There are some true-crime stories that baffle our minds to the point where we can't help but bask in the fascination. We read article after article, watch the documentary, and inevitably, we're presented with a scripted, A-list actor-led miniseries. When it comes to the infamous "texting suicide" case of the 2010s — which became famous partially due to its "legal gray area" in regards to manslaughter — America struggled to pick its jaw off the floor.
The equally shocking and heartbreaking digital nightmare was turned into a Hulu limited series, titled The Girl From Plainville. The story follows so-called love birds Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning) and Conrad "Coco" Roy III (Colton Ryan), two troubled teens who met and exchanged phone numbers while on vacation with their families in Florida in 2012. The smitten Massachusetts residents who lived an hour apart engaged in a long-distance relationship, a majority of their conversations happening via text message.
Aside from their obvious attraction, Michelle and Conrad bonded over their mutual battle with depression and anxiety. But things took a devastating turn when Michelle urged Conrad to die by suicide via text in 2014. Michelle sent over 1,000 messages to Conrad in the week before his untimely death. The miniseries examines the story and the trial that led to Michelle's 2017 conviction of involuntary manslaughter.
What does the release schedule look like for Hulu's 'The Girl From Plainville'?
Created by Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus, Hulu's pitch-black limited series The Girl From Plainville — which premiered on March 29, 2022 — consists of eight hour-long episodes. The first three episodes were released on March 29. After that, one episode will come out weekly until the finale on May 3.
The series sees Elle Fanning (The Great), Colton Ryan (Dear Evan Hansen), and Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry) as its stars.
Elle Fanning found it incredibly difficult to read through Michelle and Conrad's lengthy text message conversations.
When prepping for their roles as Michelle and Conrad, Elle Fanning and Colton Ryan were given access to real-life documentation from the case.
"We had access to all the text messages, so I did read through them," Elle told Entertainment Weekly. "They're extremely haunting and difficult to get through, but they were helpful in getting to know their relationship — at least the relationship that they had over text, which is an extremely intimate one. It's very truthful and very honest."
The two leads had to "read between the lines" of the messages in order to bring Michelle and Conrad's virtual romance (a toxic one at that) to life. While the teens only met a few times in real life, The Girl From Plainville includes pie in the sky-like scenes of the duo interacting in person, as if to imply that they created their own little world.
"As an actor, those texts are bible. There's no subtext in texting, as I learned. There's only the way you receive it because texting is a lot of id. It's impulsivity," Colton Ryan — who also worked closely with a social worker — said.
"There's the actual communication you do and the meta-communication that is, well — how long does it take to respond? There's three bubbles and there's delete. And what does that mean?" he continued. Colton also said he and Elle feel that the show's fantasy sequences offer an honest depiction of Michelle and Conrad's relationship.
While the depiction of their imaginary in-person relationship comes down to interpretation, there are legal documents and a gazillion text messages to back it up.
Entertainment Weekly revealed that the showrunners consulted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Eating Disorder Association when crafting The Girl From Plainville. Mental illness and suicide are very sensitive topics, so it's comforting to know efforts were made to ensure the tragic story was handled with care.
Watch The Girl From Plainville on Hulu now.