Elle Fanning underwent another dramatic transformation for Hulu, this time to star in The Girl From Plainville, a limited series dramatizing the case of Michelle Carter. The "texting suicide case" grabbed headlines nationwide, as Carter was charged with the 2014 death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Carter, then 17, told Roy to commit suicide in texts. In June 2017, a judge convicted Carter of involuntary manslaughter.
The Girl From Plainville is based on Jesse Barron's August 2017 Esquire article of the same name. Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus serve as the showrunners of the eight-episode series, which tracks Carter's relationship with Roy, his death, and her conviction. Although the real case was sensationalized in the media as it unfolded, Fanning, who also serves as executive producer, wanted to take a different route.
"She did not want this to feel sensational," Macmanus told Entertainment Weekly, which also published the first photos of Fanning as Carter. "She wanted it to be an honest portrayal of not just these families and what they went through, but from what people are going through in general on a day-to-day basis when it comes to their mental health."
When Hannah and Macmanus met Fanning, they were surprised to see that she didn't need an excessive amount of makeup to transform into Carter. There was some work done to move her hairline back a little bit, and she wore a wig. However, Hannah was more impressed with the physical attributes Fanning took from her research.
"The physicality that Elle found in playing Michelle – she studied all of the courtroom tapes, she studied the documentary [HBO's I Love You, Now Die] – she really threw herself into making sure that the movement and the way she spoke was authentic, as well," Hannah told EW. "So I think that in tandem with the change physically really brings it all together."
Hannah and Macmanus also sought assistance from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Eating Disorder Association to help cover these topics in a helpful manner. They wanted to accurately show mental illness in their dramatization of the case. The showrunners also believe the role technology and the media played made the story frighteningly relevant, almost five years after Carter was convicted.
"At the end of the day, yes, I do want people to be entertained by the story, but more than anything, I hope that it's the beginning of a conversation – that we help the conversation for everyone who's affected by mental illness, not just teenagers," Macmanus told EW. The series also stars Cloe Sevigny, Cara Buono, Colton Ryan, Kai Lennox, and Norbert Leo Butz.
In July 2014, Roy took his own life by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide fumes from his truck in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Carter was indicted in February 2015, as prosecutors said her text messages influenced his decision. After Carter waived her right to a jury trial, a judge convicted her on involuntary manslaughter. She was first sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but this was later reduced to 15 months in prison and five years probation. She was released from prison three months early, in January 2020.0comments
The Girl from Plainville will be released on Hulu this spring. Fanning also stars in Hulu's The Great as the Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.