Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mount Airy has role in Netflix show

For those accustomed to Mount Airy being portrayed as modern-day Mayberry, a television series debuting this month on the Netflix streaming service is providing a drastically different look for the city: a face of the opioid epidemic.

“Painkiller” is a crime-drama miniseries of six episodes with one of its main characters given the fictional name Glen Kryger, who is said to hail from Mount Airy. An aerial photo of the city’s downtown area superimposed with the words “Mount Airy, North Carolina” is incorporated into the production, which supposedly was derived from real events.

The show is based on a magazine article and book highlighting the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the opioid crisis, emphasizing that of Purdue Pharma as the maker of OxyContin. It focuses on the origins and impacts of the epidemic including its perpetrators, victims and an investigator trying to ferret out the truth.

“Painkiller” has had a reverberating effect both nationally and locally.

“I watched the series on Netflix,” Mount Airy Mayor Jon Cawley disclosed.

“My initial reaction is the anger that comes from corporate greed,” added Cawley, who was among local elected officials and other citizens commenting on the show’s subject matter and tie-in with Mount Airy.

“OxyContin came on the scene marketed as a drug that was a safe option for pain — obviously, that was not the case.”

Effects on family

One story line of “Painkiller” concerns Kryger, played by actor Taylor Kitsch, a hardworking family man who operates a garage and suffers an injury requiring surgery. During his recovery, Kryger is prescribed OxyContin to help him deal with the pain, to which he becomes addicted — causing all kinds of problems for him and his family.

The cast of “Painkiller” also includes Matthew Broderick of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” fame. Broderick plays a more sinister character in the new miniseries, the head of the drug manufacturer that laid the foundation for the epidemic.

It bears relevance locally due to Surry County reportedly having the second-most opioid overdoses per capita in the U.S. during one recent year.

Local reaction

In responding to how “Painkiller” references Mount Airy, those reacting locally do not see that as any particular discredit to this community.

“Mount Airy should not be embarrassed,” Mayor Cawley commented. “The story that was portrayed was happening all over the country.”

“Drugs permeate just about every community,” Commissioner Deborah Cochran agreed.

“I have not seen the show called ‘Painkiller,’” added Cochran, also a former mayor. “But I have seen lives lost, families destroyed and broken dreams to the opioid epidemic.”

Joe Zalescik, a former city commissioner who remains involved with various community activities, also weighed in on the new miniseries’ implications.

“I have not seen the show and I don’t get Netflix,” Zalescik stated. But he pointed out that “Surry County has a huge drug problem just like any other area of the country.”

Zalescik looks forward to watching “Painkiller” should it appear on another platform.

Blame rests with Big Pharma

If anyone should feel bad about the emergence of “Painkiller,” it is the corporate interests responsible, based on the local reaction.

“People have a tendency to trust medical professionals to tell them what they need,” according to Mayor Cawley, who also is a member of the clergy.

“The medical professionals were relying on the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approval and the material printed by Purdue Pharma.”

The character portrayed by Matthew Broderick, Richard Sackler, comes off as a catalyst for the drug crisis.

“In my opinion the Sackler family, who owned controlling interest in Purdue Pharma, is ultimately responsible for the untold pain and death surrounding OxyContin,” Cawley observed.

“Big Pharma and drug dealers worship money, and profits kill conscience,” in Commissioner Cochran’s view.

“Mount Airy has suffered greatly as a community because of the deception surrounding OxyContin,” Cawley further stated.. “Addiction is real — those impacted are victims.”

One question is what happens going forward.

“Lots of money is coming into Surry County from the drug company lawsuits,” Zalescik said of court actions that have penalized those responsible.

“Drug-intervention programs have to work and help people that are addicted.”



Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply