How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos

View of the Holy Shrine and the City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, taken in 1881 by Muhammad Sadiq Bey. (Supplied photo)
Updated 03 May 2019

How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos

  • The first known images of the holy city are part of a fascinating display of early photography at Louvre Abu Dhabi
  • Egyptian-born Muhammad Sadiq Bey had travelled to the Hijaz region as treasurer of the pilgrims’ caravan

ABU DHABI: More than five decades after the world’s first photograph was produced with a camera, an army engineer ventured to the ancient city of Makkah and made history by chronicling the Muslim world’s holiest site on film for the first time.

Egyptian-born Muhammad Sadiq Bey had traveled several times to western Saudi Arabia’s Hijaz region in an official capacity as treasurer of the pilgrims’ caravan, first visiting in 1861 and taking with him a device known as a wet-plate collodion camera, a technique invented in the 1850s, which used glass-plate negatives.

In 1881 Bey, who wrote four books about his visits to the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, returned to the Hijaz and became the first person to take photographs of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the Hajj from multiple angles, as well as capturing the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, images that are now on view at new exhibition at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Photographs 1842–1896: An Early Album of the World, which runs until July 13, is an exploration of the development of photography in its first years of existence. Bey’s photos of Makkah give a rare snapshot of what life in the holy city was like over a century ago. 

It is the works of Bey which excite the exhibition’s curator, Christine Barthe most.

Portrait of Sir Pratab Singh, Maharajah of Orchla with his entourage, India, 1882, by Lala Deen Dayal. (Supplied photo)

“While the exhibition focuses on 44 different countries, two of the important pictures for us were the pictures taken in Makkah in 1881; this was an important element both because of the site, the fact it was photographed so early and also that the photograph was taken by an Arabic photographer, so it really is a symbolic showcase of the exhibition,” said Barthe, who is head of the photographic collections heritage unit at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac.

“What remains fascinating is that you get the chance to stand in front of one of the most photographed places on earth — a site that has been photographed so many times — and (that) allows you to realize that there was once a time that someone captured this site for the very first time and saw this site in this very unique way.

“We are now very familiar with the image of Makkah, but once it had never been captured on film. This is a moment of history.

“I hope that many people will have a special interest in these pictures. I think that is the interest of the exhibitor to ensure visitors from across the world come — but also have a special connection with one or two pictures that hold such cultural relevance.”

Barthe also pointed to the works of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi — best known for designing the Statue of Liberty — and his imagery of the Kingdom.

“Bartholdi made a trip to Saudi Arabia between 1855-1857, and we have a special place for his images in the exhibition,” said Barthe. “He depicted Saudi Arabia in a different light; showing the landscapes and places where he lived during that period.”

His imagery offers people a humanizing glimpse of Saudi nationals during the mid-1800s, a reflection of what the undeveloped Kingdom and its inhabitants looked like before it was transformed by the discovery of vast oil reserves in the 1930s. 

“Architecturally, Bartholdi’s pictures are very beautiful,” said Barthe. “He had a very special way of taking pictures; he had this way to show his objects slowing down. It really is a fascinating and very early record of the region — images that, until now, have not been well known.”

Barthe said the exhibition was born from a desire to present some of the world’s earliest photographic images. “This exhibition offers, for the first time, a global history of photography, whose development in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia reveals a fascinating play of difference and similarity.  

“I believe it will be full of surprises for visitors, who will not only discover the first evidences of the visual mapping of the world, but also question our fascination and our current dependence on photographic images.”

This exhibition offers, for the first time, a global history of photography Ismail Noor. (Supplied photo)

Photography was born commercially in 1839, when several European nations expanded their colonial empires to territories in Africa, Asia, America and the Middle East, driven by an insatiable quest of discovery. Subsequently, photography crossed the borders of Europe and the seas, accompanying religious missions, scientific, diplomatic and military expeditions and even individual travelers.

The 250 photos in the show, which are on loan from French museums, include historic photographs from the Philippines, including works by Pedro Picon, the creator of one of the earliest photographs in the country. 

