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A member of the crew for 19 Kids and Counting is opening up about working with the Duggars amid filming the TLC reality show that rocketed the family into the national spotlight nearly 15 years ago.
The anonymous crew member spoke exclusively to DailyMail.com about his experience with dad Jim Bob, mom Michelle — and, of course, their famously prolific brood — in the lead-up to the premiere of a new docuseries about the family and their connection to the scandal-plagued Christian fundamentalist sect Institute in Basic Life Principles, or IBLP.
The series, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, out June 2 on Prime Video, portrays the Duggars in a less-than-flattering light. The trailer likens Jim Bob to a ‘cult leader,’ acting in accordance with IBLP’s credo, which sees men’s position as ‘head of the house’ as the ‘natural order.’
The crew member, however, remembers his on-set interactions with the family as overall ‘pretty positive.’
The trailer for Shiny Happy People likens dad Jim Bob Duggar to a ‘cult leader’
Jim Bob, 57, and Michelle, 56, along with their many children, shot to fame through the TLC series 19 and Counting, which aired from 2008 to 2015
The docuseries Shiny Happy People aims to ‘expose the truth beneath the wholesome Americana surface of reality TV ‘s favorite mega-family,’ per Prime Video’s synopsis
‘This is actually why they didn’t want to interview me for the [docuseries]. They kept asking me a lot of questions like, “What did they do? Did they like sneak in and like, do weird stuff?” I was like, “No, not really. They were actually really nice,”‘ he told DailyMail.com
The source emphasized that the parents were nothing but gracious and hospitable when it came to their treatment of the crew.
‘They they fed us, they always made sure that we felt comfortable around the house. They made sure that their kids weren’t bothering us, and they made sure their kids were really polite to us … If at any time we weren’t comfortable with anything, they checked with us and made sure that we were taken care of,’ he continued.
He added, ‘I feel the family’s intentions were always really positive.’
What’s more, while the four-part docuseries seemingly aims to paint Jim Bob, 57, as an authoritarian-minded family patriarch, the crew member observed that this wasn’t necessarily the case.
In fact, it was actually Michelle, 56, calling a lot of the shots.
‘This is the weird thing … Michelle is actually in charge of the situation,’ said the source. ‘She’s actually running the family. Even though it’s like a patriarchal family [structure].’
‘If you spend enough time with the family,’ he continued, ‘you realize Michelle is actually making a lot of decisions.’
The anonymous crew member recalled his on-set interactions with the Duggars as being overall ‘pretty positive’
The source told DailyMail.com that, contrary to what one would expect given IBLP’s explicitly patriarchal religious doctrine, he noticed that Michelle called most of the shots
The anonymous source (not pictured) stressed that the Duggars treated the film crew well, always making sure ‘that we felt comfortable around the house’
The crew member added that he felt ‘the family’s intentions were always really positive’
‘Jim Bob is a little bit goofy, and Michelle is the one who’s kind of making sure things are actually functional,’ he added.
Of accompanying the family as they ventured beyond their church-centered community in Tontitown, Arkansas — to the likes of NYC as well as a number of international locales — the source recalled them being ‘very fish out of water.’
‘They’re pretty careful about how they behave,’ he continued. ‘I think Jim Bob is like the loud American. And then Michelle is the one who’s kind of like, “Okay, maybe we shouldn’t do that.”‘
The source further emphasized that ‘Respecting other people is a central theme for them. They’re not dissing other cultures on camera, or even in-person.’
He elaborated that what they ‘lean away from is, a lot of times, anything that has to do with sex, or anything that has to do with religion. Like if they go to a country and they’re worshipping a different deity, they want to make sure they’re not participating in that.’
The Duggars’ wholesome-Christian public image came crashing down in 2015 after it emerged that their oldest child, Josh, now 35, had groped some of his sisters and an underage babysitter as a teen in the early aughts, around 2002 and 2003.
TLC subsequently cancelled 19 Kids and Counting as advertisers began pulling out of the time slot.
Later that year, Josh, who married wife Anna in 2008, was revealed to be active on the adultery-driven dating website Ashley Madison after a hack exposed the site’s user data.
Josh Duggar (pictured) was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison on child pornography charges earlier this year
The anonymous crew member (not pictured) emphasized that he doesn’t see Josh as representative of the rest of the Duggar children
The Duggars raised all their children, including fifth-eldest Jessa (pictured), to follow the teachings of IBLP
IBLP was founded in the early 1960s by disgraced Christian minister Bill Gothard (pictured)
The Duggars’ fourth eldest, Jill, 32, (pictured) is featured prominently in the docuseries
In 2021, Josh, who now shares seven kids with Anna, was arrested on child pornography charges. He was found guilty in December 2021 and this past March was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison.
While Josh’s sex scandals have irrevocably tainted the family’s squeaky clean image, the crew member expressed adamance that Josh isn’t representative of the other Duggar children.
‘I think the family was trying to educate him to make him better, but I think Josh just has his own demons he has to deal with,’ the source said.
29-year-old Jinger Duggar Vuolo penned a memoir in which she describes realizing that the teachings of IBLP skew what’s actually written in the Bible
‘I see Josh Duggar as like almost a separate entity … his younger brothers and everyone else are, they’re great. They’re all nice guys. They’re respectful. Of course, they have their teachings that I don’t agree with at all, but in terms of just not being a sexual predator … they’re not that,’ he continued. ‘Josh shouldn’t taint the rest of the boys in his behavior of being a sexual predator for the rest of the family.’
In recent years, two of the Duggar daughters have been vocal in criticizing their upbringing, particularly in relation to the impact the teachings of IBLP had on their childhood and self-image as girls and young women.
Jinger, 29, the sixth-eldest of her siblings, penned a memoir titled Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, which hit shelves in January.
In the book, she describes how she came to the epiphany that the rigid doctrine of IBLP deeply skews what’s actually written in the Bible.
IBLP was founded by disgraced Christian minister Bill Gothard in the early 1960s. Among its core tenets is that heterosexual married couples should have enormous families — a concept known as Quiverfull. Traditional gender hierarchy is also strictly enforced, with wives explicitly encouraged to ‘submit’ to their husbands.
Gothard resigned from his role in 2014 after being accused of sexual molestation by more than 30 women.
Meanwhile, court records unsealed in May 2022 document Jill, 32, the fourth eldest, speaking on the record about her father Jim Bob, saying of him: ‘Sadly, I realized he had become pretty controlling, fearful and reactionary. He was verbally abusive. Our relationship is not good. It got pretty toxic.’