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When Justin Timberlake found out about wife Jessica Biel’s next TV project, he wanted in.
Biel is starring in and executive producing Candy, the Hulu drama offering viewers their next true-crime TV tale. The limited series explores the real-life gruesome 1980 murder of Betty Gore, who is played by Melanie Lynskey, and her friend Candy Montgomery, played by Biel, is accused of the crime.
Timberlake, who appears in the final two episodes (the first of which released on Wednesday), plays a deputy investigating the murder. And Jason Ritter, husband to Lynskey, plays his partner. (Timothy Simons and Pablo Schreiber play their onscreen husbands.)
“[Justin] read the script because we were sharing ideas, and notes and stuff, and said, ‘I want to play that part.’ And I just thought [he was] kidding. I thought, ‘No way. We don’t have any money!'” Biel recently shared on THR‘s TV’s Top 5 podcast about the stunt casting, which was kept secret until the episode dropped.
Biel, who produces the series via her and Michelle Purple’s Iron Ocean banner, said they had already spent all of the production’s money on the main cast. “[Justin] said, ‘I don’t care. I want to play this part. I see the way in. I really get it. I really love this. I want to do this.'”
The pair then called Biel’s producing partner, Purple, who then called showrunner Robin Veith and the latter “literally jumped out of her chair like, ‘Yes, of course. That would be insane. How amazing would that be?'”
Timberlake met up with Veith for what Biel calls a “match-made in heaven.” And that’s when Veith had the idea to also cast Ritter as Timberlake’s investigating partner-in-crime, because of how they imagined a reenactment sequence between the two male characters would play out in the finale.
“It’s so meta to have these two people who are connected to Melanie and I … play these parts, because they are then going to play us as their characters; their characters will be playing our characters,” explains Biel of their husbands stepping into the shoes of Candy and Betty for the scene. “It was so many layers upon layers, it was just like meta on meta on meta. Our brains exploded with how funny it was. We just thought it was so funny and weird.”
Adding, “It was a lucky, lucky get.”
Speaking to the Associated Press, the TV star admits she had some hesitations about being on set with her husband — as they have yet to share the screen together — but said her fears were quickly eased.
“He was getting a wig fitting, it was so fun and was such a good surprise,” she said of Timberlake, who wore a belly and grew a mustache for the part. “I actually felt total peace when he was around. Like, I knew he was going to hold that sort of safe space for me to work in the way I needed to and be non-judgmental and open and free. And he gave me the freedom to improvise, which he’s so good at and I’m less comfortable with.”
To step into the part as Candy, Biel is nearly unrecognizable in a short curly wig and large glasses. She described the role as “transformative” when recently speaking to THR at the premiere. “I didn’t recognize myself, which is exactly what you want when you’re having to put yourself into the shoes of someone that you really truly don’t understand.” (When making the press rounds, she has joked that her husband once had a similar NSYNC-era haircut.)
Ultimately, for Biel, it was the “psychological elements” of Montgomery’s story that drew her to the project. “I’m endlessly fascinated with the human condition and putting myself in someone else’s shoes,” the Sinner star said on TV’s Top 5 of exploring the “whydunit” at the core of the story.
Candy is one of two TV projects to explore Montgomery’s case. The HBO Max limited series Love and Death, starring Elizabeth Olsen, is set for release later this year.
And Veith understands the dueling fascination. “The thing about this story is there’s like 100 ways to tell this story,” the showrunner recently told THR. “I just love different perspectives, so I’m very excited for what they’re doing. We were already well into what we were doing and we had a take and a story that we wanted to tell and that’s what we did.”
Candy released its first episode May 9 on Hulu and rolls out daily until the fifth and final episode drops May 13.
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