Sandy Kenyon's inside look at ABC miniseries on Bernie Madoff

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The special two-night Bernie Madoff mini-series began on ABC Wednesday night with high anticipation.

"Madoff" is based on the book written by ABC's investigative reporter Brian Ross, and Richard Dreyfuss takes on the leading role.

The makers of the new miniseries seek to give you the background of a case many of us think we already know well.

It's considered the biggest individual fraud in U.S. history, a scheme that lost more than $50 billion, and "Madoff" shows us how one man came to symbolize what was wrong with Wall Street during the financial meltdown that led to the Great Recession.

"Madoff" shows how he was able to get so many people to give him so much money he pretended to invest, before he lost it all in the crash of 2008.

Given the size of his con, is it any wonder the actor who plays "Madoff" calls him a sociopath.

"He rose up out of Queens, out of normal life, and became a hideous monster," said Dreyfuss.

And yet Richard Dreyfuss makes him so likeable which is the best way play to Bernie Madoff, says the author of the book that inspired this.

"He was a man who had great charms," said Brian Ross. "He was also a man of deceit who traded on the greed of others but it was his charm that allowed him to get so many people to trust him and believe that he would take care of their money."

Madoff gets no mercy from the makers of this show, but his wife Ruth, played by Blythe Danner, comes off as a more sympathetic character.

"I don't feel that Ruth knew. When I first went into it, I wasn't sure. Then, I had the opportunity to meet her and I found a very fragile woman who I was amazed she could even stand," said Danner.

Both of her sons are dead. One killed himself. The other succumbed to cancer.

"I think meeting her made me empathize, maybe understand better how she could have been ignorant of the fact of what he did," said Danner.

Ignorant or not, the couple's lavish lifestyle makes what Madoff did to his less wealthy investors even more unforgivable.

"He caused more destruction and devastation than anyone ever did, and he did it in full view of everybody," said Dreyfuss.
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Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon takes a look at the ABC miniseries on Bernie Madoff premiering Wednesday night.

The new mini-series shows how his con worked, but it also demonstrates why Bernie Madoff was able to fool so many people for so long.

"Everyone wants to get into the club they're not allowed into and if you tell people I'm sorry you're not allowed into this club, they want in, and they all did," said Dreyfuss.

His offices have been re-created down to the smallest detail, as I found out when I visited the set of "Madoff" in the middle of production, but realism is perhaps best achieved by hiring a star who fits the title role.

"Richard Dreyfuss is loveable. You're gonna be seduced by him just like people were seduced by Bernie," said director Raymond De Felitta.

"He actually, without painting a picture of Bernie that's untrue, makes Bernie feel human and relatable, and at the same time, one of the biggest s.o.b.'s you're ever gonna meet," said executive producer Joe Pichirallo.

Dreyfuss found the way to play Madoff after the actor realized he grew up near his character in Queens.

"I had lived in Bayside at 218th. I was 10 streets away, and I remember more than vividly my childhood in Bayside and I immediately understood a lot about him," said Dreyfuss. When he was a kid it was a community where some cut corners to get ahead, and therein lay the key.

A middle class man from Queens, his family and a business built on lies. It is a compelling and very interesting four hours and it starts Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on ABC7.
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