30 "Love & Death" Behind-The-Scenes Facts Straight From Director Lesli Linka Glatter

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Due to Elizabeth Olsen's fear of roller coasters, Love & Death only filmed the scene in Episode 2 once, and her genuine reaction made the final cut.

🚨 There are MASSIVE spoilers ahead for all episode of Love & Death! 🚨

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1. First, director and executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter was sent the Texas Monthly articles, which Love & Death is based on, during the coronavirus pandemic and immediately felt this was a great story for TV, considering the real-life case felt "stranger than fiction."

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"I was sent the two articles from Texas Monthly, and I read them and I was like, Oh my god. This is absolutely a case where real life is way, way stranger than fiction," she told BuzzFeed. "I thought, Oh my god, if this was not true, you could not tell the story. Like, you just couldn't make up the details of what happened. Some in the humorous way of how Allan and Candy got together, and in the tragic way of how the story goes. I was fascinated."

2. Lesli was drawn to Candy Montgomery's story because unlike other true crime shows, this story felt very "character driven" and it hinged on these people and their relationships in this seemingly perfect small town.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

Lesli said, "I'm pulled to things that are not what they appear to be, and you have to look deeper to see what's really going on. This story has that in spades. I love things that, on the surface, are not at all what they appear to be. You have to dig down deep to see what is really going on. [David E. Kelley and I] were fascinated by the characters. In essence, this is much more of a character-driven kind of true crime."

3. Although they've both worked in Hollywood for a while, Lesli and David E. Kelley had never worked together until this project, and this felt like the perfect time to do so.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

Lesli explained, "I found out that David had been sent these articles, and we had always wanted to work together. As he describes it, he's the wordsmith, in our probably combined 50 years of telling stories, we'd never worked together but always wanted to work together. So this was the story that brought us together for very much the same reasons. David and I developed it together. We went around, we set the project up, and it's been a wonderful collaboration. It has been joyful working together."

4. Lesli explained that it was great to work with David because it really was a perfect balance of David being "the writing showrunner" and her being "the directing showrunner."

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"We have, as it should be, an incredible partnership between writer and director. When you have that kind of balance, it's like, Wow, this is what it should be," Lesli said.

5. For Love & Death, it was very important to create a sense of community and flesh out all of the characters and their relationships. So, the first scenes they filmed were the big church, picnic, and choir moments, so the cast could bond and get to know each other both on and off screen.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"Besides bonding the characters together, it bonded our actors together in a profound way. Everyone kind of fell in love. It was very special," Lesli said. "I think then you can take the characters on a ride because you have established their world. Also, I love the fact that it is bucolic and kind of beautiful on the surface, but what's underneath is a different story. The white picket fence is beautiful and pristine from a distance, but underneath that paint is peeling. I like exploring both sides of that."

6. Elizabeth Olsen was the first person Lesli thought of for the role of Candy Montgomery. She and David were both drawn to Elizabeth's ability to "let you in behind her eyes" and explore "the human condition," even if the characters aren't inherently "good."


"After David wrote the first three scripts, the first person I thought of was Elizabeth Olsen. We were both immediately like, 'Lizzie! That's who we need for this because she is such an extraordinarily gifted actor and wonderful human,'" Lesli said.

7. Lesli said Elizabeth was so good at playing Candy because she doesn't "judge" her characters and is able to get to know them and try to understand their actions as best as possible.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"You have to be in it with your character," Lesli said. "Having all these different layers to play, I think that's exciting. It's exciting when a character is not just one color. It's a character that is multifaceted, and Lizzie has played a lot of those great types of characters. You get to dive in and figure out who that person is from the inside out."

8. The thing that drew both Lesli and Elizabeth to the character of Candy was that she is this very "complicated, layered female character." Candy represented a woman who acted on impulse, and Elizabeth was able to convey everything that meant.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

Lesli said, "Here you have a character who does this really heinous act and we don't ever want to let her off the hook. But we want to explore not just how that happened, but WHY that happened. It's very much about the cracks in the American dream. This story takes place at a time where there had been the women's movement, there had been huge changes in society, but this was a very small town community in Texas that was a little bit frozen in time. The women got married at 20, they had their kids, they had a lovely life, moved to the suburbs, everything was safe. They have a supportive community, but this story really peels back the notion of, Why do I feel so dead inside? Why is there a hole in your heart? And that was the thing we really wanted to explore in the story and acting on those feelings."

9. From the beginning, it was important for the Love & Death creators to bring "authenticity" to the story and "respect and honor the fact that it is a true story."


Lesli said, "I think there is a lot of responsibility in telling a true story to treat the characters with respect. And that does feel like a big responsibility. I feel like whether the story is true or created, I feel like you always want to have believable characters and honor the human emotions and the human condition regardless, but I think it's especially important when it's based on a true story."

10. While researching for Love & Death, the creators wanted to make sure they never portrayed Betty as a "victim who deserved something bad." They used the Texas Monthly articles and the book Evidence of Love to try and convey Betty's own struggles before her murder.