Lala Deen Dayal, considered the best Indian-born photographer of his time, is also represented with views of Bombay, Hyderabad and a portrait of the Maharajah de Orchla, dated 1882. In India, photography was of interest to many ruling families at this time. Dayal quickly established himself as the photographer of the nobility, notably documenting the royal tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales through India in 1875-76.

Visitors will be able to discover works by other prominent early photographers, including Luis Garcia Hevia from Colombia, the Abdullah brothers and Pascal Sebah from Turkey, Marc Ferrez from Brazil, Lai Fong from China, Kassian Cephas from Indonesia, Alexandre Michon and Nikolai Charushin from Russia, Francis Chit from Thailand, and Ichida Sôta and Suzuki Shin’ichi II from Japan.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi (DCT), said the exhibition was held to give visitors to the UAE capital a chance too “travel to new places and explore different regions of the world through the eyes of nineteenth-century European travelers.”

Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said the exhibition forms part of its cultural season, called A World of Exchanges. 

“Pioneering photographers played a key role in making other cultures visible and accessible to people back home, the same way our audiences record their daily experiences to share them with their family, friends and online communities.”



 The first photographic process — heliography — was invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (right), who took the world’s first photograph made with a camera — a snapshot from the upstairs windows of his estate in the Burgundy region of France — in either 1826 or 1827.  Niépce’s associate, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, developed the daguerreotype, the first commercially viable photographic process, which was introduced to the world in 1839. The daguerreotype required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results.  The first color photograph was taken some years later by Thomas Sutton, who worked with the theoretical physicist Sir James Clerk Maxwell (below) to take three exposures of a tartan ribbon through red, green and blue filters. The negatives were projected through separate magic lanterns, with the same colored filters, on to a screen to create a single image.  On May 17, 1861, Maxwell presented the first color photograph at the Royal Institution in London and the principle of color photography was born. The physicist Gabriel Lippmann received the Nobel Prize in 1908 for finding a way to obtain photos in direct colors on one plate.

Vangelis, the Greek ‘Chariots of Fire’ composer, dies at 79

Updated 58 min 44 sec ago

Vangelis, the Greek ‘Chariots of Fire’ composer, dies at 79

  • Greek media reported that Vangelis — born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou — died in a French hospital late Tuesday
  • “Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer among us,” Mitsotakis tweeted

