There are few feelings as universal as heartbreak. We’ve all been there, whether it’s unrequited love or the unraveling of a relationship that turned toxic. It’s gut-wrenching, and it changes you.
Hulu’s highly addictive drama Tell Me Lies centers on this type of love gone bad. Based on Carola Lovering’s 2018 bestselling novel of the same name, the ten-episode series was adapted for television by Meaghan Oppenheimer, who also serves as executive producer and showrunner. She worked alongside Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, who executive produce under their Belletrist Productions banner with Matt Matruski.
The story follows Lucy Albright (Grace Van Patten) and Stephen DeMarco (Jackson White) and their tumultuous and intoxicating relationship as it unfolds over eight years. It’s a twisted, sexy, gripping love story that’s getting a lot of buzz.
Oppenheimer opened up in a recent interview about toxic relationships and how they can serve a purpose if you learn from the experience and heal unhealthy behaviors. Since the show’s September 7 premiere, Oppenheimer has received numerous messages on social media from viewers who can relate to the characters and what they’re going through. “I have gotten comments at every point since we aired the first episode, and they keep coming. I get the, ‘Oh my God! I had a Stephen!’ or ‘This reminds me of this or that experience in my life!’ Many fans also say they didn’t realize that so many people went through the same experiences they have.”
Oppenheimer described Lovering’s novel as painful and honest. “It showed this female character behaving in ways we don’t often see. Lucy is doing things that are quite embarrassing. She’s undermining her happiness and allowing herself to be belittled.”
Oppenheimer concedes that she can relate. “Dating is hard; it’s hell. I went through hell. I have been a Lucy in the past. Heartbreak is timeless and universal.” She then opened up about her first relationship. “There was dark energy around this relationship that changed me for several years, but I didn’t realize it. I thought it was normal behavior from a man, and it took me so long to learn that it was ridiculous to accept that kind of behavior. I wish young people were taught more about healthy relationships. There should be a class that teaches the things not to do to each other.”
Oppenheimer warned of the dangers of revolving your entire life around another person. “It’s so sad how often people derail their lives for a relationship. It’s so important to have healthy boundaries. If you feel you cannot breathe without this person, that’s not healthy. People need to have their own lives and interests.”
Heartbreak is unavoidable, but for women, in particular, it can be devastating. “Women are set up to believe that being wanted in romantic relationships is tied to our worth. It was important to show young love because we tend to downplay the importance of relationships at that age. In reality, those relationships are as emotionally significant as any relationships we have. They teach us how to love and how to be loved.”
She also addressed the ambiguity and often blurred lines singletons face. “In dating, it’s almost a given that when you’re seeing someone, they’re sleeping with multiple people until there’s a point you say you’re not. It sets you up to fail. Why do we feel we have to put up with this? Many people feel cornered in this dynamic, and it’s so lonely.”
She also admits she wasn’t perfect in her young dating life. “There are men out there that could say I hurt their feelings. I always had someone I could call. I learned that it was normal. I also had some great relationships, but it wasn’t until I met my husband that it all clicked. It was just very clear. I called my mom and asked her, ‘Why is he being so nice to me? He’s calling me every day and wants to see me the next day. There’s no drama!’” Her mom told her that this was normal, healthy behavior. She’s now happily married to this drama-free man.
Oppenheimer opens the series in the present day as Lucy and Stephen lock eyes for the first time in years. Immediately, the story flashes back to how they first crossed paths as Lucy starts her first year at Baird College. During Welcome Week, she meets Stephen, and an undeniable spark is ignited.
“There are Easter eggs hidden in that first reunion scene that won’t be apparent until the finale,” Oppenheimer hinted. It’s safe to assume that fans can expect a cliffhanger (or several) which is why this dark, sexy coming-of-age story received a straight-to-series order.
When Lucy and Stephen first meet, they’re at that formative age when seemingly mundane choices lead the way to irrevocable consequences. Their pairing is like a bulldozer that flattens anything and anyone who doesn’t get out of their way. Their chemistry is immediate, but the crazy sex quickly devolves into an addictive entanglement that spirals into chaos.
When asked if Stephen loves Lucy, Oppenheimer pauses before answering. “I don’t feel Stephen loves Lucy in the first half of the season, but I do think he comes to love her later on. He’s not able to love selflessly. Love is currency for him. I’m not sure he’s able to love in an entirely selfless way.”
The viewer witnesses Lucy change over the first season. “We see her turn into this person who hurts others,” Oppenheimer explains. “They become this little island of toxicity. It’s as if they make a pact that they are in this together, and it’s dark.”