"I think Betty is fascinating and complicated because by reading everything, Betty likely suffered from depression," Lesli said. "She had been the life of the party until like 19 years old. Having spent many years on Homeland and having done a lot of research about bipolar disorder, from my no-medical background, Betty could have been undiagnosed bipolar as well. It's fascinating to me because if you don't have places to go to be able to talk about things and get help, it makes life very painful, and we see that with Betty."

11. Candy and Allan's relationship was interesting for Lesli to portray because it wasn't about having "this hot affair," but rather two people who "felt very seen and heard by each other."

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

She continued, saying, "I think the other thing about the relationship between Allan and Candy is, was it really so much about having this hot affair? She doesn't pick 'the hottie.' She picks the husband of a friend, who just seems like a genuine guy. Most of what they did together was have lunch, talk about their family. I think they felt very seen and heard by each other, where they might not have felt that or didn't feel that in their own relationships. I think that it's doing something about the human condition and really exploring that."

12. Filming Betty's murder was "one of the most intense scenes" Lesli has ever directed in her career, namely because it was a depiction of a real-life event.


"That was one of the most intense scenes I've ever filmed," Lesli said. "I've done a lot of action sequences. I have blown up a lot of shit, chased people through all kinds of places, but I think because this was based on a true story. The fact that it's two women, two housewives, up close and personal, and real. It was so emotional."

13. In order to make sure Elizabeth and Lily Rabe were safe while filming Candy and Betty's struggle, the whole scene was choreographed beat by beat, and they filmed it over two days.


Lesli reflected, saying, "As a director, I want to do everything to keep the actors safe and protected. We choreographed it beat by beat. They knew exactly where we would stop at the end of day one. There were storyboards. It was a really emotional scene. Those two amazing women — two amazing actors — just embraced it completely. There was the energy in the room, in this small laundry room, that was just palpable. It was very emotional."

14. The Love & Death team re-created Candy and Betty's struggle in the laundry room and Betty's murder based on Candy's testimony about what happened. They even built the set to look exactly like the real thing.


Lesli said, "We copied the description that Candy gave in her testimony of what happened. It's very much from her point of view. We copied it down to there was a kid's toilet in the room, there was a dog bowl, and a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. We were very specific about it and Lizzie and Lily embraced that specificity."

15. Also, if you feel that Betty's murder is told from Candy's point of view, that's on purpose. We never see Betty's point of view in the show because only Candy lived to tell her side of things.


"We really only see this murder from one person's point of view because only one person made it out alive. It's not like the old Japanese film Rashomon, where you see the murder from six points of view and the last time you see it is from the ghost of the woman who was killed. We don't get to see Betty's point of view," Lesli said.

16. The shot at the end of Episode 1 — when Candy showers after sleeping with Allan for the first time and then it transitions to her shower after Betty's murder — was scripted from the very beginning. They used a close-up of Elizabeth's eyes to really depict the journey Candy is about to go on.


Lesli recalled, "It was always scripted that way. It was very, very intentional. There's something about Lizzie's eyes that allow you to go deep in. It's almost like you're seeing inside of her. I think in that scene you really feel that. There was something about being that close into her eyes at the end of like, Oh my god, there's a journey that this character is going to go on and we're going on it with her."

17. The Love & Death technical advisor was actually Don Crowder's law partner in real life, and he was impressed with how well Tom Pelphrey played a lawyer.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"He said that Tom Pelphrey, who I think is just spectacular as Don Crowder, did a better job at defending Candy than he thought Don did," Lesli said.

18. The courtroom scenes in Love & Death were shot like a play, in that they were shot "in one piece" and they only did two takes. Unlike traditional courtroom scenes, they used a lot of close-ups of Elizabeth's face instead of wide shots of the whole room reacting to Candy's testimony.


"Again, because Lizzie is Lizzie, we shot it almost like it was a play. It was like 20 pages of testimony. We shot it in one piece. We talked about what was going to work best for Lizzie, and decided to put it all together. Let's do it like a play. It was so the right choice. I think we did two takes and usually you start wide, but in this case we started really tight." Lesli said.

19. The first time Elizabeth performed Candy's testimony, Lesli got chills because "it was so good." She was astounded at how vividly Lizzie was able to paint the picture of what happened between Candy and Betty with just her words.


She continued, saying, "Even though I had seen what happened in that laundry room, she painted the picture with how she told it. I believe even if you didn't cut to what happened, she was painting the picture for us. Literally, all the background extras, who'd become like part of the family, were applauding. It was incredibly moving."

20. Love & Death filmed on location outside of Austin, Texas, which allowed them to get the small-town feel of 1970s Wylie, Texas.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

Lesli said, "I happen to be born in Texas. So there was something about going back to Texas, telling a Texas story, that was very meaningful for me, even though it's a story that has a lot of rough edges because of what it's about. There's something about Texas, about the wide-open spaces and the sense of possibility and big dreams, that lends itself to film. We were not based where this actually happened. Wylie has grown so much since 1978 that we were filming outside of Austin where you can get to small towns much quicker that are still there."

