The Girl From Plainville co-creator on retelling the infamous Michelle Carter ‘text suicide’ case

The Girl From Plainville is a series that adapts the story of Michelle Carter, who at the age of 17 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after encouraging her boyfriend Conrad Roy III to take his own life.

Known as the ‘texting suicide’ case, the events shocked the world and caused a media firestorm in 2017.

Ahead of The Girl From Plainville finale, which drops on Stan on May 3, the show’s co-creator Liz Hannah spoke to 9Entertainment about the complexities of depicting this real-life tragedy.

Stream all episodes of The Girl From Plainville on Stan.

Before being involved in the project, Hannah knew little about Michelle Carter, played in the series by Elle Fanning or Conrad Roy (Colton Ryan) other than what had been in the media.

“I had kind of consumed it the same way, I think we all did, which was that she was a black widow and that she was the epitome of a villain,” Hannah said.

Elle Fanning, Colton Ryan, The Girl From Plainville, Stan
Elle Fanning and Colton Ryan as Michelle and Conrad in The Girl From Plainville. (stan)

The basis of the show was an Esquire article by Jesse Barron and his accompanying research.

“Very quickly upon reading Jesse’s article, I realized there was more to the story than even I had begun to think there could be,” Hannah said.

“The thing that made me lean in and want to start asking more questions was that there was just a much more complicated girl in Michelle Carter.

“There was a much more complicated and toxic relationship in her relationship with Conrad Roy. And there was more to him and his family than I think had been explored. So I really was excited to explore that and have a conversation about what we do to young women and what the story, to me, really centered on.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about The Girl From Plainville

The enormous task of telling this story came with its challenges.

Hannah herself describes the series as “really heavy and really real”. The show delves into teen suicide and depicts complicated issues including Michelle’s little-known eating disorder.

“Even before pitching the show, we partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” Hannah explained.

“It’s a foundation that Elle and I have worked with before. We are not experts in mental health, our own or others. And getting the right people to help was important.

Liz Hannah
Writer/Director of The Girl From Plainville Liz Hannah. (Supplied)

“Mental health is health. We often don’t think of it that way. Showing that everyone in this show deals with mental health in their own way was very important to us.”

The Girl From Plainville‘s collaboration with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention assisted with the series being able to depict suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety in an accurate way and in a well-rounded way.

“Mental health often gets depicted as one-dimensional. It’s something that we all deal with and the most sensitive thing and the most important responsibility we had making this show was getting that right,” Hannah said.

Prior to her work on The Girl From PlainvilleHannah was a writer on the Disney+ series, The Dropout, also a real-life story based on the findings of an investigative article. Both shows were released at the same time as Netflix’s Inventing Anna and Apple TV+’s We Crashedalso based on investigative articles.

Hannah attests that viewer interest in real-life stories is incredibly compelling.

“Something we talked about in The Dropout [writers] room is we’re talking about extremely privileged people being taken down or people pretending,” she said.

“In Anna Delvey’s case, to be privileged people being taken down. I think that’s something we need to look at in our world, as feels like something we want to watch.”

Douglas Hodge, Elle Fanning, Sacha Dhawan, The Great, Stan
Douglas Hodge as General Velementov, Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Sacha Dhawan as Count Orlo in Season 2 of The Great. (stan)

The Girl From Plainville star Fanning is well known to audiences for her role in Stan’s The Great.

Fanning and Hannah have worked together before on a movie called All the Bright Places.

“She is just really, for me, one of those once-in-a-lifetime actors, once-in-a-generation actors,” Hannah said.

“As a writer, I went into this knowing she was going to play Michelle which gives you a lot of freedom to make things hard, or make things difficult, or push yourself. Because you know that she’s going to push you to do something different and hard to perform, and she’s up to the task.”

The Girl From Plainville starring Elle Fanning
Elle Fanning as Michelle Carter in The Girl From Plainville. (stan)

Hannah is proud of her work on The Girl From Plainvilleand rightfully so, the series is receiving a ton of acclaim from critics and audiences.

“What I feel most proud of is we came at this with the characters and wanting each character to have a well-rounded, three-dimensional arc and feel like a real person and be somebody that you could empathize with,” she said.

“Even if you didn’t agree with them, or even thought that they were a villain, that you could find empathy in that.”

Stream all episodes of The Girl From Plainville on Stan.

If you or anyone you know needs immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via lifeline.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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