Candice King knows it sounds a little weird and creepy but she felt very comfortable shooting a scene for her Lifetime movie, “Suitcase Killer: The Melanie McGuire Story,” where she was elbow deep in fake blood. That’s a result of starring in the CW Network series “Vampire Diaries” from 2009-2017.
Both her time on the series and the movie – scheduled to debut at 8 p.m. June 18 on Lifetime – share some similarities in their depiction of violence but there’s one major difference with “Suitcase Killer” – the film is based on a true story.
Melanie McGuire (King) is an exceptional nurse, wife and mother. That changes when she falls for Brad (Jackson Hurst), a doctor at her clinic, and gets entangled in a steamy love affair.
The solution McGuire comes up with to end the love triangle is to drug and murder her husband Bill (Michael Poark). Here’s what caused King to have “Vampire Diaries” flashbacks. McGuire dismembers Bill and places the body parts in three suitcases that she throws into Chesapeake Bay.
An investigation is launched with McGuire as the prime suspect when the suitcases are found on the shores of Virginia Beach. Led by the efforts of assistant attorney general Patti Prezioso (Wendie Malick), authorities eventually bring Melanie to justice, who despite being convicted, continues to maintain her innocence.
King says, “For me, personally, I really just felt that it was my responsibility to tell Melanie’s story, as those were the shoes that I was filling, and this was someone who, by her own account, she is a mother who was scared and as in an abusive relationship, and who was also very dedicated to her job and who was not perfect.
“She had many, many faults, self-admittedly. So that’s more kind of the direction in which – or at least that’s what I was showing up to set with also while following the script that we have.”
King was not only excited to get cast in the film but she loved that the cable movie gives her a chance to be involved with a true crime case. Anyone who worked on the film with King can vouch for her having a passion for the genre because she talked about the case with anyone who would listen.
All of her thoughts and ideas regarding the case were based on listening to McGuire’s testimony and the podcast “Direct Appeal” in which McGuire spoke for hours.
“There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence against Melanie. What I think is so fascinating about this case is that the actual physical evidence specifically to the condo in which her and Bill lived in they couldn’t find anything within that condo,” King says. “Regardless of what you believe on either side of the case, you have to take that into consideration. They took piping from the sinks to test it and found nothing.
“So regardless of which side you stand on, the evidence alone it’s just really interesting based off of what the prosecution came to the courts with.”
What King was left with was a story about a real person where two very different narratives exist.
Executive producer Kim Raver praises King’s approach to the role because her performance was not merely whether McGuire was guilty or innocent. Raver describes King’s performance as having a very human touch with many different layers.
Raver adds, “It’s so appealing to watch, because you’re watching this real human being go through and navigate such kind of intricate details of her life.”
King comes to the Lifetime movie with a long list of credits that go beyond “Vampire Diaries.” Her other work includes such productions as “Supernatural,” “The Orville,” “Drop Dead Diva” and “Legacies.”
Her approach to every role has been the same – find the best way to service the character. Even in a project like “Suitcase Killer” where the story is based in fact, King looks for the best way to play the role while trying to respect the fact that she is portraying a real person.
“So, of course, even though the character is a real person, you know, I am going in telling her story. I showed up playing Melanie McGuire as Melanie McGuire,” King says. “Still to this day she declares innocence and she passed a polygraph test. It’s not admissible in court, but it’s there.
“So that’s absolutely the role that I came to. That’s who I was, whose story I was there sharing also while acting out the script and the story that you will all see, because, of course, we are sharing an entertainment version of these events. So as everyone has said you’re going to have moments like did she, did she not, and that’s why we’re all turning on the TV to watch something.”