Given her relatively short career, icon status, and infamous demise, Marilyn Monroe occupies rare space as an actress whose appearances as a character outnumber her actual roles.
The latest retelling of Norma Jeane Mortenson’s life and death comes in the form of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, a two-part Lifetime miniseries based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s book of the same name and starring Kelli Garner (Looking). “The role was something I tried to appreciate every second of,” Garner says. “Some of these scenes, I just kind of sat back and said, ‘All right. I’m going to learn a lot today.’”
Airing May 30 and 31, Marilyn tells the story not only of the woman beneath the blond hair and makeup, but of the women in her life—specifically her troubled mother, played by Oscar winner Susan Sarandon. “She’s playing a woman who’s hard to get a gauge on, who hears voices, who thinks things are there when they’re not, who disappears for long periods of time,” says Garner of Sarandon’s character, Gladys. “There was a distance between us that I hope reads really beautiful. You start seeing droplets of both of these people trying to connect, and having nothing to connect on.”