If you watched the fourth episode of Hulu‘s “Candy” Thursday, you got quite the treat: an appearance by star Jessica Biel‘s husband, Justin Timberlake, as a mustachioed police officer, in their first joint onscreen appearance.
The singer/actor appears as Deputy Steve Diffenbaugh, who attempts to take charge of the investigation into the real-life death of Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey), who was killed in 1980 in Wylie, Texas. Betty’s death at the hands of Candy Montgomery (Biel), an acquaintance who also had an affair with Betty’s husband, is the focus of the five-part limited series that premiered Monday and concludes Friday. The series conveys Candy’s side of the story, who insisted she swung an ax at Betty at her home dozens of times in self-defense.
Timberlake routinely reads scripts from Iron Ocean Productions, the company Biel founded with Michelle Purple, and propositioned Purple over the phone before even discussing it with his wife. Biel and Timberlake wed in 2012 and have two sons: Silas, 7, and Phineas, 2.
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Purple says Steve intrigued him: “He was like, ‘I love this. So tell me about this part. What are you thinking?’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?'”
Purple says they planned to find an actor in Atlanta, where the series was shot, but Timberlake told her, “‘I see a way into this character.’ I was like, ‘Sure, you do.’ I thought he was joking. Then he started talking about the character, and I was like, ‘Have you talked to Jess about this?’ And he goes, ‘No.’ And I was like, ‘We should call Jess.'”
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Timberlake’s interest also shocked Biel, who asked her husband, “Are you serious serious?”
“I said, ‘Well I am 100% in!’ What a get!” she remembers. Biel had concerns about payment. “I said, ‘You know we can’t pay you, right?’ He said, ‘I want a wig, and I need a… prosthetic belly.’ I was like, ‘We can do that.’” (Timberlake received a small union scale salary, and the producers ensured he had a nice trailer.)
Biel says Timberlake assessed his character to be “a performer.”
“He goes, ‘This guy loves the stage. I get that, obviously,'” she says. “He brings an authenticity to this southern guy in a way where he’s not making fun. He’s actually the smartest guy in the room. He knows Candy’s full of it when he’s interviewing her.”
Steve grows increasingly suspicious of Candy. After questioning her alongside his partner, Deputy Denny Reese (Jason Ritter, who is married to Lynskey), Steve asks Candy outright, “Mrs. Montgomery, did you kill Betty Gore?” “No,” she assures him, still under the impression she might get away with her crime.
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“There’s definitely those moments where you pop out of character,” says Biel. “You look across the table, like, ‘Is that my husband with that belly and that hair and that mustache? Oh my God, it is.'” Citing his appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and his musical performances, Biel adds, “I’m used to seeing him looking a different way and being different. It was so fun. He was in his element.”
“But honestly, it was like such a great opportunity,” she says. “This is a massive get for us! Not thinking about him as my beloved life partner, like holy (expletive)!” “