21. Filming in Texas also allowed the show to use local actors as background extras, but also as bigger characters — like Brad Leland, who notably starred in Friday Night Lights alongside Jesse Plemons.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"We used a lot of local actors, who were fantastic. I love going into a state or town or country that I haven't worked in before. There's so many talented people. It's really exciting to see the local community and how rich and deep it is," Lesli said. Getting to film on location and with local actors was also "very bonding," according to Lesli. She said, "You create your own world. I think shooting those scenes of community first really did bond people together in such a great way. Everyone became friends."

22. All of the planning that Candy and Allan did before their affair actually happened in real life, right down to the do's and don'ts list they make in Candy's kitchen.


"It's the most, kind of, unsexy beginning of any affair. There's not one bit of spontaneity," Lesli said. "They did actually go to her house, eat lasagna, and write do's and don'ts on paper and put it on the wall. All of that, you just couldn't make it up."

23. The beginning of Candy and Allan's affair was intentionally made to feel like "a very young relationship." When researching the events, the Love & Death team found that while it was an affair, there was something strange about how "innocent" it felt.


Lesli said, "They always had to be very careful. They were very careful to meet outside of town. Again, the relationship was so much more about being seen and heard, and just being free with another person, which they both felt confined within their own marriages. In some ways, it felt like it was a very young relationship, almost like high school. It felt like a first date. Yes, they were committing adultery, but there was something very innocent about it. In some very strange way because, of course, they were cheating on their spouses."

24. Another detail that was true to life was Betty and Allan attending Marriage Encounter in a "medieval"-looking hotel.


"That's where it took place," Lesli said. "As a director, I wouldn't make that choice if it wasn't true. So, the actual circumstances of the story allowed this interesting tone. I think for me, as a director, doing something where the tone shifted so drastically in the fourth episode was really an exciting challenge."

25. Elizabeth is "terrified" of roller coasters, so it took a lot of convincing to get her to try and film the moment between Candy and Allan in Episode 2.


"Lizzie, personally, is terrified of roller coasters," Lesli said. "She was beyond terrified. I had talked to her about it, I would never force someone to do something. I was like, 'Are you okay with this?' And she goes, 'Well, you know, I'm really scared of them, but I think I can do it once.' She saw the roller coaster and she was like, 'I just don't know that I can do this. I don't know that I can do this.' And finally, after a lot of calming herself down, she decided she could do it."

26. Due to Lizzie's fear, they filmed the roller coaster moment with her only once, so what you see is her genuine reaction to being on the ride.


"She was screaming. Like, that was all completely real in every way. That is the one take. We did it once with her, and that is what we used," Lesli recalled. "I have a couple shots of her stunt double, who looks identical to her, from the back. So I had other angles of her, but her on the roller coaster: one time. I'm glad she did it, but that was one of those days, she's pretty much game to try anything. She's a fearless actor. But the roller coaster, that was a deep embedded fear." 

27. Lesli said that making Love & Death a limited series made sense because it allowed there to be a clear "beginning, middle, and end." It also made it so each episode, which she describes like a "chapter of a novel," feel important.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

Lesli said, "I feel like with Homeland I got to do that as well, because every year we would go to a new country and reset the show. Like, if I think of a season of Homeland, I think of it as a 12-hour novel. Each episode is a chapter, and each chapter of that novel is incredibly important. Being a limited series turned out to be a really great way to do this particular story. I feel like what's so great about storytelling now is it can be what it needs to be. If it's a two-hour story, great. If it's a seven-hour story, broken up into episodes, fantastic. If the story's ongoing, perfect. It's a wonderful thing for storytellers now."

28. In fact, the limited series format allowed for the team to prep and shoot Love & Death like a very long movie.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"I was like, Oh my god, I'm about to embark on three movies without stopping," Lesli said. "I think actors are excited by that too. To be doing something so different."

29. Lesli directed Episodes 1–4 and then 7, while Clark Johnson came in and directed Episodes 5 and 6. Breaking up the season this way allowed for Lesli to begin editing episodes while filming on the middle episodes was taking place.

Jake Giles Netter / HBO

"Clark Johnson, who's an amazing director, came in and did Episodes 5 an 6. So we cross boarded the first four, Clark came in and did five and six, and I came back and did seven. I had some time to edit," Lesli explained. "You never know if you have to do any reshoots, which we ended up not doing."

30. And finally, after doing all of the research and filming Love & Death, Lesli believes if one or two things went differently that day, Candy might not have murdered Betty.

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"I think if any number of things would have happened differently that day, the murder would have never happened," Lesli said. "If the girls, Alyssa and Jenny, didn't want to sleep over. If maybe Alyssa didn't need to go to swimming. If Candy didn't go get the swimsuit. If she was too busy to go into the house. I think Betty, like asking the question, 'Did you have an affair with Allan?' had probably been inside her for months, and Candy answered honestly. There are so many ways that this could've gone differently, but unfortunately it did go down to what it did. I have to believe that in that laundry room, something cracked open in Candy. Because to lift an axe one time is one thing, right? To swing it 41 times, I don't know what it would take to do that."

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