Hulu’s new true crime series Candy is ostensibly about the heinous 1980 murder committed by Texas woman Candy Montgomery and what led up to it. But it’s also a serious exploration of repressed needs, the stifling demands of stay-at-home motherhood, and — my personal interpretation — the dangers of not taking women’s sexual desire seriously. In the series (and in real life), Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel) embarks on a carefully-planned affair with friend Betty Gore’s (Melanie Lynskey) husband, Allan Gore, months before she murders Betty in her home, later claiming Betty confronted her about the infidelity and that she reacted in self-defense. But before we get to the murder, it’s both women’s marriages and family lives that we see in-depth, and stars Biel and Lynskey found it difficult not to sympathize with their characters’ unmet needs leading up to that violent confrontation.
The show itself makes a clear choice to be sympathetic to Candy and Betty’s sexual needs throughout. We see Biel’s Candy attempting to masturbate in the bath while her family shouts through the door, or introducing erotica to her clueless husband; Lynskey’s Betty, later, bravely broaches the topic of sexual satisfaction in counseling with her husband. I spoke with Biel and Lynskey about what it was like to show women who want and need sex even when it’s not the role that their families are demanding of them, as well as their own experiences of feeling disconnected from their bodies after becoming moms — something Lynskey had plenty to say about when it came to her character Betty.
“She understood that when she got pregnant and she gained weight, her husband wasn’t into it and it affected her own body image and it affected how she felt about her marriage and it didn’t make her feel like a desirable person,” Lynskey explains of Betty. “There’s a weird thing once you become a mother of like, reclaiming your own body…I breastfed my daughter for two years, like my boobs — I feel like food. You have to find yourself again as a sexual person, genuinely.”
Biel nods vigorously as Lynskey speaks, interjecting the occasional “Yes!” as Lynskey describes that new mom shift. Both actresses have plenty of experience in that arena: Melanie Lynskey welcomed a daughter in 2018 with husband Jason Ritter, and Jessica Biel shares two sons, Silas (age 7) and Phineas (age 2), with husband Justin Timberlake.
“Becoming a mother is the greatest, hardest, most complicated thing in the world,” says Biel. “I struggle with that a lot. I struggle with, you know, where’s my time?”
Playing a woman like Candy Montgomery, who takes things into her own hands when it comes to having a satisfying sex life, felt like an exciting opportunity for Biel, who understands all too well the pressure to push those needs down and not talk about them.
“I’m always interested in talking about female sexuality and female pleasure and all of that. It’s still something that I think makes people uncomfortable, and it’s still something that we don’t totally understand…I’m always interested in finding a way to demystify female sexuality and bring it to the forefront and say it is as important, if not more important, than men’s sexuality. We know a lot about that, and we get to see a lot about that.”
But when you’re a mother, it’s expected — and sometimes just downright impossible to avoid — that other peoples’ needs are coming before your own.
“Culturally, we women are connected to being mothers, which is connected to suffering. And that’s just what we are supposed to do, right?“ Biel says. “And it’s like, well, wait a second. Hold on a minute. There’s a line there that — I don’t have to suffer all the time, do I?”
“I want to be the best mom in the world,” she continues. “I want to be that fun mom…like my kids, this morning, I pushed the ottoman into the couch and put a thing so they could jump, they could use the couch as a trampoline. And every time I do that, my husband is just like, ‘What are you? What? What is happening in the living room?’ [And I’m] like, don’t worry about it! It’s so much fun! But couches are getting ruined, coffee gets spilled. It’s like this constant, constant fight to find and remember who you are as a human and as an individual person, as well as being a mother and being a wife and being a colleague and being all these things.”
“When someone wants something from you all the time…it’s very, very hard to center yourself and be like, ‘What do I even want? What’s going to make me feel good?'” Lynskey adds. “That’s, for I think a lot of women, the hardest thing. You can’t even answer that question for yourself at a certain point because your mind is just so attuned to everybody else’s needs. And it’s beautiful, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life… It changes everything.”
Watch the first episode of Candy on Hulu on May 9.
Before you go, click here to see more movies that are honest about motherhood.