Not your typical love story. Tell Me Lies is full of romance and sex — but the relationship at the center of the upcoming Hulu TV show isn’t one viewers should root for.
Tell Me Lies, which is based on Carola Lovering‘s novel of the same title, follows college students Lucy Albright and Stephen DeMarco who “quickly fall into an addictive entanglement” that “will permanently alter their lives and the lives of everyone” around them, according to Hulu’s synopsis.
Showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer teased that the connection between the pair isn’t meant to be aspirational. “Tell Me Lies is an exploration of toxic relationships and the ways we undermine ourselves when we fall for the wrong people,” she told Cosmopolitan in August 2022. “When Lucy meets Stephen she sees all the red flags, but she ignores them—and it sets her down a path that completely derails her.”
Oppenheimer, who is an executive producer on the project alongside Emma Roberts, hoped that viewers would be able to relate to the emotional storytelling.
“I think if we’re honest, most of us have had a relationship that damages us, yet for whatever reason we can’t walk away from it,” she continued. “When you’re in a dynamic that’s mentally or emotionally abusive, you begin to accept treatment that you never thought you would accept. To me, it’s such a universally relatable subject, but we don’t talk openly about it because it feels shameful.”
The screenwriter concluded: “That was what I loved about Carola Lovering’s book — she captured that feeling of isolation in such a visceral way. So I’m hoping the show will open up conversations where people can talk about these things without feeling judged. Because most of us have had a Stephen in our lives at some point.”
Lovering also weighed in on why she wanted to explore the topic in the 2018 novel.
“I was inspired to write Tell Me Lies in the wake of a toxic relationship I experienced in college. I had friends who’d also been in similar toxic situations with men, and I sensed it was something many women had been through but that wasn’t prevalently talked about,” she said during an interview with Morgan Marie Beauty in March 2022. “I just felt this incredibly powerful pull to tell a fictional story resembling the dynamic that I’d experienced. I wanted the novel to be relatable for anyone who’d endured a similar blend of pain and stress and shame.”
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