Text messages exchanged between Conrad Roy III and Michelle Carter served as the basis for the young woman’s conviction for manslaughter after she was accused of encouraging him to commit suicide in 2014 in an unprecedented case. Now the same messages are the miniseries tama The Girl from Plainvillegives starzplaywhich has a new episode premiering every Sunday – the last one airing on the 28th.
“We didn’t have to push to dramatize the story,” Patrick Macmanus, co-creator of the series with Liz Hannah, said in an interview with Estadão, by videoconference. “With access to messages, we had a clear path. It is different from seeing a statement, a testimony, an interview. We were able to follow their lives for years, in their own words.”
Conrad, known as Coco, and Michelle met very few times during the years they had their relationship. According to Macmanus, there is evidence of only three times that they saw each other face to face. So the showrunners were challenged to make this exchange interesting. “We didn’t want to look at cell phones all the time or use the balloon-on-screen method,” Macmanus said.
He and Hannah came to the conclusion that the young people felt the relationship was as real as if they were living in the same city, riding their bikes, going to the movies, eating pizza. So, they decided to dramatize the text messages putting the two in the same environment, as if they were living together.
The collaboration of actors Elle Fanning, in the role of Michelle, and Colton Ryan, as Coco, was decisive. “They brought up the idea that there are always communication problems in messages, because we don’t know the intonation, the intention,” warned Macmanus. “If you can’t read someone’s face or voice, everything is black and white. And that allowed Colton and Elle to interpret both sides of the messages. We see what she was feeling and thinking and we see what he was feeling and thinking.”
For Colton Ryan, that’s what they could do. “We try not to judge,” he said in an interview with Estadão. “We are not trying to re-discuss the case. That’s done. We’re not lawyers or judges, we’re actors, so our role was to examine the emotional consequences and show how you can relate to both. Honestly, it was easy, because when you read these messages, as I did, you can see that they are young people looking for something. Above all, themselves.”
In a panel of the Association of Television Critics, Elle Fanning said that she became interested in the role precisely because she is a young woman living with technology. “The cell phone gives us a false sense of intimacy and reality. I thought it was important to delve into the way technology has affected these two people,” she said. Ryan pointed out that as much as we accuse young people of being too close to technology, it’s not their fault. “They didn’t ask for it. This is the life they gave them,” she said.
“Like all of us, they are trying to understand the human condition and at the same time they can research and talk to whoever they want, whenever they want. I hope adults watch it and think for a moment: are we doing the right thing?”