ATHENS: Vangelis, the Greek electronic composer who wrote the unforgettable Academy Award-winning score for the film “Chariots of Fire” and music for dozens of other movies, documentaries and TV series, has died at 79.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and other government officials expressed their condolences Thursday. Greek media reported that Vangelis — born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou — died in a French hospital late Tuesday.
“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer among us,” Mitsotakis tweeted.
The opening credits of “Chariots of Fire” roll as a bunch of young runners’ progress in slow motion across a glum beach in Scotland, as a lazy, beat-backed tune rises to a magisterial declamation. It’s one of the most instantly recognizable musical themes in cinema — and its standing in popular culture has only been confirmed by the host of spoofs it has sired.
The 1981 British film made Vangelis, but his initial encounter with success came with his first Greek pop band in the 1960s.
He evolved into a one-man quasi-classical orchestra, using a vast array of electronic equipment to conjure up his enormously popular undulating waves of sound. A private, humorous man — burly, with shoulder-length hair and a trim beard — he quoted ancient Greek philosophy and saw the artist as a conduit for a basic universal force. He was fascinated by space exploration and wrote music for celestial bodies, but said he never sought stardom himself.
Still, a micro-planet spinning somewhere between Mars and Jupiter — 6354 Vangelis — will forever bear his name.
Born on March 29, 1943 near the city of Volos in central Greece, Vangelis started playing the piano at age 4, although he got no formal training and claimed he never learned to read notes.
“Orchestration, composition — they teach these things in music schools, but there are some things you can never teach,” he said in a 1982 interview. “You can’t teach creation.”
At 20, Vangelis and three friends formed the Forminx band in Athens, which did very well in Greece. After it disbanded, he wrote scores for several Greek films and later became a founding member — together with another later-to-be internationally famous Greek musician, Demis Roussos — of Aphrodite’s Child. Based in Paris, the progressive rock group produced several European hits, and their final record “666,” released in 1972, is still highly acclaimed.
Aphrodite’s Child also broke up, and Vangelis pursued solo projects. In 1974, he moved to London, built his own studio and cooperated with Yes frontman Jon Anderson, with whom he recorded as Jon and Vangelis and had several major hits.
But his huge breakthrough came with the score for “Chariots of Fire” that told the true story of two British runners competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Vangelis’ score won one of the four Academy Awards the film won, including best picture. The signature piece is one of the hardest-to-forget movie tunes worldwide — and has also served as the musical background to endless slow-motion parodies.
Vangelis later wrote music scores for Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982) and “1492: Conquest of Paradise” (1992), as well as for “Missing” (1982) and “Antarctica” (1983), among others.
He refused many other offers for film scores, saying in an interview: “Half of the films I see don’t need music. It sounds like something stuffed in.”
Vangelis was wary of how record companies handled commercial success. With success, he said, “you find yourself stuck and obliged to repeat yourself and your previous success.”
His interest in science — including the physics of music and sound — and space exploration led to compositions linked with major NASA and European Space Agency projects. When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died in 2018, Vangelis composed a musical tribute for his interment that the ESA broadcast into space.
Vangelis brought forth his symphonic swells playing alone on a bank of synthesizers, while flipping switches as his feet darted from one volume pedal to another.
“I work like an athlete,” he once said.
He avoided the lifestyle excesses associated with many in the music industry, saying that he never took drugs — “which was very uncomfortable, at times.”
Vangelis said he didn’t ever experiment with his music and usually did everything on the first take.
“When I compose, I perform the music at the same time, so everything is live, nothing is pre-programmed,” he said.
The composer lived in London, Paris and Athens, where he bought a house at the foot of the Acropolis that he never dolled up, even when his street became one of the most desirable pedestrian walks in town. The neoclassical building was nearly demolished in 2007 when government officials decided that it spoilt the view of the ancient citadel from a new museum built next door, but eventually reconsidered.
Vangelis received many awards in Greece, France and the US little was known of his personal life besides that he was an avid painter.
“Every day I paint and every day I compose music,” he said — in that order.

Exclusive: Netflix’s Tinder Swindler stars recount transformation from victim to inspiration for women

Updated 17 May 2022

Exclusive: Netflix’s Tinder Swindler stars recount transformation from victim to inspiration for women

  • Norwegian-born Cecilie Fjellhoy and Stockholm native Pernilla Sjoholm to deliver special keynote address at Arab Women Forum
  • Defrauded by a con artist, they have hit back by speaking up about their experience of romance scams

DUBAI: Just swipe left. At least that is what many an indecisive Tinder user may have found themselves doing after the notorious case of the dating app fraudster dubbed the “Tinder Swindler” came to light in an explosive Netflix docu-drama earlier this year.

Despite being defrauded by the conman, Norwegian TV personality Cecilie Fjellhoy and Swedish business owner Pernilla Sjoholm are hitting back by speaking up about their experience.

The women will appear during a special keynote address titled “When women fight back” at the Arab Women Forum, held in partnership with Arab News, at the Palazzo Versace Dubai on May 17.

“It was very traumatic,” Sjoholm told Arab News, reflecting on her experience ahead of Tuesday’s forum appearance. “It wasn’t only about the money you have lost. You have lost the way you viewed yourself, how you viewed everything.

“I used to think about fraud as: ‘Oh my God, who gets defrauded? You must be of lower intelligence or something.’ And I’m very embarrassed to say this today, because of what I lost.

“I was 31 years old, and it was not the way I would have imagined my life to be. To lose everything. You also lose your soul.”



