'Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret': Leah Pipes on the Fascination Behind the TV Trial

Jodi Arias Leah Pipes - H 2013
Lifetime; Getty Images

Jodi Arias Leah Pipes - H 2013

Lifetime is giving the Jodi Arias murder trial, which dominated headlines, the TV movie treatment.

Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret, directed by Jace Alexander (Law & Order, Rescue Me), centers on Arias — who earlier this year was convicted of murdering ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008 — and Alexander's romance. Leading up to the June 22 premiere, Lifetime released several previews from the TV movie, including a courtroom scene with Arias (Tania Raymonde) on the witness stand and Alexander (Jesse Lee Soffer) and Arias' tense breakup.

"I had been following the trial well before I even knew they were doing a movie about it. I was really fascinated by the whole story," Leah Pipes, who plays Alexander's post-Arias girlfriend, Katie, in the film, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I barely follow trials, and this happened to be one that I followed really closely."

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For Pipes, the events surrounding the investigation and the trial were so fantastical that a dramatization of it only made sense. "It almost felt like the trial happened so someone could make a movie out of it because every day, it was something new. It was some explosive, new piece of information every day on that trial," she says. "It's always interesting [to see] a woman do something so horrific and aggressive, [and] a beautiful, young woman to snap like that."

Filming took place throughout the trial, which meant the writers and producers "had to hold off on the verdict part of the movie." "Even the scene was TBD," Pipes recalls.

It was so up in the air sometimes that the actress would keep herself updated on the state of the trial on off days. "I remember being in a coffee shop watching the trial and watching people still piece together whether she's guilty or not. It was a trip for me but it was super fun," she says. "To see the girl that Travis dated interviewed, that was interesting."

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Pipes previews Lifetime's depiction of the Arias story, being part of a "scandalous" project and what she hopes to explore in The CW's fall drama The Originals.

The Hollywood Reporter: Who do you play in this movie, and did you take anything from interviews or footage you may have watched from the trial?

Leah Pipes: I didn't incorporate the real person into my character at all. I read the script and developed the character [Katie] on my own -- and that particular storyline, I don't know how true to life it was. I thought she was a really sweet, good-hearted girl who didn't necessarily need to impose her beliefs on everyone else but had a very strong belief system. I have a lot of respect for a woman like that. She's Mormon, and he's Mormon. She has the same values as him, probably because they had a similar upbringing. She probably would have been a wonderful mother and wife to any man. And then there's Jodi, who's hypersexual but as we know now, probably made the wrong choice.

THR: How do you think this movie will be received?

Pipes: I hope people will enjoy it. It's the juiciest Lifetime movie I've ever seen and the most scandalous. They're really pushing boundaries with this one. It's super sexy and suspenseful to the point where you're watching a Hitchcock movie sometimes. You just don't know what's going to happen. Even if you know what's going to happen, you're still on the edge of your seat and you can't look away because you don't know if that's the moment that everything goes down. They don't slip a lot; they really kept a lot of the gory details.

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THR: So the timeline is followed pretty strictly.

Pipes: Yes, the story unfolds slowly and eerily, and I think a lot of people will enjoy it. It really is a suspense movie. It's kind of a psychological thriller and it's a real story. It's interesting.

THR: Do you have theories and opinions on Jodi Arias after following the trial closely?

Pipes: I think everyone pretty much knows she's guilty. She did it. What's interesting is Tania Raymonde, the actress who plays Jodi, is a fantastic actress and brings so much life and layers to her characters that you kind of see why she did it. And as a woman watching it, you almost justify it for her — that's the other fun thing about watching the movie too.

THR: What was it like watching Tania Raymonde play Jodi?

Pipes: She looks like her but she's definitely a very different woman than Jodi. She's a cool, low-key chick. Working with her — I didn't really do any scenes with her — she's so go-with-the-flow, light-hearted even.

THR: Switching gears, you're going to be co-starring in The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals this fall. Have you been informed of where your character, Camille, may be headed?

Pipes: (Laughs.) I'm just as curious as you are. I really want to know where this is going. I can't wait to get to Atlanta again just so I can read the next script. I know it's going to be epic, that's the one thing [executive producer] Julie [Plec] has revealed to all of us. It's going to be an epic first season. Pardon my French but shit's going to hit the fan.

THR: The episode that we saw (it aired April 25 as an episode of The Vampire Diaries) certainly set up the world.

Pipes: I think this is going to be bombshell after bombshell. Everyone's character is a character that you want to see what happens to [them]. You care about every one of those characters. I can't wait to see what happens to Hayley [Phoebe Tonkin], I can't wait to see what happens to Rebekah [Claire Holt] and Sophie [Daniella Pineda] ... There are so many stories that need to happen!

THR: Do you know anything about Camille's backstory?

Pipes: From what I gathered, just for myself, I am interested in knowing why she's so interested in the dark parts of humanity. She's a psychologist, and of course, no one becomes a psychologist unless something crazy happened to them. She's new in town so she may be running away from something. That's my own theory. And we'll see if I'm right.

THR: Camille and Klaus' (Joseph Morgan) moment in the tail-end of the episode certainly left a lot to be desired. What are you looking forward to exploring there?

Pipes: I hope she goes for the right guy! [Laughs]

Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret premieres 8 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@thr.com
Twitter: @insidethetube