Michelle Carter and the suicide of Conrad Roy are at the center of 'The Girl From Plainville.'
Michelle Carter, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2017 texting suicide case surrounding the death of Conrad Roy, is at the center of Hulu’s latest true-crime series, The Girl From Plainville, from creators Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus. The series recounts the events leading up to and following Roy’s 2014 suicide, which was spurred on by text messages sent from Carter, who appeared to encourage him to go through with killing himself. With Carter the subject of renewed attention, here’s what to know about her case and the scripted series starring Elle Fanning.
The 2017 Texting Suicide Case
While the trial took place in 2017, the origins of the case dates back to 2012, when Carter and Roy first met in Florida during vacation. The following two years, the two engaged in a relationship that largely played out over text message while only ever meeting in person again a handful of times in Massachusetts where they lived roughly 35 miles apart.
Over thousands of text messages, Roy, who suffered from depression and social anxiety, told Carter he was going to attempt suicide. In the times leading up to the 2014 attempt, Carter had discouraged him from going through with it and to seek out professional help. However, by the final time, Carter’s attitude changed and sent Roy instructions on how to kill himself. Her last text to him, after he tried to stop himself was “to get back in” the truck where he was inhaling carbon monoxide.
At the same time Roy was preparing to kill himself, Carter started telling friends that he had gone missing. And soon after it was revealed Roy was dead, she became the center of attention and sympathy among friends at her own high school and even some of Roy’s friends. As her popularity grew, the police began investigating Roy’s suicide and eventually discovered the many messages between the two, leading a prosecutor to bring charges of involuntary manslaughter against the then 17 year old.
As the trial played out over several months in 2017, the case garnered national media attention, with journalist Jesse Baron eventually writing the investigative feature, “The Girl From Plainville,” for Esquire. The in-depth account of the tragedy, which was followed by Erin Lee Carr’s two-part HBO documentary, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, included a number of revelations about the case, including the fact that Carter had a fascination with Glee and The Fault in Our Stars.
“Not only was she quoting language from Glee the TV show, which a lot of young girls do, but she was quoting the real-life actress,” Carr told ET. “And to me, that was really important to put in because it really made you question, like, ‘What is Michelle Carter’s concept of reality?’ And, ‘Is she living in this reality?’”
As ET previously reported, Carter saw The Fault in Our Stars, about two teenage lovers dying of cancer, five days before Conrad’s death. After, she texted Conrad, “I literally can’t stop crying lol what’s up with you?” According to Barron, “It doesn’t seem implausible to me that there were other stories in Michelle’s mind that reminded her of what was happening at that moment. And I think the question is whether or not she was writing some story in her head or writing some movie that for some reason had to end with him dying.”
The 2022 Hulu Scripted Series
Based on Barron’s Esquire article, the eight-part series led by Hannah (The Dropout) and Macmanus (Dr. Death) spans seven years as it explores the relationship between Carter and Roy (portrayed here by Colton Ryan), the events leading up to his suicide and the fallout that followed, concluding with Carter’s trial.
In addition to Fanning as Carter and Ryan as Roy, the cast includes Chloë Sevigny as Conrad’s mother, Lynn Roy; Norbert Leo Butz as his father, Conrad “Co” Roy II; Cara Buono as Michelle’s mother, Gail Carter; Kai Lennox as her father, David Carter; and Aya Cash as prosecutor Katie Rayburn.
In order to capture this story for the screen, the creative team conducted thousands of hours of research, which included going through all of Carter and Roy’s text messages. “It was like reading a drama. It was almost like reading a play. And at times, it was like reading a diary. Both of them treated [the messages] a bit like a journal because their relationship was so disconnected,” Macmanus says.
So, instead of seeing the texts written on screen, they are acted out in the series by Fanning and Ryan, as the two capture the vulnerability of the star-crossed lovers, who bared all in these messages to each other. “We really felt like people didn’t know what their text conversations were, what their relationships were with other friends or with family. And so, it became much more about relationships than I did about what happened,” Hannah says of the storytelling presented here.
It also gave the series a way into Roy’s life, whose story was largely untold in the press leading up to the series. “The more I got to know him intimately, which I don’t think a lot of us have had the privilege to do just yet, I just felt more a sense of purpose that not only I had to be there, I wanted to, if I could, in any small way, help in the process of reminding someone that people are more than just their ending,” says Ryan, who captures the emotional highs and lows of his real-life counterpoint’s life during that time.
The series also goes as far as to show both sides of the trial, which is a pivotal part of the story. “Fortunately, we had all the courtroom video to draw upon and had all the transcripts to cull through,” Hannah says of recreating the events inside the courtroom. They did their “due diligence and tell both sides of the case and make sure that both the prosecution and defense are represented, but also really show the drama which is, ‘How did this girl get convicted of something that was so [unprecedented] and was so controversial?’”
“The show is really an unbiased view of this case,” Fanning says. “Ultimately, it had the most tragic ending that anything could have, but our show really explores the grieving process, it explores loneliness, it explores mental health and young people. I think that it pushed forward conversations of destigmatizing mental health and, in a way, it serves as a cautionary tale as well of, ‘If you see someone showing signs of this, to get help and to not be afraid to talk about those feelings that a lot of us share and have.’”
She adds, “It shows a lot of different sides to it and the nuance of this case, which I think the media, at the time, didn’t necessarily show, especially regarding Michelle.”
In the end, Macmanus thinks this version of events may even change people’s minds about what they thought they knew or believed to be true about the case. “I think that people will come in with the same preconceived notions that we came in and come out the other end maybe not being fully sold,” he says. “Maybe they’ll still think she got what she deserved or some version there in, but at least they could see a little bit more of the humanity in this character. At least see a little bit more of themselves in this character and as such, come out the other end being a little bit more empathetic, not just to Michelle Carter, but to people around them.”
Where Michelle Carter Is Now
In 2017, Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after five months of testimony. The judge in the case sentenced her to two and a half years in prison, with 15 months to be served in the Bristol County House of Corrections while the remaining months were suspended, and five years of probation.
After her sentencing, Carter’s lawyers requested that she not be forced to serve out her sentence until all legal appeals were exhausted by the court system. In 2019, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the original verdict, she began serving out her 15 months behind bars. In September of that year, she requested a parole hearing but was denied early release.
In January 2020, Carter was released from prison early due to good conduct. In total, she served 11 months and 12 days of her 15-month sentence. Now free, she has since remained out of the public eye but remains on probation, which reportedly ends in August, 2022.
While the series’ creators spoke with Roy’s mother, Lynn, on several occasions, the Carter family “avoided the media, and understandably so,” Macmanus says. “So, we did not have the opportunity to be able to discuss this with them.”
Meanwhile, the conditions of her parole reportedly prevent her, her family or her representatives from profiting off any publicity surrounding the case, including participating in book, movie or TV deals as well as paid interviews.
As of now, Carter has yet to respond to the series.
The first three episodes of The Girl From Plainville premiere March 29 on Hulu, with new episodes debuting weekly until May 3.
Reporting by Lauren Zima and Stacy Lambe