Based on an expose by Verdens Gang, a Norwegian tabloid newspaper known under the abbreviation VG, the program unearthed the story of Israeli national Shimon Hayut, who allegedly posed on the dating app Tinder as Simon Leviev, claiming to be the son of a diamond mogul.

Hayut notoriously charmed women and persuaded them to loan him money, swindling an estimated $10 million from people across the globe.

According to reports, Hayut followed a pattern. After matching with unsuspecting women on Tinder, he would take them on a lavish first date and slowly build up a relationship, all the while dating other women.

Israeli national Shimon Hayut used the Tinder app to scam unsuspecting victims. 

Eventually, the fraudster would confide in them that a nefarious set of “enemies” were after him, persuading the women to send him money on the understanding that he would quickly pay them back.

After a nifty piece of counter-swindling by one woman, Ayleen Koeleman, who had been alerted to the con by the expose in VG, Hayut was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in Israel.



However, Hayut served only five months behind bars before being released. He has never been charged for crimes related to Fjellhoy and Sjoholm, and denies their claims of fraud.

And the story does not end there. In a shocking twist, Hayut is now pursuing a Hollywood career, while the women he targeted remain in debt to this day.

“We were very disappointed,” said Sjoholm. “Unfortunately, there is no extradition from Israel to Europe. So he’s still there.

From 2017 to 2019, Shimon Hayut used the dating app Tinder to swindle about $10 million from women around the world. (Shutterstock)

“We don’t think that they handled this case properly and they should have. And, unfortunately, that is the way it happens in a lot of fraud cases. I mean, I just know the numbers in Sweden. They drop 96 percent of all the cases they get, because they have too much.”

Instead of consigning themselves to a life of victimhood, both Sjoholm and Fjellhoy are working to inspire women across the world to identify and fight back against romance scams.

“We have talked about a lot of the shame that surrounds fraud and I think that it’s so important to stand up and say that this could happen to anyone,” said Sjoholm.

“Because it’s so common that fraudsters get away with fraud due to people being scared of sharing their story. So I definitely know that we helped a lot of people and hopefully will help a lot of people in the future as well.”



According to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, the majority of victims of romance fraud are women. Sjoholm believes women are specifically targeted for their perceived emotional vulnerabilities.

“I think that we women are more emotional people,” she said. “These fraudsters work a lot with emotions, because it is a form of emotional abuse.”

The Tinder Swindler case has raised many questions about what responsibility dating apps ought to hold for romance scams and what more they could be doing to safeguard users.

“I don’t feel like there was a lot that the dating app could have done in our case,” said Fjellhoy, also speaking to Arab News ahead of the forum.

“I feel like just doing proper identity checks so you can’t catfish someone, for example. We see that they have some, but I feel like fraud is much larger than just what happens on the dating app. They take you away from the dating app. It’s just one avenue of many that fraudsters are using.”

Beyond dating apps tightening their safeguards, there have also been calls to improve awareness in schools so that young people are better equipped to spot catfishing — the use of fake accounts to lure victims — and romance scams.

“If you’re going to educate young people, maybe teach them more about what kind of different people exist in the world,” said Fjellhoy.

“There are some people that don’t have empathy, there are psychopaths and narcissists who will take advantage of your empathy and those types of things. But I think it’s important to not put too much emphasis on us as victims as well.”

Indeed, there is a danger of victim blaming if the responsibility for spotting scammers is placed on users, when the onus ought to be on clamping down on fraudsters.

“We didn’t do anything wrong here,” said Fjellhoy. “And fraud will always happen. But, when fraud happens, how do we, as a society, talk about how to stop it?”



Nevertheless, there are several red flags that dating app users can look out for, says Sjoholm, including “love bombing” — the practice of lavishing someone with attention or affection with a view to influence or manipulate them.

However, Sjoholm believes that the very nature of social media makes it difficult to determine the truth about someone. “When it comes to social media, it is entirely about everyone wanting to show off their best side,” she said.

“Everyone wants to show off the good parts. When it comes to social media, I would say that 95 percent is just fraud in general.”

