‘Menéndez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed’ EP Unpacks the Explosive Sexual Abuse Claims Against the Boy Band’s Creator
The common denominator between the Menéndez brothers and one Menudo band member is a grievous one.
In 1996, Lyle and Erik Menéndez were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of their parents, José and Kitty Menéndez. Throughout the sensationalized televised trial, the Beverly Hills brothers alleged that their father Jose had subjected them to years of sexual abuse, which motivated the murders. The prosecution maintained a firm argument that the boys killed José and Kitty for mere financial gain.
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Now, three decades later, Peacock’s new three-part docuseries “Menéndez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed” reveals Roy Rosselló’s corroborating claim that he was also sexually abused by the former RCA executive and father of the Menéndez brothers José Menendez.
Menudo was created in 1977 by Edgardo Díaz and grew to be one of the most notable boy bands of all time, attracting crowds of screaming girls like young Latin Beatles. The band was the start of many artists’ careers, including Ricky Martín and Draco Rosa who joined the group in the 1980s. But by 1991, sexual abuse allegations against Díaz began to circulate, casting a shadow over Menudo’s fame. While Díaz has denied all claims of abuse — and didn’t respond to the docuseries’ team’s requests for comment either — he couldn’t deny that most of the over 30 band members over the years were replaced when they turned 16.
Rosselló joined Menudo in 1983 when he was 13 years old, replacing 15-year-old Xavier Serbiá. It was a year later that Rosselló alleges he was drugged and raped by José Menéndez in the Menéndez family’s New Jersey home. In the new docuseries, the brothers says they recall seeing Menudo members often, sometimes during barbecues at their home or backstage at Menudo shows. “I remember [my father] taking one of the kids, saying he wanted to talk to them alone, and they went off into the house upstairs,” Erik said.
The Menéndez brothers will soon be the center of another series: the upcoming second season of Netflix and Ryan Murphy’s “Monster,” which was announced earlier this week. It’s unclear which part of Lyle and Erik’s lives will be covered, or whether the new Menudo allegations are discussed in the show that told the story of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Season 1.
Executive producer Jodi Flynn spoke to Variety about working on carefully documenting Rosselló’s emotional journey of alleging sexual abuse at the hands of José and Díaz. Throughout the series, Rosselló searches for people who can help support his claims against Díaz in court, while the Menéndez brothers speak to the series’ journalists over the phone from prison. The project is directed by Esther Reyes, and follows decades of work by reporters Bob Rand and Nery Ynclan.
Flynn is the president of Asylum Entertainment Group, which oversees the Content Group. She works with the development team to evaluate and decide on which projects to take on. When Rand and Ynclan brought the pitch to them, they were immediately certain they wanted to do it. She says it was critical that they maintained a “fly on the wall” approach in filming, not wanting to change the trajectory of either Rosselló or the Menéndez brothers’ trials.
What drew you to frame the documentary as a story about the Menéndez brothers and Menudo, even though it was focused so heavily on Roy Rosselló and the abuse he allegedly suffered from Edgardo Díaz?
I think it was two things. It was first and foremost led by Roy’s desire to tell both of those stories. He really wants to help the Menéndez brothers — he feels like that is part of his journey, and part of his healing to do that. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do both. It’s also a new piece of information in a case that has dominated headlines on and off for 30 plus years in the U.S. It seemed like a way to further a story that you hadn’t seen before. But I think the most important part is that Roy wanted that to be part of his story.
For Roy Rosselló, he might have experienced sort of the same things that the brothers experienced, but they grew up in different circumstances. How did you go about putting these two stories side by side?
There’s a common denominator here, in that it doesn’t matter that the Menéndez brothers were from a family of wealth and privilege, and that Roy wasn’t. They were all abused as very young children. The motivations and their trajectories and their journeys clearly are different, but I think what happened to them kind of binds them in a way together, it connects them. And I think that’s where the story really lives. It’s not about where they came from. It’s about what they all endured.
It was obviously a very emotional process for Roy, as seen in the documentary. How did you make sure that he was comfortable throughout the process?
We really took a very small footprint in approaching this project. Our crews were very small, the number people who he dealt with were very small, and when he told those heart-wrenching stories, the people in the room were highly limited. We did everything we could to make him as comfortable as possible.
I really have to give a lot of credit to Nery and Esther and Bob, who really built the relationship with him, and then worked with him to find out what would make him comfortable, and how he wanted to tell his story. And we followed that lead.
You mentioned the journalists that were involved in the process. What were your initial intentions as a collective in creating this project? And did those intentions change throughout production?
Roy had come to the point where he wanted to tell his story. It took a long time for him, understandably, and he not only wanted to tell his story, but he also wanted to take action. We really followed him on his journey to find people who could help corroborate what he was going to tell police, as well as working with Cliff Gardener, the Menéndez appellate attorney. But we were quickly told that that was not a good idea for the Menéndez brothers to speak with Roy, because that could taint Roy’s testimony in any habeas petition that they were going to make. So we pivoted, and that became the story.
And even after you guys wrapped production, were those journalists still in contact with Roy Rosselló? Are they still working with him?
Yes, they’re very much still working with him. There’s still a long way to go in the legal process for both of the cases. And they also continue to speak to additional Menudos to see if there’s anyone else who wants to come forward. Bob is in close contact with Cliff Gardner, the attorney, and as far as we know, there are plans to file something, but I don’t know the date or exactly what that will be.
What do you hope this documentary will be able to do for Roy Rosselló and others?
Our hope for Roy is that this really is a healing process, no matter what path the legal route takes. I think through his life and working as a missionary, he wants to help people and this documentary is a big part of that. I think the most important thing is that it’s never too late to speak your truth.
We hope that it has an impact beyond the Menéndez brothers and Roy, and that people who have suffered kind of see a path to speak up if they’d been afraid to before. We really strive to do shows that can have an impact, and not just entertain.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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