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It began as an embattled divorce and ended in a double murder trial. Now, the Betty Broderick story is the focus of the second season of “Dirty John,” starring Amanda Peet and Christian Slater.
The scripted series gives viewers a dramatized look at Betty and Dan Broderick’s relationship, including the couple’s early years. As Dan works toward his career as a medical malpractice lawyer, the show depicts Betty supporting her husband emotionally and financially all while raising their four children.
Peet, who portrays Betty, told Oxygen.com she was drawn to the show in part because of the series’ showrunner, Alexandra Cunningham.
“I just thought the writing was incredible,” Peet said. “I never heard of the story before, but obviously it’s really fascinating to try to understand what makes someone snap and what makes a marriage that started out with such promise and such innocence go so horribly wrong. So, I was riveted from the get-go by the script.”
The Brodericks’ idyllic marriage took a turn in the mid-1980s, when Dan began having an affair with his young legal assistant, Linda Kolkena (portrayed by Rachel Keller in the USA series), and filed for divorce.
While the years-long court battle ended in 1989, the case was far from over. That November, Betty entered the San Diego home of Dan and his second wife, Kolkena, and shot them to death as they slept.
Betty was tried twice, and in her second trial, she was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder. During her testimony, which was covered heavily by the media, Betty claimed she killed the couple because of persistent abuse from Dan.
Peet says she watched the footage, but when she met Cunningham about the role, the series creator wanted to emphasize “this was supposed to be a psychological portrait of a marriage, and that I wasn’t doing an imitation of Betty Broderick.”
Slater, who portrays Dan, told Oxygen.com that he tried to capture the essence of Dan.
“It felt like he had built up this wall around himself that was impenetrable and that nobody could ever get in there,” Slater said. “His ego was big that he thought nothing could ever really happen to him.”
One of the first scenes Peet and Slater filmed together depicts Betty driving a car into Dan’s home, according to the actors.
“We started with a physical fight,” Peet said.
“Those things kinda always make me a little bit nervous,” Slater added. “I think we both obviously wanted to make sure that neither one of us got hurt … it was a good way to start, I think. We kind of set the tone that as crazy as these people were, we were going to do our best to keep our own heads together, not hurt each other.”
Betty, now 72, is serving out her 32 years to life sentence at the California Institution for Women.
“Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story” premieres on USA on June 2 at 9/8c with two back-to-back episodes.
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