New HBO Max series ‘Love & Death’ anchors a Texas true crime story in the human condition
It was a story that rocked Texas in the early 1980s and captured the imagination of a nation.
It unfolded in the small town of Wylie, just west of Dallas. Two couples were enjoying small town family life, though not everything was as it seemed. Friendship, loneliness, love and an axe murder all center around the story of Candy Montgomery, the churchgoing housewife accused in the killing of Betty Gore.
Now, a new HBO Max series about the murder debuts this week starring Elizabeth Olsen and Texas native Jesse Plemons. Some are already saying the show breathes new life into the true crime genre. Director Lesli Linka Glatter, who grew up in Dallas just west of the town where the story takes place, joined the Standard to talk about the limited series, the first three episodes of which premieres April 27 on HBO Max. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: I understand you’re already at work on a new series. You’re talking with us from Santa Monica, but I hear you’re from Dallas originally, is that right?
Lesli Linka Glatter: I am from Dallas. I was born there. Absolutely.
Well, that must have given you a certain advantage as you went about putting together the filming of this series. I recognize a lot of Central Texas here. Am I right?
You are absolutely right. We were based in Austin, Texas. It was really important to me that we actually filmed in Texas – a Texas story. And we looked at Dallas, but Wylie has now grown so much that we could not really set it there where it originated, because it just looked completely different. So we found that being based out of Austin, we could be in a small town that had a lot of similarities in like 15 minutes versus being in Dallas, which has again grown by leaps and bounds.
Yeah, I’ll say. Well, now I know that you’ve done a lot of work in television – “E.R.,” “West Wing,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Homeland.” What is it about TV that attracts you so much?
Oh, well, to me, it’s not about the delivery system. It’s about the kind of story you can tell. And I am always intrigued by deep, complicated characters and people being put in extraordinary circumstances where they’re forced to deal with who they really are. I love stories about things not being what they appear to be, that you have to look deeper to see what’s really going on. And I think “Love & Death” fits right in that.
Yeah, it certainly does. In fact, you anticipated what I was going to ask next, because this story certainly did capture the imagination of a lot of folks, and obviously not just in Texas, but it has been told in different ways. I mean, I know Texas Monthly did a version of this. I know that there have been a couple of other series that have been developed. What did you want to bring out about this story that I mean, in a way, a lot of people already sort of knew the trajectory of it because it was so notorious, certainly when it happened.
Absolutely. I have to say, you know, our series is based on the two Texas Monthly stories and the book “Evidence of Love.” We licensed the rights to that. And I have to say, when I first read the Texas Monthly stories, I thought “if this story wasn’t true, you just couldn’t make it up.” Real life is definitely stranger than fiction. But what I and David E. Kelley, who is an extraordinary writer, what we were intrigued with is the men and women – but primarily female characters of that time – who did everything right. They got married at 20, they had the kids, they moved to the suburbs. They had a life based around love and family. And so why is there a hole in their psyche and heart and soul that’s a mile wide? So we really wanted to look at that – rather than the “how” this horrible crime happened, but the “why.” And I really think it’s kind of the dark side of the American dream or the cracks in the American dream.
I do think people have gone back to the story numerous times because the idea of exploring what is, in some ways, inexplicable about the human condition brings people back to certain kinds of stories. But I do have to say, the series that came out last year, “Candy,” we were already filming for two months when “Candy” went into production. We were shocked that they were doing it, but what can you do? We were already on our path.
I’m so glad that you mentioned this idea of trying to bring out that element of the character, that importance of filling the void that was missing in what was a sort of suburban, almost a fairy tale kind of situation. And that this was, in a sense, not just about the killing, but about that need. And I wonder what you think, as we have become over the decades, perhaps even more isolated – socially isolated – to what extent do you think that this resonates today?
I think what you’re saying is exactly that. I think we have now more, let’s say, age to help us look at those deep psychological holds, meaning it’s fine to go to therapy now. You can actually look at things that are going on inside of you – mental health concerns – when these are not things that were really talked about or accepted in 1978. I mean, again, no one will ever know. We’re only seeing this story from one point of view because, sadly, Betty Gore is not here to explain her point of view. But the fact is, people need to be seen and heard. And I feel even the affair between Candy and Allan Gore was so much more about being seen and heard and having a friend than actually having a crazy hot affair, which in some ways is very moving and tragic, you know.
But I think it resonates today as maybe some sort of cautionary tale, not that, you know, the extreme of going to how and what this murder was is, you know, a bit off the charts. But I think, again, being sure you’re dealing with your own mental health is something that is incredibly current, especially after we’ve all come through COVID.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think, too, of the true crime genre and there’s been so much written and talked about. Did you have any second thoughts about going down this path, given that there has been been a lot of critics saying, “well, you know, maybe we’ve exhausted this.” But obviously this is a riveting story that you tell. But was that of concern to you in any way?
That’s a great question. I had never directed a true crime story, and it’s not actually a genre that I would necessarily be pulled to. It was very much this particular story and working with David E. Kelley on this story. But to me, there’s a huge responsibility when you’re dealing with something true to not make, in certain ways, judgments about these real-life characters. And I think it’s a, you know, delicate path to be going down. But it’s certainly something that people are intrigued with right now.
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