Candy stars Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey on stepping into a real-life suburban horror story
On June 13, 1980, Candy Montgomery paid a visit to her friend, Betty Gore, at her home in the manicured suburbs of Wylie, Texas. It was a Friday. Montgomery stopped by to retrieve a swimsuit for Gore's daughter, who was set to spend the day with the Montgomerys after swim practice. While there, Gore confronted Montgomery about the affair she had with her husband, Allan. Later that evening, Gore was found dead in a blood-soaked utility room with 41 ax wounds.
Montgomery confessed. She killed Gore, she said, but in an act of self defense. It was Gore who first reached for the ax, Montgomery and her attorneys alleged during a trial four months later. A jury acquitted her of murder. The gruesome true story serves as the basis of Hulu's Candy (out May 9), a five-episode drama from The Act's Robin Veith and Nick Antosca. Jessica Biel, who also executive produces, plays the titular killer opposite Melanie Lynskey, who portrays the late Gore.
Both Biel and Lynskey were immediately drawn to the script — namely, the psychological complexities of the characters, they tell EW.
"For 90 percent of their lives, they lived these very normal, suburban lives, and then boom, this crazy thing happens," Biel says, noting some of the nuances of getting into the mindset of a killer. "She had to be beloved and likable and nice and kind and someone that you can really get behind, and then after this crazy thing happens, I still want you to weirdly be behind her," she says. Lynskey, on the other hand, felt a connection to Gore. "I just felt like I knew her, and parts of me were parts of her," she says, noting that it was particularly difficult to connect to Gore's depression.
"You're living in this feeling and it can sometimes feel slightly repetitive, but that's what depression also feels like," Lynskey says. The Yellowjackets star and her co-lead cite themes of female rage and gender role expectations in the true crime series.
"Some of the themes definitely were rage," Biel says. "Undervalued is a great word… Loneliness, rage, and I think this societal pressure and need for perfection." Lynskey agrees with her costar: "There is this expectation on women to do everything and not complain," she says. "And very much that was present at this time and in this community. It's kind of beautiful to see a story about two women who are struggling and going about their lives as best they can, but acting out in different ways — coping, not coping — and then it all kind of comes to a head in this horrible fashion."
The series portrays the bloody altercation that leads to Gore's death; and according to the stars, there was "a lot of discussion" over whether to include it at all. "The pendulum sort of swung this way, then it swung back this way, and then it landed back in the middle," Biel says. "Everything that we did, it was taken from the court documents, so we were really trying to be very true to her real story." Lynskey adds, "I understand the fear of showing something like that because it is so intense and upsetting, but at the same time, that's what the story is about. This horrific thing that happened. I don't know if you want to shy away from the brutality of it and how absolutely awful it was and the intensity with which it must have happened."
Journalists Jim Atkinson and Joe Bob Briggs, who penned Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, helped Biel and co. piece together what happened in that quiet suburb of Dallas 42 years ago. "They were walking knowledge bombs of this story — the people in both of these families' lives, the survivors, the families, and Candy herself," Biel says. "They'd interviewed her, which was priceless for me."
While Biel did try to reach out to Montgomery's longtime representative to see if "she was interested in having any conversation whatsoever," Biel says "she was not interested." After her acquittal, Montgomery moved to Georgia with her family and divorced her husband, Pat, a few years later. She still resides there and now goes by her maiden name. Biel says Montgomery's attorney Robert Udashen, one of the two lawyers who defended her in the case, was a "huge resource of information."
The story will serve as the foundation for another series on HBO Max: Elizabeth Olsen will wield the ax as Montgomery, while Lily Rabe will portray Gore in Love and Death. Biel and Lynskey have nothing but kind words for the upcoming take, noting that they're big fans of the cast. "I don't know what they're doing, but I'm excited to see it," Biel says. "I don't engage with it in some competitive way. I just think it only fuels more excitement for the story, for great performances, exciting female leads and complex female characters. It's only a good thing."
Lynskey adds, "Something in the zeitgeist is bringing it up to the forefront for some inexplicable reason, and here they both are. I feel the same. I honestly can't wait to see it."
The first episode of Candy is now streaming on Hulu. New episodes debut daily until the May 13 finale.