The mental health repercussions of romance fraud cannot be understated, as victims grapple with both the financial fallout and intense feelings of shame. “Regarding how your mental health is when you realize you’ve been defrauded, I think, for me, why I felt so low that I ended up in a psychiatric ward is that no one took you seriously,” said Fjellhoy.

“And I feel like, for example, you go to the police and they just brush you off. And I tried to contact the banks and they told me: ‘Well, you still need to pay down the loans.’ And you’re still mentally low. It’s double — emotional and economic. You see no way out.”

As a result of her ordeal, Fjellhoy established the Action Reaction Foundation to focus on the mental health challenges of survivors and to lobby for stronger laws as well as policies to protect victims.

One of the lasting effects of the ordeal is an inability to trust others easily. “I’m still having trouble with trust,” said Sjoholm.

“I have more good days than I have bad days. But even on my good days, when someone does something very nice toward me, I can sometimes feel like there’s an agenda behind it. That someone is there to hurt me.

“I can still socialize. I can meet new people, but I’m having a very hard time to really talk to people. I don’t want to take away trust. You should be trusting people, you should be helping people, because that is what makes this world better. But, of course, this has been a tremendous trauma.”



For Fjellhoy, it is also about having trust in the system to protect victims and take their claims seriously. 

“That the police will be there to protect you, that if you go to the bank, and you’re saying you’re being defrauded, you can get some peace and quiet to figure things out, that they will give that to us,” said Fjellhoy.

“Just so many things that could have made everything that happened afterward much easier, which would have made the fight easier.”

For others who have fallen victim to romance scams, Fjellhoy’s advice is to speak up.

“Please report it to the police, no matter what,” she said. “We know that it hasn’t gone our way. But they need to know about all cases so they can see how big it actually is.

“Please, report it.”


Victims of Israeli ‘Tinder Swindler’ to speak at Arab Women Forum in Dubai

Updated 16 May 2022

Victims of Israeli ‘Tinder Swindler’ to speak at Arab Women Forum in Dubai

  • Norwegian Cecilie Fjellhøy and Swedish Pernilla Sjöholm rose to fame after Netflix documentary
  • Leviev emotionally manipulated women into giving him millions of dollars to support his lavish lifestyle

LONDON: Two women who were defrauded by Simon Leviev — notoriously known as the Tinder Swindler — are to speak at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai next week.

Norwegian TV personality Cecilie Fjellhøy and Swedish business owner Pernilla Sjöholm rose to fame after the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler” told the story of how they were swindled by the Israeli conman through the popular dating app Tinder.

Leviev emotionally manipulated Fjellhøy, Sjöholm and others into giving him millions of dollars to support his lavish lifestyle and, as he claimed, to escape his “enemies.” Reports show that Leviev conned his victims out of more than $10 million.

The Arab Women Forum – a thought leadership platform for women — is taking place in Dubai on May 17 and will form part of the annual “Top CEO” awards and conference event organized on May 17 and May 18 by the Dubai-based publisher and event management company, Special Edition.

Julien Hawari, CEO of Special Edition, told Arab News he was fascinated by the strength the women showed in fighting a man with a long scamming experience.

Arab News is cooperating with the annual women-focused forum as its exclusive media partner. The event is held at a time of significant social change in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both countries have seen major reforms in recent years, including unprecedented freedoms granted to women in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of a gender balance council in the UAE.

The editorial cooperation includes moderating, participation, and special coverage of the event which also features leading international female executives and policymakers.

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Updated 15 May 2022

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

  • Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms

TURIN, Italy: Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, as the embattled nation rides a wave of public support across Europe.
Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms from an energetic, breakdancing band.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” frontman Oleh Psiuk said in English from the stage, referring to the port city’s underground steelworks where Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded by Russian forces.
Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognizable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.
“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.
Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.
Ukraine beat out a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, which sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national health care while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.
“Only at Eurovision do people celebrate bananas, heartbreaks and wash their hands in one and the same show,” Swedish fan Martina Fries told AFP Saturday ahead of the finale.
“Eurovision is a way to show that different countries can celebrate peacefully together.”

