This post contains spoilers about the fourth episode of Candy.
True to the promise of an event series, Hulu’s five-part drama Candy—new episodes of which drop each day this week—introduced a special guest star during Thursday’s episode: Justin Timberlake. The actor-musician plays Steven Deffibaugh, the Collin County investigator assigned to the case of the shocking death-by-ax of Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey). He questions Betty’s grieving and unassuming widower, Allan (Pablo Schreiber), as well as the woman who ultimately killed Betty, neighbor Candy Montgomery—who’s portrayed by, as it happens, Timberlake’s wife, Jessica Biel. (A jury acquitted Montgomery of murder on grounds of self-defense.)
Biel is also an executive producer on Candy and helped develop the ’80s-set series with her business partner, Michelle Purple. Timberlake often scans scripts his wife is working on, offering feedback and notes. But in this case, he took their dynamic a step further. He finished reading the fourth episode and, unbeknownst to Biel, called Purple up and asked who was playing the role. “She’s like, ‘Oh, you know, probably a local hire—we spent our money on this other cast, so somebody great [who’s] local,’” Biel recalls to Vanity Fair. “And [Justin] said, ‘Well, I think I see a way in here. I want to play this part.’ She’s like, ‘All right, sure,’ and then he’s like, ‘No, for real.’”
Timberlake then pitched himself to Biel, who similarly thought her husband was joking until he convinced her. (Biel remembers asking him, “You know we can’t pay you, right?”) Despite the limited screen time, he found the character a compelling challenge. (No spoilers for Friday’s finale, but he appears in that episode as well.) Purple then told Biel she already knew about Timberlake’s interest, and set a creative meeting with cocreator and showrunner Robin Veith.
“I’ve never been more flattered in my life than all of the hurdles that these people went through in order to present the idea of the insanely talented actor, Justin Timberlake, wanting to be in my show,” says Veith with a laugh. “Michelle then called Nick Antosca, my cocreator, and there was all this talk in service to the fact that they wanted to give me the option to say no. I thought that was incredibly sweet: Who would say no?”
Of the finale, which opens with a pivotal scene featuring Timberlake and another undisclosed guest star, Veith teases, “What I love about it is that it’s this very meta statement that is in service to our overall theme, which is, this is not a documentary. You are watching a show, you’re watching a dramatization. It all came in service to our ultimate goal.”
Candy’s first four episodes are available on Hulu. The finale streams Friday.