Interview by Rafy Mediavilla, with Emma Roberts & Karah Preiss about Hulu’s “Tell Me Lies” series. We spoke about adapting the novel, the amazing ensemble and how far they were allowed to go. Now streaming on Hulu!
“Tell Me Lies” follows a tumultuous but intoxicating relationship as it unfolds over the course of 8 years. When Lucy Albright and Stephen DeMarco meet at college, they are at that formative age when seemingly mundane choices lead the way to irrevocable consequences. Although their relationship begins like any typical campus romance, they quickly fall into an addictive entanglement that will permanently alter not only their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.
The novel is mostly about Lucy and Stephen. And it was something that I loved about the series is we delved into more characters, included more characters. One of the questions I have for you is to explain how the ensemble came about?
So, yeah, I think when Meghan Oppenheimer, who’s the showrunner, read the book and was interested in adapting it, I think she decided that the story itself and the sort of core mystery that’s driving the story would be better served by an ensemble cast of characters. And I also think, just like, true to college, you’re not the only person that you’re in college with. And I think in order to make the show realistic as a freshman year story, there needed to be friends. There needed to be people who were also sort of implicated in the drama.
And, you know, otherwise it would have been a two hander and it would have been fine. But I definitely think that the show itself and the way in which the show can really impact a larger audience is bolstered by the fact that there are many characters that you can kind of dive into. Outside of Lucy and Stephen.
Yeah. I mean, I just love to me, I feel especially when you’re that age, like your actions have such a ripple effect on your friend group. And I think that, you know, the Lucy and Stephen relationship, the way that their actions really like kind of ricochet out to their friend group in ways that are obvious, ways that will be revealed, ways that, you know, drive the show. I just think it’s so interesting. And when you’re that age, like your friend group is everything, you know, obviously when you’re in college, when you’re in high school, it’s like your friends are just your whole life. So I feel like showing that kind of heart for Lucy especially was really important.
How far were you able to push the limits of Lucy and Stevens story when it comes from the book to the series?
Well, I feel like we definitely weren’t hindered. Like Hulu wanted this to be, you know, as honest as we wanted it to be, as honest as, you know, Megan felt comfortable being, as the actors felt comfortable being like. So basically, you know, we got to do whatever we wanted within everybody’s comfortability. And I feel like because of that, the show does feel very real and raw and but not gratuitous. You know, like everything that was done was really, you know, for the story and to kind of show like this is what this character is going through. And it may not be glamorous and it might not be fun, but it’s real.
Yeah, I mean Hulu. Hulu had just come off of, you know, putting out Normal People, which I think really treated sex in an artful and, you know, interesting and I think kind of unseen way. And we definitely had that in mind as like being also a show on that network. And the creative team at Hulu is just like so supportive. And I think, yeah, I mean, but Megan wanted to make a show about college sex, right? So, and real college sex. So it was going to be something that was provocative. And I think they were supportive of us, sort of, however we interpreted that.
Emma I want to ask you, you’re transitioning from actor to producer. What have you learned that you could apply to both roles?
Well, I think for me, it was so much fun to I felt like there was a little bit even though I had like more responsibility in certain ways, there was a weight lifted. And not being on the show where I really got to, like, take a step back and be creative in a different way. And we got the most incredible lead as Lucy Grace Van Patten. And so to have her and to have Jackson White as Stephen, you know, and to really get to be objective on the relationship and the scenes and just I don’t know, that was very freeing for me where I wasn’t producing something, where I was looking at myself like, I don’t I just don’t think that would have worked, especially on a show like this, which is so intimate and personal.
And so it was really fun to just get to be behind the scenes with Keira, who is my partner and my best friend, and really get to, I don’t know, just I’d never gotten to be like this creative without also acting. And so it was really, really freeing and nice.
But one thing about working with an actor as a producer is that like, I don’t know what the experience of being an actor is, and Emma does. And there are just, like, certain nuances that Emma knows, like even things that happen in the hair and makeup truck or something, and like what’s good at the end of the day. Like, those are all things that I think really like add to being a producer that like producers, most producers are not actors. And I think like there’s just a very specific set of knowledge that an actor has going into something that, like, allows you to have a kind of different point of view about what your actors are going through on set, etc.… And I think Emma really just like naturally has that because she’s been doing this for 20, 25 years or whatever, not to age her.
See the interview below: