- TV News -Is 'Maid's Port Hampstead A Real Place? It's Complicated
In Maid, Port Hampstead is a virtual tale of two cities. The Washington town is at once a place full of privilege and poverty, home to mold-filled apartments and sun-soaked McMansions. The show's central character, Alex, sees both sides. As a cleaner, she scrubs the toilets and floors of people who are so wealthy and trapped in their own bubbles that they barely register her existence. But as a single mother on government assistance, she lives and works alongside other women living below the poverty line in the moody city.
Maid is based on the bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, and for the most part, Netflix stays true to the author's story. But at the same time, a lot of effort has gone into making Land's story a more universal and inclusive narrative. Part of the process included changing the name of the primary character to Alex, and setting the show in the fictional town of Port Hampstead.
But while Port Hampstead isn't real, it's clearly a thinly veiled version of Port Townsend, Washington, where Land lived and worked before she moved to Missoula, Montana. With nearly 10,000 residents, Port Townsend is considered one of the best places to retire to in Washington. The city is full of Victorian architecture and artists, and the average household income is a little over $51,000.
However, the Washington city also has a 15.6% poverty rate, according to the United States Census Bureau. That's quite a few people who are struggling to make ends meet, just like Land was before her memoir was published. For Molly Smith Metzler, who adapted the book for Netflix, it was important to ground the show in a place that was as much like the town where Land lived and worked as possible.
In a recent interview with The Seattle Times, she said, "I don't do a very good job at all of disguising that it’s Port Townsend. You’ll see in the show the houses all have a little Victorian bent and it’s clearly on the water with a lot of boats and harbors. And it's a very artistic community."
Metzler calls the fictionalized Port Hampstead an "homage" to Port Townsend, but there's one more twist: the series, which is about America's broken government system program, was actually filmed in Canada. Ultimately, Victoria, B.C. ends up providing the show with its mercurial backdrop.
Still, even though Port Hampstead is a funhouse mirror version of Port Townsend filmed in Victoria, the setting works because it speaks to the widespread issue of poverty. More than anything else, Maid is a reminder that poverty touches thousands of lives, and it exists everywhere — even in artist enclaves full of picturesque homes.
In the end, Port Hampstead is a stand in for the towns and cities all across America where the plight of people living below the poverty line is far too often ignored by those who happen to live above it.
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Images: Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix