There's a Lot of Work Behind Elle Fanning's Subtle Transformation for 'The Girl From Plainville'

Bianca Piazza - Author

Apr. 5 2022, Published 7:44 p.m. ET

Elle Fanning in 'The Girl From Plainville'
Source: Hulu

There may be several blond-haired, blue-eyed gals who boil your blood, but Michelle Carter — aka the criminal face of the infamous "texting-suicide" case — ranks No. 1 in our book. The equally baffling and gut-wrenching story that shocked America is the premise of Hulu's true-crime miniseries The Girl From Plainville. From Michelle's wholesome teenage beginnings to her 2017 conviction of involuntary manslaughter, Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus' limited series covers it all.

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“You keep pushing it off and say you'll do it but u never do. It's always gonna be that way if u don't take action,” Michelle reportedly texted her long-distance boyfriend, Conrad "Coco" Roy (Colton Ryan), on the day he tragically took his own life in 2014. For those unfamiliar with the case, Michelle would frequently encourage and push her boyfriend — who struggled with social anxiety and depression — to end his life. According to NBC Boston, Michelle reportedly sent Conrad over 1,000 texts in the week before his death.

After meeting in Florida while on vacation with their families in 2012, the lonely teens realized they had much in common, including their all too consuming battles with mental illness. And despite only meeting in person once or twice, Michelle wound up being a looming dark influence in Conrad's life. Elle Fanning (Maleficent) plays Michelle Carter with such emotional nuance and discomforting insensibility, that it's easily one of the best performances of her career.

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'The Girl From Plainville'
Source: Hulu

Elle Fanning underwent a lengthy transformation to physically embody Michelle Carter.

Not only is her acting phenomenal (and eerie), but The Great star looks an awful lot like Michelle. It may not be immediately noticeable, but Elle went through quite the transformation behind the scenes. In regard to her face makeup, Elle spent nearly two hours in the makeup chair, as reported by E! News. To nail the minuscule details of Michelle's features, makeup artist Erin Ayanian practically dissected footage from HBO's documentary on the case, I Love You, Now Die.

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"I watched that documentary probably five or six times all the way through," she revealed to E! News. "Down to parts of the court scenes where we could see she'd been chewing on her lip and there was like a little scab on her lower lip."

Though she spent a lot of time painstakingly painting Elle, Erin doesn't want viewers to take much notice of her work. "You are really trying to help tell a story and unless the makeup is a story point, which it hardly ever is, you want the makeup to just sort of disappear," she said. "I think if you're noticing it too much, it can take you out of the story. So, you just kind of want to support the story and take a backseat a little bit. Be invisible."

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Elle Fanning dons a series of three wigs in Hulu's 'The Girl From Plainville'.

Considering Elle is a natural-born blonde, you may not have noticed that she wears three different wigs in The Girl From Plainville. U.K. wig company Alex Rousse made the wigs, which hairdresser Jules Holdren then edited to accurately reflect Michelle's battle with an eating disorder. She "cut short pieces in the hairline to give it the feel of thinness and hair breakage due to Michelle's bulimia."

Jules was assisted by Ren Studios' Arjen (who worked on The Thing About Pam) and makeup artist Todd Watson to add a prosthetic forehead piece for the wig Elle wore during court scenes.

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"This gave us the ability to show thinness and hair breakage due to Michelle's drastic weight loss," Jules explained to E! News. She said that more liberties were taken with earlier episodes, as it's hard to know what Michelle looked and acted like during the beginnings of her toxic relationship with Conrad. "She's sort of a chameleon," Jules said.

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As for her clothes, costume designer Mirren Gorden-Crozier did a ton of late-night internet research to find the exact outfits Michelle Carter wore in court.

"The story happened not long ago, but it's long enough for [the outfits] not to be in stores and things like that. Basically, with a lot of internet trolling I finally landed on it," Mirren explained.

Michelle wore a lot of Ann Taylor Loft during the trial, even sharing clothes with her mother, Gail Carter, over the course of many court dates. "We found every single item she wore," Mirren said.

Every detail mattered. Whether it be the fit of a pair of patent leather heels (which Elle requested be a size too big) or the addition of a stress-induced lip scab, the hair, makeup, and costume teams impressively metamorphosized Elle Fanning into the notorious Michelle Carter.

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

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