Last month, Showtime premiered the Ben Stiller-directed miniseries Escape At Dannemora, which depicts how convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, with the help of prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce 'Tilly' Mitchell, staged a daring breakout of Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015. It's an engrossing retelling of an exhilarating escape attempt that does not shy away from the darkest, most complicated aspects of its three primary subjects (and was one of our favorite shows of the year)—but of course, not everyone was thrilled with the series. Especially not Mitchell.
In her first major interview since the show premiered, she railed to the NY Post about the way Stiller depicted her in the series: "I never had sex with them," she said. "Ben Stiller is a son-of-a-bitch liar just like the rest of the world. He doesn't care about the truth. All he cares about is making millions off me. He's an idiot."
Mitchell previously admitted to having oral sex with both men, while other prison workers have testified that she had sex with both men on multiple occasions. She was also investigated before the breakout for a "sexual incident" with Sweat, but Mitchell now denies any sex occurred. She instead paints a picture of herself as a victim who was scared of the men, not a willing accomplice who plotted to run away with them (and kill her husband).
"I was stupid. They took advantage of my kindness," she said by way of explaining why she smuggled in hacksaw blades and a drill for them. "I wish I could take it all back. If I had to do it over, I would have told somebody...Everyone thinks I'm just a whore who wanted it." Although she previously confessed to investigators she got "caught up in the fantasy" of another life with the two men, she now claims, "I don't remember saying that."
Understandably, the citizens of Dannemora have some mixed feelings about the show, and its depiction of the town, as well. "It's insulting — they have everyone look like a bunch of hillbillies," one local told the Post. Another local was recently asked by an outsider, "Is everybody in that town that dumb?"
More than anything else, many of the people the Post spoke to sounded angry at Mitchell and sympathetic toward her ever-loyal husband Lyle Mitchell, with some saying she is not welcome back in the town. "They have Lyle playing a total idiot on TV. Shit, they should have gotten Goofy to play his part if they're gonna do that," a friend of Lyle's told them. "People laugh at him. He's got a lot of shame. I would sell my house and go. I would have gotten rid of her on day one," a softball-league friend of his said. "I told him to his face: 'If you love her, shut up about it—don't tell the whole world. Go see her on the quiet.'"
Lyle, who no longer works at Clinton and collects disability, still lives at the same home as before; he has even built a backyard gazebo for Mitchell for when she gets out. "He's waiting for her to come home," said Bill, another friend who lives down the road from them. "I think he's nuts for staying with his wife after she tried to kill him. If my wife wanted me dead, I sure as hell wouldn't take her back."
Mitchell, who is eligible for parole in June 2019, noted that she is looking forward to "spending time with my husband and my kids" and "enjoying the gazebo [Lyle] built me." She added that she is planning on writing a book about the breakout as well.