The joy of Eurovision is in its camp and theatrics, although the nearly three-month war in Ukraine hung heavily over festivities.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbor.
“Stefania,” written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on obscure flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” have taken on outsized meaning as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the group for topping the contest.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom,” while European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine.”
Kalush Orchestra received special authorization from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.
Psiuk said he wasn’t exactly sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.
“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.”

Other contenders at Eurovision included Sweden’s break-up belt “Hold Me Closer” from Cornelia Jakobs, Greece’s somber “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord, and “Brividi” (Shivers), a gay-themed duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.
Italy won the competition last year with “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin, who performed their new single “Supermodel” during Saturday night’s finale.
Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.
After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.
Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.
Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant “Sentimentai.”
Meanwhile, Sheldon Riley of Australia — one of Eurovision’s few non-European entries — sang his self-affirmation ballad “Not the Same” through a sparkling face veil laden with crystals.
And since no Eurovision is complete without a smattering of gyrating and undulating bodies onstage, Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her energetic dancing and memorable “booty hypnotic” refrain.

Surprise! Justin Timberlake is in ‘Candy’ with Jessica Biel

Updated 12 May 2022

Surprise! Justin Timberlake is in ‘Candy’ with Jessica Biel

  • The musician and actor portrays a deputy who investigates the murder the show is centered around
  • Biel, a co-executive producer on the project, says Timberlake first approached her producing partner, Michelle Purple, about wanting to be involved

NEW YORK: Viewers tuning in to Thursday’s episode of “Candy,” starring Jessica Biel, may recognize a familiar face: Biel’s husband Justin Timberlake.
The musician and actor portrays a deputy who investigates the murder the show is centered around.
Biel, a co-executive producer on the project, says Timberlake first approached her producing partner, Michelle Purple, about wanting to be involved.
“They sort of had this whole plan. I didn’t even know about at first. And then I thought he was kidding. And then he said, ‘No, for real, I want to do this.’ And then it was off to the races. He was getting a wig fitting, it was so fun and was such a good surprise.”
Biel admits to being worried at first about whether their dynamic would “translate at work” but that quickly went away.
“I actually felt total peace when he was around. Like, I knew he was going to hold that sort of safe space for me to work in the way I needed to and be non-judgmental and open and free. And he gave me the freedom to improvise, which he’s so good at and I’m less comfortable with.”
In “Candy,” Biel plays Candy Montgomery, a young, outgoing, church-going wife and mother in Texas who voraciously reads romance novels. She seems to have it all — but is bored — so she begins an affair with a man from her town (played by Pablo Schreiber) and ends up killing his wife, Betty, with an ax. Montgomery pleaded not guilty to the crime and a jury sided with her, some even saying they never liked Betty.
The story is based on a real case from 1980 and is of interest in Hollywood at the moment. Elizabeth Olsen recently wrapped filming her own limited series version called “Love and Death,” in which she plays Candy.
Melanie Lynskey, who plays Betty, hopes the story will lead to compassion for the victim, and that people will see how the trial was a popularity contest.
“As somebody who has had a hard time fitting in for a lot of my life since I was a little girl, I really, really responded to that and just how deeply unfair it was,” she said.
Timberlake isn’t the only surprise casting in the show: Lynskey’s husband, Jason Ritter, plays Timberlake’s partner. A memorable moment is when the two recreate the crime as part of their investigation.
Biel credits “Candy” co-creator and showrunner Robin Veith for “the idea to have Jason as well and have these two be partners in crime. It tickled us,” said Biel.
Biel wears a wig with short, curly brown hair in the series which gotten a lot of attention. She jokes that it’s a similar hairstyle to one her husband had in the late 90s with his boy band NSYNC.
“He definitely had that hairstyle,” said Biel. I always ask, “Please grow those beautiful curls back out. I love that curly hair. I know. It’s so weird. We were laughing about that.”