Elle Fanning: 'Plainville' sheds light on 'false sense of intimacy'

Elle Fanning plays Michelle Carter in "The Girl From Plainville." UPI Photo Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 5 | Elle Fanning plays Michelle Carter in "The Girl From Plainville." UPI Photo Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 28 (UPI) -- Elle Fanning said that playing Michelle Carter in the Hulu series, The Girl From Plainville, premiering Tuesday, led her to reexamine her own relationship with social media.

In a real life case, Carter was convicted of encouraging Conrad Roy (Colton Ryan) to commit suicide via their text messages. Fanning, 23, said she remembers how pervasive phones and social media were when she was a teenager.


"I grew up in high school with that obsession," Fanning said in a recent Television Critics Association Zoom. "I'd look at my phone every morning,"

Fanning said she can look back on her high school self and realize social media gave her a "false sense of intimacy and false sense of reality."

The show, based on Jesse Barron's 2017 Esquire article, "The Girl From Plainville," begins in the aftermath of Conrad's death. The show depicts parallel stories in flashbacks leading up to the death and the subsequent investigation.


"I think all of our characters have a very identifiable transformation, and you can tell," Fanning said. "The hair and makeup team were extraordinary for everyone to make sure that the transformations were there."

Chloe Sevigny plays Conrad's mother, Lynn. Sevigny said The Girl From Plainville also shows how a family like the Roys can cope with a tragedy.

"I thought that this was a real opportunity to examine grief through Lynn and forgiveness and finding peace," Sevigny said. "I just thought there was so much there to the character and what Lynn went through."

Sevigny, 48, made her debut in the 1995 film Kids, which explored the sexual escapades of teenagers in the '90s. Looking at the social media phenomenon, Sevigny said even her adult friends get caught up in it.

"I had a girlfriend over the other night, who's around my age, in her 40s, and she's dating a new man," Sevigny said. "He didn't text her back in an hour, and she was having a breakdown."

Sevigny said she calmed her friend. However, she said the Carter case illustrates how powerful technology can be.

"We're so used to instantaneous response that we get triggered so easily," Sevigny said. "[It] is really important to examine how we communicate now, be it texts, be it emails, this pressure to respond immediately, just how fast everything is moving."


Fanning said Carter's texts demonstrate a form of bullying. Through her research and the scripts by Liz Hannah and Patrick McManus, Fanning said she also understood what made Carter target Conrad.

"Michelle was very much alone," Fanning said. "Meeting Conrad, that relationship sparked that kind of instant gratification that you feel. That can be a dark place to live in."

Fanning's first role was at age 2 playing the young version of her sister, Dakota's character in I Am Sam. She continued to star in movies like Super 8 and the two Maleficent films.

Fanning said she was lucky to find her place in a job she loved when she was so young.

"I can't think of doing anything else," Fanning said. "Now that I'm a bit older, [I'm] getting to produce things and see the other side of being behind the scenes."

Fanning is an executive producer on The Girl From Plainville and her other Hulu series, The Great. Fanning plays Catherine the Great on the historical comedy, which is a far looser adaptation of history than Plainville.

"On The Great, we have a lot of dialogue," Fanning said. "It's a lot of memorization."

Fanning said she looked forward to conveying Carter's character more through facial expressions than dialogue. However, she said she learned that brought unique challenges, too.


"I was like, 'I don't have to say anything. I can just say it with my eyes,'" Fanning said. "I was in for a rude awakening."

New episodes of The Girl From Plainville premiere Tuesdays on Hulu.

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