Kelli Garner Captivates As Marilyn Monroe In Lifetime’s New TV Miniseries

Kelli Garner Captivates As Marilyn Monroe In Lifetime’s New TV Miniseries

Filling the shoes of a famous person in any biopic, can be a daunting task for an actor. Taking on the persona of Hollywood’s greatest sex symbol Marilyn Monroe and making it convincing, would be considered by most an impossibility. Marilyn was complex in many ways. There was alot going on in several different departments that only one person could truly manifest; Marilyn herself. That is, until Kelli Garner came along.

This May 30th and 31st, Lifetime channel will air a two day miniseries called, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. Based off of the New York Times bestseller book by J. Randy Taraborrelli, of the same name – the four hour series will cover the hidden darkness and struggles in the Hollywood Bomshell’s short life and career. With a large emphasis on the role her mentally ill mother Gladys played. But it’s the actress leading the cast as Marilyn herself who steals the show.

Kelli Garner as Marilyn Monroe

Photo by Kevin Lynch – ©Lifetime

Thirty-one year old Kelli Garner is simply captivating as Norma Jean Mortenson, who would eventually take on the professional name, Marilyn Monroe. Where previous actresses have only been able to meet one aspect of the blonde beauty, Garner embodies her in almost every way and in every frame.

The first thing to get right in this role of course, are the looks. What’s amazing watching Kelli as Marilyn – dressed, undressed, up close and in wide shots, is your tendancy to forget this is an actor and not the real thing. The attraction from men towards Marilyn in the show is believable, due to Garner’s own physical beauty and sexuality. Viewers will not have to bend their minds to convince themselves she looks the part.

The physical side of things is one thing. Once you have to speak a line, the character of Marilyn gets even more complex. Overdo it and it ends up feeling like an SNL skit (No Offence). Underplay it and you end up with a Norma Jean and not, Marilyn. But to comment on the speech, you have to include the body language; because Marilyn used both whenever she said anything.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Actress

Photo by Ben Mark Holzberg ©Lifetime

There is one scene in the miniseries, when a young Norma Jean watches a candy girl use her voice and body language, to make a sale to a young man. Seeing its power over the opposite sex, she would quickly adopt it as her own. If you take a journey through old video footage of Monroe, watch her in interviews and at premieres, you’ll notice that there is never a word spoken that isn’t accompanied by a move of the hip, twist of the head or wrinkle of the eyebrows. Her lips didn’t just open to form words, they were saying a bunch of other things all on their own at the same time.

This is where Kelli Garner steps out from the pack of previous women, who have tried to personify the Hollywood sex symbol in film. She gets it. And brings it all into a beautiful concert of tone and physical expression. Just like the real Marilyn, the movements are exaggerated when she’s talking with studio execs and reporters and brought back down with friends and family, without ever losing it. It’s quite amazing to watch all the little twitches and motions going on, while at the same time manifesting the actual internal struggle that comes with the story.

But it’s the last factor, that took the “look and the language”, to embodiment.

Kelli Garner in Marilyn Monroe Series

Photo by Ben Mark Holzberg ©Lifetime

There is an episode of The Jack Benny Show from 1953, when the real Marilyn Monroe made her debut. Jack and Marilyn do a skit together aboard a stage built cruise ship. As the scene plays out and the two begin to mingle, one can’t help but notice how uninhibited the actress was when it came to close physical contact. At one point her lips almost meet the host’s. It’s an important aspect of the actress that is not left out in Garner’s portrayal.

In every scene, especially those involving men Kelli leans in, pets, pushes in jest or seductively writhes about without any sense of inhibition. It’s these moments, linked together with her looks and language that captivate the viewer. And they remain in almost every frame, leaving you free’d up to focus on Marilyn and her story, not the actress.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, is a step up for the Lifetime channel and should be the role that makes Kelli Garner a household name.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Official Trailer

Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Premieres Night One May 30th & Night Two May 31st at at 8pm ET/PT. Also starring Academy Award® Winner Susan Sarandon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Academy Award® and Golden Globe® Nominee Emily Watson.

Photos: ©2015 Lifetime

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Wayne Andres

Creator, Editor In Chief at - "I went on a Twitter rant once; no one cared - Celebrities have all the fun".

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