Note: Love Fraud spoilers ahead.
The four-part Showtime series Love Fraud is driven by the desire to track down bigamist and con artist Rick Scott Smith and hold him accountable for upending the lives of many, many women. During the finale, which aired Sunday night, that desire was finally satisfied.
In the climactic final episode, Smith was apprehended and arrested, a moment captured by filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing on-camera as it happened. Grady and Ewing also finally talked to Smith directly, interviewing him in prison as he attempted to explain his behavior and, unsuccessfully, name all of his previous wives.
Grady and Ewing joined Vulture on a conference call to talk about the events in the finale, what Smith has been up to since his brief stint in prison (hint: His habits do not seem to have changed much), and whether there could be a second season of Love Fraud.
I want to actually start at the end. In the final scene, we see Rick six months after he was in jail and he’s in a pool with a new woman. How did you track him down again? I assume you had the private investigators working on it.
Rachel Grady: We hired new private investigators. He had just gotten out of jail. He went to jail in Iowa. We didn’t get into all the details of the case [in the series] because they’re incredibly boring and complicated. But he ended up doing his time in Iowa, and then went to a halfway house in Kansas. I knew that because he called me when he got out.
RG: Yeah. He really thought that he had me in the palm of his hand. We hired another private investigator to follow him and he actually followed him on one day only, and that’s what he filmed.
Have you continued to communicate with him?
RG: He called me a couple of times after he got out of jail. And then he disappeared.
Do you know whether he has watched the docuseries?
Heidi Ewing: Oh, we’re hearing things. I think it was in July that I got DM’d on Twitter, a stranger, who said, “I just saw the trailer for Love Fraud, and my sister’s living with this man and I’m really concerned, and I didn’t trust him. I thought he was weird. And he’s been trying to keep her away from us and wanting to know who she’s calling on the phone and controlling the TV and only watching old movies and not allowing her to see us. We knew something was weird. Is he dangerous?” I said, “Yes, I think he’s dangerous. He is dangerous.”
So she communicated with her sister, and her sister watched the trailer and everything and confronted him. He had seen that and he knew it was coming. He wasn’t surprised. He sat with us for three hours and he’d seen some of the promotions. She confronted him and he had said it was a witch hunt and all that sort of thing. She moved out. So I know that was in July. Then there was another woman that reached out. I think she saw the first episode, and she was in a hotel room with him that morning, and she reached out to the bounty hunter.
Yes, he knows it’s on. We don’t know if he sat and watched it. We don’t have any eyewitnesses that say he’s watched it, but he’s definitely aware that it’s on television right now. He’s not reached out to us, which is interesting, because he could. He knows how to find us. We were expecting to hear from him at some point, but we haven’t. So your guess is as good as ours, but we do know that he is still in the Kansas City area.
It sounds like he’s still trying to have multiple relationships.
HE: Absolutely. I think that’s pretty much been confirmed. The bounty hunter started getting all these calls from people that have been involved with him, and very, very recently. I don’t think his habits have changed at all.
I want to ask you about the interview that you did with Rick when he was in prison. My impression from watching was that you had written him a letter, and he seemed very willing to talk. How difficult was it to persuade him to do this?
RG: Not difficult at all. He called me the day he received the letter. I said, “Great, I’ll set it up with the jail.” It took a while to set it up with the jail. We were able to figure out all the logistics on that, and we went in and he was ready to give his version. He was ready to go.
HE: I don’t think either of us were that shocked that he welcomed us to come because it was clear that he was a narcissist. We’re not psychologists, but sociopathic, narcissist tendencies were called out most of the time. And to pass up an opportunity to persuade us maybe, or defend his record, or complain or bitch or cry, it just seemed in line with everything that we’ve heard about him.
It was very hard to get a straight answer out of him. What you see in the series are the straightest answers that we got. And also, we thought it was a good representation of what happened over the three-plus hours [of the interview], condensed in those 20 minutes.
Was anything surprising about the way he conducted himself or the answers that he gave you?
RG: In one way, we had been talking about this person for over a year with as many people as we could find that knew him. So on some level, we really, really knew him well. We knew all the relationships he’d had. We were quite prepared to talk to him from that perspective.
