‘Tell Me Lies’ Boss Reveals The Show Will ‘Humanize’ Stephen More: He’s Still ‘Very Polarizing’

The 'Tell Me Lies' showrunner spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about taking the book to TV, why the show will 'humanize' Stephen more, and the Macy 'mystery.'

Carola Lovering’s bestselling 2018 novel Tell Me Lies is getting the Hulu treatment. The new series premieres September 7 and follows the intense and intoxicating relationship between Lucy Albright and Stephen DeMarco over the course of nearly a decade. In the novel, the very charming but manipulative Stephen is a very controversial character. HollywoodLife asked EP Meaghan Oppenheimer if we’ll be rooting for the TV version of Stephen at all. 

Tell Me LIes
Grace Van Patten and Jackson White in ‘Tell Me Lies.’ (Hulu)

“So we had to humanize him a bit more for the show only because this is hopefully an ongoing series. If someone is just completely, there’s no hope for them, then there’s not much space to play with that,” Meaghan revealed. “I think Stephen is going to be very polarizing, just from what I’ve experienced so far. Some people hate him and have no forgiveness for him. Some people don’t like what he does, but they still like him at times. I think it will really depend on people’s personal experience as well and how much he triggers them. But I think at least you will understand him more than in the book. Not that you don’t understand him in the book, but we delve into his personal life and his backstory and his family a little bit more, and we tried to explore why he is the way that he is.”

While the book alternatives between Lucy and Stephen’s perspectives, Meaghan noted that the show “won’t exclusively be with one or the other. Sometimes we will be with both of them, but we definitely try to play with point of view and not so much just point of view but access to different people at different times. But yeah, we will be with both of them.”

For the Tell Me Lies book readers, the Macy storyline will still be a “prominent” part of the series. “I think the core stakes of the show, we tried to keep it all about the relationships and the emotional stakes. But for me, the way that the Macy storyline impacts everything is watching how it affects this group of friends,” Meaghan said. “I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but when you go through something so life-altering together at a young age, there’s a lot of trauma bonding that happens, and the way that you interact with each other starts to change. But there are definitely some plot twists and reveals. There’s a little bit of mystery that unfolds for sure.”

The show’s success largely depends on the chemistry between Grace van Patten and Jackson White, who play Lucy and Stephen. Meaghan told HollywoodLife that Stephen was by far the most difficult to cast.

Tell Me Lies
The official poster for ‘Tell Me Lies.’ (Hulu)

“When I saw Jackson’s tape, he sent the craziest self-tape that I’ve ever seen. It was so bizarre. Only someone confident enough to play Stephen would make this tape because he did everything you’re not supposed to do on a tape, and it was amazing,” the EP admitted. “But we had to bring him in. It was about a six-month process. I feel like I’ve seen every guy between the age of 20 and 35 in this industry, but I always felt like it was Jackson. It’s just such a hard character. He has to toe the line between good and bad. He has to be the love interest but also at some times the antagonist. It was a tough balance, but I think Jackson is so, so good.”

The show will also venture outside of the book for storyline purposes. “I think we already do in the first season a bit just because you have to extend things to make it work on TV,” Meaghan pointed out. The first 3 episodes of Tell Me Lies will premiere September 7 on Hulu. New episodes of the 10-episode series will drop weekly on Wednesdays.

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