Is The Patient’s Sam Fortner Based on a Real Serial Killer?

FX on Hulu’s psychological thriller series ‘The Patient’ revolves around Sam Fortner, a serial killer who abducts a therapist named Alan Strauss and holds him captive. After committing several murders, Sam wants to put an end to his killing spree and he seeks Alan’s help to do the same. Even though Alan initially lets Sam know that they cannot do psychotherapy in an unsafe environment, the therapist eventually realizes that he should change Sam’s mind to stop him from possibly killing people, including himself, in the future.

As the show progresses, we get to see an exploration of Sam’s psyche, making us invested in the character. It is obvious that viewers are curious about whether the serial killer has an actual counterpart. Here’s everything you need to know about the same!

Is Sam Fortner Based On a Serial Killer or a Fake?

Sam Fortner isn’t based on any real serial killer. Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields created the character. Fields and Weisberg wanted to do a show about therapy but with a thriller element driving the narrative forward so that it will not be just “people talking to each other.” “We [Fields and Weisberg] thought, ‘Is there a way to add a thriller element that ratchets up the stakes and makes it fun but doesn’t knock out the realism and truth about therapy?’” Weisberg told USA Today regarding the origin of the show.

Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

To raise the stakes for Alan, Fields and Weisberg conceived Sam. Even during the primary stages of the creation of the show, they thought about a serial killer character “who wanted to get better” and has “normal” characteristics. This character allowed them to combine the psychological basis of the show and the suspense element. As an essential character, Sam dictates the stakes of Alan’s actions as he most likely will kill Alan and several others if the therapist won’t or can’t stop Sam’s compulsions to kill. Through Alan’s exploration of Sam’s mind, the show depicts the potential and potency of psychotherapy as well.

Fields and Weisberg weren’t inspired by any particular real-life serial killer to conceive Sam. They were even concerned whether a serial killer with several normal attributes and a desire to get better was “a real thing or something ridiculous” they created. Sam isn’t completely detached from reality. Sam, like many serial killers in real life, had a traumatizing childhood because of his abusive father. Sam, like many serial killers, also works as a restaurant inspector. These similarities, however, are what connect Sam with serial killers.

pat 101 0766 1
Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

As far as co-creator Weisberg is concerned, Sam’s relevance seemingly lies more in his belief in therapy rather than his identity as a serial killer. “If you have a lot of therapy, the idea of cyclical anything becomes very obvious. […] That’s also what makes it powerful and interesting to do a story about somebody trying to break out of that cycle. Whatever it is that you’re repeating — […] — it’s very, very courageous to be the generation that’s going to try to change and try not to follow in those footsteps. And in a way, that’s exactly what Sam is trying to do,” Weisberg explained to TheWrap.

Sam Fortner is a serial murderer character that stands out among the many serial killers we have seen on TV and film. While typical serial killer films/shows focus more on the portrayal of serial killers’ horrendous displays of cruelty, ‘The Patient’ explores the possibility of redemption through Sam.

Continue reading: Where was The Patient Filmed

Leave a Comment