy was having the time of his life, enjoying his status as a kind of local hero, dabbling in the heavy metal world and the witch scene, doing much cocaine, and dreaming of starting a band and moving to LA. But soon his friends drifted into dealing harder and harder drugs, especially Angel Dust (PCP).

One night Jimmy was driving for his best friend, Tony, who had an Angel Dust deal in the works down on Boston Commons. It turned out that Tony didn’t have enough of the drug to consummate the agreed upon transaction, so using a second-hand recipe, he cut the Dust with strychnine, both to extend the amount and, according to street mythology, intensify the high.

Tony first tried it on Jimmy, giving Jimmy a taste without telling him what it was. Things went downhill from there. Jimmy got jumpy, paranoid, and delusional. One of the boys to whom Tony sold the cocktail started convulsing and died. Jimmy crashed the car when he saw the dead boy standing in the road, blocking their way.

Tony bolted and Jimmy got busted. Riding in the back of the police car through stop-and-go traffic to the station on Berkeley Street, he kept telling the cops that the dead boy was sitting in the seat next to him, staring at him and dripping blood all over the upholstery.

Jimmy has his good days and his bad days at Willowbrook, where he used his street charm to assert his leadership skills in the therapy group to which all of these kids are assigned. His moods swing from smart ass and funny to angry, scared, and deeply depressed. The dead boy is still with him.


A high functioning autistic who’s been misdiagnosed her whole life. Donna’s parents believed that she was “retarded,” to use the parlance of the day, and had her institutionalized while still a child. Donna was raised by a series of foster parents and bounced from school to school. Through it all, Donna grew up to be a warm, loving young woman with a beautiful singing voice that, one Sunday in church, caught the attention of a faculty member at the New England Conservatory who decided to help this “unfortunate” and landed her a scholarship.

At NEC, Donna absorbed the taunts of her peers in a good natured manner until one a comment was made about her benefactor, and she snapped, attacking the student who’d made the comment and nearly choking him to death.

After the incident Donna seemed to regress into a childlike state. She remains at Willowbrook because no one knows what to do with her.



A former high-school valedictorian from a suburb west of Boston, Christine was introduced to the Boston drug scene when she started college at U. Mass Boston. Her increasing dependency on Angel Dust fueled emergent sociopathic tendencies. She began making up stories about classmates whom she viewed as rivals or threats – in order to get them in trouble with the college administration. This behavior grew more disturbing when she started lacing people’s coffee with amphetamines, barbiturates – anything she could find – as retribution for imagined slights.

One such incident, in which another student almost died from a latté with bleach in it, led to Christine’s arrest and hospitalization.

Christine has been clean for nearly a year but a pattern of highly manipulative and anti-social incidents has kept her in Willowbrook.



A young woman from rural New England who once aspired to be a dancer. As a teenager, Annie’s parents sent her to live in Boston with her uncle so that she could study dance full time at the Boston Ballet. Over a number of years, Annie became a victim of both profound sexual abuse and mind-control tactics at the hands of her uncle – a real-estate investor who’d become involved a Satanic cult. As Annie withdrew more and more, her friends and teachers grew increasingly worried and finally intervened, securing a court order to remove Annie from her uncle’s care. When the authorities came to take Annie, both Annie and her uncle starting shooting. He was killed in the ensuing firefight.

Annie exhibits borderline schizophrenic symptoms, swinging between zombielike and aggressively extroverted behavior. Her grasp on reality is tenuous, and she’s prone to hallucinations wherein any man with whom she interacts is her uncle.



The youngest of the group, a high school dropout from Cape Cod and a member of a dysfunctional family, who never had a real home. Brian was brought up on the road by his oldest brother, Sean, a musician in various backing bands for R’n’B and general business acts. Brian idolized Sean, and as he got older, grew very jealous of anyone who tried to get close to the guy. When Sean met Michelle, a session singer from Memphis travelling with Aretha Franklin, it was love at first sight. They’d known each other for less than a year when they got married after a show in Reno.

Driven by jealousy and a growing addiction to speed (amphetamines), the omnipresent drug-of-choice among road musicians, Brian made life for the three of them a living Hell. After a Blues Festival on Martha’s Vineyard, when Michelle was three-months pregnant, Brian tried to commit suicide for the first time, by cutting himself. Some of the roadies found him and brought him to the ER. Sean didn’t know how to handle this at all. He sent Michelle to see Brian in the hospital. She had a message from Sean. Since they were back in Massachusetts, Sean had called their stepfather. He was sending Brian home. Brian flipped and attacked Michelle, causing her to miscarriage.

When they remanded Brian to Willowbrook, Sean refused to visit him. They haven’t spoken since. Brian vacillates between manic moments, aching sadness, and a kind of wide-eyed innocence. He has attempted suicide three more times.



The oldest of the group, and a late arrival. Richie is a Vietnam veteran and a heroin addict who sliced up a dealer that he thought was cheating him. The DA was so happy Richie got this particular dealer off the streets that he put him in Willowbrook instead of prison. Richie’s been around the Boston drug scene a long time, and upon joining the therapy group, he recognizes Jimmy as one of Tony’s boys. He immediately confronts Jimmy, intimating that he knows about the dead boy, and sends Jimmy into a tailspin.