But on the other hand, we had never met anyone like him, so he was completely surprising. When people are lying to your face, it’s always destabilizing. It works. You can see why people can just fall for stuff, because people usually don’t lie repeatedly to your face, so it confuses you. It messes you up. So he was doing that, and what’s great about having a co-director is we were there to talk stuff over. Several times we took breaks and were just like, “Okay, let’s parse this and figure out what he said.” Because there was a lot of double talk and stuff.
I don’t know if you were surprised after you asked this very simple, direct question: How many times have you been married and can you name your wives? Which seems like the easiest possible question a person could be asked.
HE: It was pretty epic.
RG: We found another wife after.
After that conversation?
RG: Yes. We found her wedding certificate. So I bet we get more.
RG: We’ll see. I also think part of the reason that he couldn’t tell me the order of who he was married to was he actually didn’t know. I think he might not have known who came first or second. There’s a lot to keep track of, and he was married to multiple people at the same time.
There were elements of his story that reminded me of President Trump. I tried to resist the impulse to make that connection, but then he specifically said, “A lot of people are going through these things that I’m going through,” and he mentioned the president as an example.
HE: He learned from the best.
RG: I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
HE: We were like, “Oh, he just did all of our work for us.” He himself now is comparing himself to Donald Trump. We were like, “All right, that’s one less thing we have to do.”
RG: I think he can relate to him.
HE: There’s a whole species of men who admire Donald Trump. The flimflam man. It’s American tradition. [Rick’s] favorite book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He literally had the audacity to read out of the book to us, his favorite chapters. He’s mansplaining to two successful women, while in a prison jumpsuit, how to be successful. He sees no irony here at all.
There’s a scene in this last episode where you’re part of the chase that ends with Rick being apprehended in that mall parking lot. Is one of you crouched down in the backseat of the car filming while this is happening? How did that work?
RG: Yes, I had to do it. It was two cars and two directors in the backseat of each car. It was very complicated to get into position for that. It took weeks and weeks of trying to figure it out. We talked about it the entire time we were looking for him, because the question was, “What do we do when we find him?” The whole thing was a goddamned miracle.
Are you still in touch with some of the women that were in the series?RG: Yeah. All of the Kansas ladies and also Carla, the bounty hunter. She’s been just beside herself as this aired. It’s just been, I think, incredibly cathartic for them to have this air.
Obviously these women were determined to find this guy. They felt like their lives had been robbed from them, for good reason. But he wasn’t in jail for very long. Did they feel vindicated or not really?
HE: Most of them say that this has been totally cathartic for them. A lot of people had judged them. A lot of their fathers and brothers-in-law and brothers had weighed in and said they were stupid to fall for him. So I think now that it’s being seen by millions of people, and a lot of other women are coming out and saying, “This happened to me,” they’re getting a lot of positive feedback and they’re being thanked for participating.
He did not get the justice he deserved. The justice system isn’t capable of giving him the justice this man deserves. These crimes are not taken seriously enough, which I think is a certain subtext of the series. But in a way, the series itself is the justice.
Given that he seems to be back to his old habits, have you considered doing a sequel and continuing with the story?
RG: That is such a funny question.
HE: It is a funny question.
RG: Can you imagine if we kept following this guy, and then he would be like, “There they are again.” He’s looking in his rearview mirror: “Goddamn it, just going to fucking Wendy’s today. “
HE: We feel like we know that the ending is accurate. He’s still at it. He was still at it when we finished production. He was still at it when we premiered at Sundance. He was still at it last week. Maybe someone will bring more serious charges. I don’t know. But it’s one of those things where we weren’t like, “Damn, I really wish we had another six months to follow him. We’re not satisfied.” It was one of those things where you knew you’d shot the last thing you were going to shoot.
RG: But there are other kinds of love frauds.
HE: Yeah, we would do another season on a different story. But not on this guy.
Have you heard from other women who have been conned and thought, “I wonder if there’s a story in that?”
RG: Oh my God, so many. We have a whole tip sheet that we’re keeping now because I get them on Twitter. We get them on Facebook. We get them in texts. A lot of people have. “Oh, I’ve got one for you.” It’s shocking, actually.
This interview has been edited and condensed.