AUSTIN — Elle Fanning was in high school when the Michelle Carter case unfolded, so she wasn’t following it too closely.
But what she does remember vividly is Carter’s photo in the news.
“I remember her — her eyebrows, her scowl,” Fanning, who plays Carter in Hulu’s new “The Girl from Plainville” show, said in a recent interview. “That’s all I knew.”
Carter was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Carter, who was 17 at the time, had repeatedly, through text messages, pushed Roy, 18, to kill himself. On the day he died by suicide, she had told him to “get back in” the truck when he expressed to her he was having second thoughts, prosecutors said.
Her case was the subject of a 2019 HBO documentary by Erin Lee Carr called “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter.” Now, the show is gearing up for wide release on Hulu on March 29 after premiering at the South by Southwest festival in Austin over the weekend.
Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail and five years probation. She was released from jail on Jan. 23, 2020.
The series, based on Jesse Barron’s 2017 Esquire article, aims to “show a deeper side that goes beyond the headlines,” Fanning, who also serves as an executive producer, said.
That’s exactly what executive producer and writer Liz Hannah said attracted her and co-showrunner Patrick MacManus to the project.
“We read Jesse’s article, there was so much there that wasn’t seen and expressed in the documentary about Michelle, the families and Conrad,” Hannah said. “We felt there was an opportunity to explore these characters and relationships and look at this situation with empathy.”
We knew there was a deeper dive that had to be done
-Patrick MacManus, co-showrunner
MacManus said they sifted through thousands of text messages and hundreds of pages of depositions and testimony to “build a picture of their lives with their friends, their family and each other.”
“We knew there was a deeper dive that had to be done,” MacManus said.
It was especially important to those involved with the show that they tackled mental health and the negative impact technology can have on people.
As viewers can gauge from in the show, Carter and Roy’s relationship was based almost entirely on text messages. Both of the teens, who lived in different Massachusetts towns, struggled with depression, and Roy had tried to kill himself before.
Carr, who served as a consulting producer on the Hulu show, met with Fanning over Zoom to discuss how to “best tell Carter’s story in a way that’s really about mental health,” according to ET.
“Technology is really the weapon in our story,” Fanning said during the panel following the screening.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.