Is Eric based on a true story? The real inspiration behind the new Netflix drama

You might be wondering if Eric is based on a true story, as the Netflix series delves into a father's quest to find his missing son

Benedict Cumberbatch with the monster, Eric, in Netflix's Eric
(Image credit: Netflix)

You might be wondering if Eric is based on a true story after being drawn into Netflix’s latest heart-wrenching drama.

Watching Netflix’s Eric is an incredibly intense experience as the six part series takes us back to 1980s New York and doesn’t shy away from examining many huge societal issues, including racism, homophobia and homelessness. The drama follows puppeteer Vincent (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) whose world is shattered when his 9-year-old son Edgar disappears and he is forced to confront his own demons as he desperately tries to find him, building up to the very emotional Eric ending. Named for a blue puppet character that Edgar had drawn - which Vincent later begins to see and talk to - Eric tackles so many huge themes and plot points alongside this central storyline. 

Because of this, many viewers might have found themselves wondering how much of what we see in Netflix’s Eric has its roots in reality. As the show continues to attract praise from fans and critics we reveal whether Eric is based on a true story.

Is Eric based on a true story? 

Netflix’s Eric isn’t based on a true story but you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was as it’s inspired by creator Abi Morgan’s experience working in New York as a nanny in the 1980s. Abi, who recently confirmed that there will be a new special of her hit BBC legal drama The Split, explained to Esquire about what her time there was like.

Vincent and Ledroit in Eric

(Image credit: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

"I was staying in a weird hostel, working for a wealthy family who owned a big bagel bakery," she said. "I was delivering cakes and just across the window from their kitchen there was this kind of TV studio, in a central New York street, and I thought, ‘This is extraordinary, this collision.’ Also, it felt like a real party town; the clubbing scene was amazing. I missed all that, but it was definitely happening, I hear."

The creator also explained to Tudum that she felt there was a "very dark, desperate side" of New York at the time, as well as an "incredible energy and excitement" and this helped to inspire The Lux nightclub in Eric. She also wanted to "sensitively explore" the discrimination faced by, and the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on, the LGBTQIA+ community.

She explained, "I grew up in a very liberal environment where being gay was very acceptable, but I knew outside of that world, it wasn’t. This community was being vilified, ignored, [and] had this disease rampaging through its numbers. Where would you go for solace, but a place in the shadows? That’s what The Lux is about. It’s about a community and a home for people who have to live in the shadows."

Characters in Netflix's Eric

(Image credit: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

In the final episode of Eric we also saw Vincent and his father Robert having a very frank conversation about Seneca Village. This was a real community made up of predominantly African American people, as well Irish immigrants and those of German descent, who were forced to leave by the end of 1857 to allow for the construction of Central Park.

Abi Morgan previously told that she wanted to "explore the sense that cities don’t just happen" but that "they’re rooted in history, politics, deprivation and injustices". She had been determined that Vincent and Robert's conversation reflecting on this piece of history should stay in when they had considered cutting this dialogue for pacing reasons.

Ivan Howe as Edgar in Eric

(Image credit: Netflix)

When it comes to one of the major plotlines in Eric, that of Edgar disappearing after being sent on his way to school alone by Vincent, it seems that despite some early reports, this aspect isn’t based on a direct true story. Instead, she reflected to that it was inspired by multiple cases that she remembers hearing about as she was growing up on the other side of the pond.

"I don’t think it was ever based on one specific case, but I think in choosing to go back to that time, I wanted to go back to that very vivid period in history where, obviously, there were those cases," she disclosed. "But in many ways, it was more a kind of shout-out to those cities where kids can go missing. At the heart of the show is Vincent’s belief that 'I want to live in a world where a child goes out into the world and can come home safe'."

Edgar in Netflix's Eric

(Image credit: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

The Eric creator considers that message to be the "callout at the centre of the show", but added that "unfortunately, there are monsters in the most surprising places."

"I guess that’s what’s at the heart of Eric, this quest for a father to find his son, but also a man who's then having to explore the monsters in himself and the city he’s grown up in," she added.

Eric is available to watch on Netflix now.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!