As Sante Kimes in Lifetime’s “A Little Thing Called Murder,” Judy Davis neatly folds felonies into the mix of ordinary chores: Adjust wig, fix drink, entertain, kill.
Pic is a black comedy based on the real-life criminal escapades of Kimes and her son Kenny. “Sante Kimes was charming and tremendously aggressive, yet there was nothing reflective about the woman,” says Davis.
The Australian thesp has earned acclaim for her ability to create dead-on portrayals of real women. She played Nancy Reagan in the controversial show “The Reagans” and won an Emmy for her perf as Judy Garland in “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.”
She took the role of Kimes, though, primarily because she liked the script. “I had no idea it was based on a true story,” Davis says.
She became fascinated with playing a lethal con artist who appears to be totally without remorse.
“It’s easy to think that people who are capable of murder reveal it in the way they walk or talk,” says Davis. “They’re us. We’re them. They not aberrations of humanity; they commit aberrant acts.”
Davis thrives in television, where tight shooting schedules demand lightning-quick transitions. “She’s like a thoroughbred — you just let them out to run,” says “Murder” director Richard Benjamin.
“There’s great actresses, and then there’s Judy Davis. She startles you with her technique, yet it’s a mystery; you don’t see the wheels turning, like you never see a con conning.”
Executive producer Randy Stone, who had first-hand encounters with the Kimes family, became Davis’ on-set muse. “Judy used me as a truth detector on set,” Stone explains. “She would just look at me and it was as if she was asking: ‘Am I going too far?'”
Stone brought the pic to Lifetime, which departed from its usual approach to made-fors to make “A Little Thing Called Murder.”
“We were hoping to set a slightly more sophisticated tone,” says Trevor Walton, Lifetime senior VP, original movies. “Because Judy is such a fearless actress, it was an experiment worth taking.”