As spectators of a film or a stage production, it is sometimes lost on us that everyone on screen or center stage has a story of their own; a story that may lie hidden behind their performance or is worn proudly on their sleeve — a story that may define that person in profound and lasting ways.

Seasoned stage and film actress Jan Broberg has one of those stories. You may not see it when the curtain rises or the scene fades in from black, but it is, no less, a part of her. In 1974, when Broberg was just 12-years-old, she was the victim of every parent’s nightmare: kidnapping. Taken by a neighbor in whom she and her family trusted, Broberg was brainwashed and held captive for over a month before being rescued. But her torment didn’t end there. Believing she was protecting her family from a greater threat, she kept in contact with her captor and was taken again over a year later for more than four months. Once returned for the second time, Broberg was plagued with feelings of confusion that left her on the verge of suicide. Eventually breaking free of her trauma, she now teaches those very lessons to audiences around the country.

This past weekend, Broberg’s latest acting endeavor, Maniac, hit theaters and tells the story of an unhinged man (Elijah Wood) whose affinity for scalping women is matched only by the severity of his mental instability. In a surprising career move, Broberg takes on the role of an art dealer that crosses paths with Wood’s character to shocking and graphic results — landing the actress in a fictionally traumatic ordeal that echoes her own experiences.

Broberg spoke to GALO about her harrowing ordeal at the hands of her kidnapper, why she has now turned her efforts to prevention and awareness for those affected by kidnapping, and the reason why she chose to star in a film that put her back in the clutches of a madman.

GALO: In recent years, you have been very open about your experiences as a young kidnapping victim, especially as an advocate for children facing similar issues. But to familiarize GALO’s readers with your story, would you mind talking about the time when you were kidnapped and brainwashed as a child?

Jan Broberg: Well, I had a very happy, very wonderful childhood up until the age of 12, when I was kidnapped for the first time by my father’s best friend. But how that came about started when I was 10, and this man, his wife and five children moved into our neighborhood. It so happened that his three oldest sons were the same age as myself and my two younger sisters, and so the befriending of our families began. For two years, this man, who was very affable, charismatic and had even purchased a furniture store in town, really became our family’s best friend. His wife was my mother’s dear friend and all of us kids became very close. Plus, he had all the fun toys — the boats, the trampoline, the snowmobiles. He was always inviting my family to do things and he just really knew how to get in tight with us, I guess you could say, but also have a hidden agenda at the same time. He had really planned the perfect crime.

GALO: So, at what point did this man, your family’s close friend, enact his “hidden agenda?”

JB: At age 12, after two years of him becoming like a second father to me, he picked me up from my piano lesson one afternoon, which he had done before, to take his son and I horseback riding. He had asked permission from my mother earlier in the day and his son was going to meet us there. He gave me what looked like an allergy pill — because I was allergic to horses but I loved horses — but it was really a sleeping pill. I woke up in the back of a moving motor home with my wrists and my ankles strapped to a bed, with a little monitor playing in my ear. From that monitor, I heard a high-pitched monotone voice that told me my mission was about to begin, and it talked to me in that voice for hours at a time. It was terrifying. I am a public speaker now, and when I am out telling my story, I get the question, “How long before you were brainwashed?” And I say, “10 seconds.” I didn’t know he was even in the motorhome. When I woke up, he was nowhere in sight. There was a partition that divided that back bedroom from the rest of the motorhome. He didn’t appear for several days. So, the voice I heard in the monitor was completely real to me. I mean, I thought I had been kidnapped by aliens and that I had this very special mission to perform, and that I was a special child.

GALO: You said that you were kidnapped twice by the same man. How long were you missing the first time he took you?

JB: Overall, this was four-year ordeal. I was missing for over 30 days the first time, and then he kidnapped me again a little over a year later, after getting out of a mental hospital, and I was missing for over four months that time. But during all of that time, the brainwashing, which told me I had been taken for a very specific and important purpose, was continually put into my mind. I thought people were watching me. I would get letters at my school, after I was returned to my home. And I had not told anyone what had happened. I didn’t divulge one secret because I was told that if I did, my father would be killed, my little sister would be taken, my middle sister would go blind — there was a whole set of rules that I had to follow to protect my family, which is a very typical brainwashing tool. It is a very complex system of threats and rewards.

GALO: After being returned home and to your family, what led to the second kidnapping?

JB: After being found in Mexico by the FBI, I was brought back home and I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. He ended up in a mental hospital because he wasn’t convicted of kidnapping, since I said I went willingly. I said everything I was supposed to say, that I had been told I would say if we were ever found. The second kidnapping happened when I was 14, a little over a year and a half later, and this time he took me to California and put me in a Catholic boarding school. The nuns at the school thought that he was a CIA agent, which is what he told them, and that we had escaped from Lebanon (this was during the Lebanon crisis). He told them that he was putting me in the school for protection. He was brainwashing everyone, and so it took three times for the police, FBI and private investigators to narrow it down and come to this school, and have them explain that, yes, this girl is in this school. They were protecting me because they believed his story. He would leave me there during the week and then come and take me on the weekends for the “mission,” which involved sexual abuse that was to result in having a child. But during this whole time, I was a tiny little thing — very pre-pubescent. Although I was 12 and 14 at the time, I didn’t develop until I was 17. And so, people protected me because they believed his stories, that the CIA would come for me and torture me to find my father. It is amazing that I am alive, and that I had 10 good years before this all happened to me, and that I am now fairly normal [laughs]. But it has also allowed me to go to deep dark places when I act.

(Interview continued on next page)