Candice King takes on the role of Melanie McGuire in Lifetime’s Suitcase Killer: The Melanie McGuire Story. This interview will discuss details from the film, which premiered tonight.
Based on a shocking true story, Melanie McGuire (Candice King) was an exceptional fertility nurse, married to her ex-Navy husband Bill (Michael Roark) and doting mother of two boys. When she falls for Brad (Jackson Hurst), a doctor at her clinic, and gets entangled in a steamy love affair, Melanie does the unthinkable. After drugging and murdering Bill, she dismembers him and places the body parts into three suitcases, throwing them into Chesapeake Bay. But when the suitcases are found on the shores of Virginia Beach, an investigation is launched leading to Melanie as the prime suspect. 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.
I had a chance to speak with the actress about how she approached the role, researching the story, her fans, and much more. Keep reading for my full interview!
Huge congrats on the film, I am so excited to speak with you about it. You were amazing. Was your approach different when it came to bringing this true story to life on screen rather than material that is completely fiction?
It was so different and first of all, thank you for your very kind words. I’m glad that you enjoyed the film. Oh my gosh, I could not get enough of this story. I mean, first and foremost, of course, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the root of this story is that somebody lost their life. There is a tragedy. There are sons that lost their father, there is a mother who lost the father of their children. Regardless of what side you fall on, on innocence or guilt, there are parents that lost their son and it is a very sad story. That is a terrible way for anyone to be murdered and killed. It’s tragic.
Now, when it came to then trying to really wrap my head around the actual events of what occurred, and what the prosecution brought to the table and what the defense brought to the table along with Melanie McGuire’s account of her life and her experiences, which she has very much stayed true and hasn’t budged an inch to this day. I said I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge of this case and I could not get enough of it. It 100% amplified my excitement for going to work every day to learn more and more about this case and the real people who were involved with it.
Were you familiar with the case at all before signing on to the project or when you signed on, did you just dive into research? I imagine taking on a role like this, that is based on a real person, you do really immerse yourself in research and knowledge about the story, and it’s probably a lot of preparation and getting into that headspace.
I had never heard of this case before. I was so grateful to the internet to be able to research as much as possible so that I could understand all of — you know, of course, in the film, they’re considered characters, but these are real people. So thanks to the internet, news articles, and great 20/20 episodes and YouTube has actual footage from the trial, I mean, I really felt like it was such an incredible opportunity to see each person speaking their truth within their experience of these events, but I had not heard of this case. Another really wonderful tool that I also just enjoyed as a listener was there’s a great podcast called Direct Appeal, and it’s hosted by criminology professors, Meghan Sacks and Amy Shlosberg. They just did such a beautiful job of really diving into this case and making sure that to the best of their ability that both sides were tried, you know, the prosecution’s argument and the defense team’s argument, and Melanie’s.
As an actress, what do enjoy most when the material is based on a real story? Do you want to do more projects like this one going forward?
I mean, selfishly because I just get so — when I get fixated on a subject or subject matter, I kind of go all in. I think there’s a reason why I didn’t get into the Real Housewives franchise until much later because I knew I would become obsessed and I am. I’ve become 100% obsessed with so many of the franchises and that kind of lends itself to real-life stories like this. It was kind of a joke amongst some of the producers, our director, a lot of the crew, and other cast members that I just couldn’t stop talking about this case and weighing out all of the different perspectives. So I absolutely, on that hand, would love to continue or to have the opportunity again to play a real-life person. On the other hand, it feels like such a responsibility and I was terrified at first that they were going to want a really great New Jersey accent, which I do not — I’m terrible at most accents. So that’s why I also go, “oh, man,” when it is based off of someone who is here or someone who was passed and was known and loved by many. I think that there is a responsibility and that’s where the fear comes in but that’s where also the yummy stuff and the fun part of creating can also grow from as well, that fear.
Is there a favorite part from the experience that when you look back really stands out to you?
I think what was so interesting is that we were essentially recreating both accounts. We were, on one hand, recreating versions of events that landed Melanie in prison, landed her life sentence, the prosecution’s case, and recreating what would be murder in a bathroom, cutting up a body, what it would be like to shoot a body and muffle the noise with a pillow, which is what they said. That’s why they felt that there were fibers on the bullet that tragically entered Bill McGuire’s body, that they must have been from a pillow and it must have been a pillow that was from their condo. Then when we found ourselves in this scenario, placing a pillow in between — and of course, this could not be more of a prop, this was not even close to a real gun — but then just even having that imagery of the fact that no one else in surrounding condos would hear this, that there wouldn’t be pillow feathers everywhere, that there wouldn’t be blood everywhere, and that there was not one shred of forensic evidence found in that condo.
I think circumstances like that are something that I’m going to take with me, that we were almost recreating these accounts that were brought to court from the prosecution and kind of having a really difficult time wrapping our head around the reality of whether they were completely probable or not. You hear them or you read them and it sounds one way, you can picture in your mind, and then when you’re actually there in the moment, you’re like, “Wow, there was no forensic evidence found anywhere,” and those fibers are not directly matched to anything within the condo itself.
That was such a fascinating answer, thank you. I also want to ask, is there anything from portraying Melanie that you feel like you either learned or you’re going to take with you when it comes to your future projects?
You know, I didn’t think I’d actually have an answer for this, but I do and it’s in listening to Melanie speak for herself. She phoned in from prison to speak with Meghan and Amy, who host the podcast Direct Appeal. So there were just hours and hours of her talking, and loved ones and friends of hers that would also share with Meghan and Amy who Melanie was to them. And just to hear, you know, I mean, I think she was even described at one point as salty. She’s not this warm, bubbly person. She’s very dry. She’s very straightforward. She does not sugarcoat anything that she delivers. So it was actually an element of just kind of even living in a realm of dialogue, which even some of the dialogue they were pulling from her interviews and the way in which she would just deliver something so straightforward and so dry, and just salty. I think that’s maybe an element that I’m bringing with me or that I reawakened within myself is just letting a little salty version of myself get some air.
You have such a passionate fanbase, the fans absolutely love and adore you. I know why just from talking to you. What is it like seeing the support from fans of your past projects, who are always getting ready and excited for your new projects like Suitcase Killer: The Melanie McGuire Story?
The word I’m trying to find is flattered — incredibly flattered, humbled, and hard for me to take any credit for that. I’m such a fan and lover of television, characters, and storylines that have comforted me when I needed them and shaped me. So just to have had the opportunity to play in a long-running series, like The Vampire Diaries that would go on to have a trilogy essentially, of then, The Originals and Legacies, and to have been a part of playing a character that was just loved by so many, it’s a really special experience. I think that obviously, we were all home for a very long time due to the pandemic and we found so much comfort in the TV that we’ve watched or rewatched.
So to, now 13 years later, be out in the world and have young teenagers still be watching the series for the first time due to the fact that we stream television now and it doesn’t just go away, it’s a very unique experience where you kind of get this like constant little reminder that you got to be a part of something that means so much to others. I genuinely had such an incredible experience working on that show. I loved the character of Caroline Forbes, we became such a family not even just as a cast but as a crew and a production. So it’s been really wonderful to just continuously see how many people were comforted by The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Legacies, and just to have been a small part of that world.