It was a divorce that turned deadly.
Dirty John's Christian Slater and Amanda Peet are opening up about what it was like playing Dan and Betty Broderick, the real-life SoCal couple who went from happily married parents of four living in the wealthy La Jolla suburb of San Diego to betrayal, divorce and ultimately a double homicide. Betty and Dan's twisted love story is currently playing out on USA's Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Both Slater and Peet credit the show's creator and writer Alexandra Cunningham for helping them transform into Betty and Dan.
"Alex wrote a really great script and it felt like she really wanted to dig into these people and what leads to a murder," Peet tells E! News. "How this seemingly normal suburban couple end up in this horrifying [situation]."
"She really did a fantastic job and made these characters very, very rich. She wanted to get into the depth of these two people," Slater echoes. "These two people became such tabloid fodder that you could lose the humanity of who they were as human beings and that's what Alexandra was most interested in doing."
Having met as college sweethearts, Betty supported Dan through medical school and law school, giving up any career aspirations she might have had to raise their four children as he became a rich, successful lawyer in San Diego. That is, until Dan left Betty for his young assistant Linda, who he had an affair with and eventually married after their extremely messy divorce. In 1989, Betty snapped and fatally shot Dan and Linda.
"I think the story is really complex," Peet says. "Just because Alexandra wanted to show the ways in which Betty was a victim, I don't think that means she's condoning or justifying the fact that she became a murderer. I think she just thinks it's a story worth telling to explore why. How could this have happened? What were the components and factors that lead up to someone who is seemingly so normal becoming mad, insane."
Peet adds that the Brodericks' story isn't one-sided as both Betty and Dan mistreated each other at times (Betty did drive her car into Dan's front door during their divorce). "She really behaved in a very abusive way over a period of time and he did too. Hopefully in this day and age there would have been an earlier intervention," Peet says.
As for why true crime fans are still so fascinated by stories like the Brodericks', Peet laughed, "Because we're all kind of crazy."
"Hopefully someone could stumble upon this show and watch it and it could give a particular warning, they're might be in a similar situation. This is based on reality and there's still a lot of reality out there," Slater added. "People do torture each other, they do lie to each other. They do emotionally torture each other. This can be one of the reminders of what that kind of behavior and treatment towards another human being can do. It can end up in horrible tragedy."
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on USA.
(E! and USA are both part of the NBCUniversal family)