Friends" a decade ago. Now, she wears the director's cap for the Lifetime original movie "Talhotblond." It's her first longform directorial debut, having only directed two episodes of "Cougar Town" and the dramatic short "The Monday Before Thanksgiving" previously.
'Talhotblond' debuts Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. ET.
"Talhotblond" is based upon the true story of Thomas Montgomery, a former Marine and father of two girls. The real-life Montgomery's story of online fantasies, relationships, and lies is just as shocking as a fictional psychological thriller.
ABC News reported Montgomery, then 46 years old in May 2005, was living near Buffalo, N.Y. He was a married father and family man. Montgomery worked at a local factory. Montgomery decided to pose as a 19-year-old Marine under the handle "MarineSniper" in an online chat room for teenagers.
Eventually, the online persona clicked with an 18-year-old girl from West Virginia who went by the handle "Talhotblond," whose real name is Jessi. The two became online lovers and Montgomery began his infatuation with her. When a package was delivered to the man's house, Montgomery's wife discovered the affair and informed Jessi of the truth.
Jessi emailed a co-worker of Montgomery's to validate the story. The younger man struck up an online relationship with Jessi and was determined to meet her in person. Enraged with jealousy, the former Marine shot and killed 22-year-old Brian Barrett on Sept. 15, 2006. Upon learning of the murder, authorities rushed to West Virginia only to find "Jessi" was in fact a middle-aged mother named Mary Shieler. The real-life Jessi is her daughter. Montgomery got 20 years for murdering Batrett over jealousy surrounding a woman neither man met in real life.
An exclusive clip released ahead of the movie shows a pivotal scene that led Montgomery down the dark path. Garret Dillahunt, who plays the main character, overhears Brian, played by Brando Eaton. Brian is telling a co-worker he's going to meet Jessi in person, knowing full well that Montgomery is her former love interest.
The obsessed man flips out and tries to beat the pulp out of Brian at the factory locker room. The younger man reacts and says, "She warned me about you, says you're crazy. She's been trying to get me to tell everyone you're some kind of pervert, but I wouldn't do it because I thought it wasn't true because I thought we were friends."
If the rest of the movie is anything like the clip, the twisted road of jealousy will be equally as creepy as the character of Thomas Montgomery in "Talhotblond." Dillahunt pulls a capable "weirded-out creepy guy" for his character.
Story Made for Storytelling
Cox picked an intense story to portray for her directorial debut. She has many elements upon which to draw for source material including court documents, television clips of friends and family, and news reports. The chilling scenario of jealousy, betrayal, and murder makes for great storytelling.
There are plentiful details of the case that may be difficult to work into a two-hour movie. Yet the overall message of the piece is clear -- why the heck would someone murder another person over a woman neither has met in person? The shocking truth is just as real as the psycho-drama played out on television.