'The Girl From Plainville': Elle Fanning and Colton Ryan on the Finale's Emotional Ending (Exclusive)
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After eight episodes, The Girl From Plainville has come to an unexpected and emotional end. Hulu’s captivating true-crime series about the texting suicide case saw Michelle Carter’s (Elle Fanning) fate sealed after she’s convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of boyfriend Conrad Roy (Colton Ryan) while the finale also revisited his last day alive.
While speaking to ET, Fanning, Ryan as well as creators and showrunners Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus broke down “Blank Spaces” and why they wanted to end Carter and Roy’s complicated relationship with that powerful fantasy sequence.
As Carter faced her final days in court, the series jumped back in time to Roy’s final day alive before dying by suicide. For everyone else, it’s just a normal day, but for Roy, it’s an opportunity to indulge in the things he loves, from playing video games to spending time with his mom on the beach, where he tries guacamole for the first time.
“We knew at the point in time that we wrote the pilot we were pretty certain that the finale was going to have Conrad’s last day,” Macmanus says. “We had spent so much time in seven episodes talking about his last day. I mean, even in the pilot episode, the moment with Lynn and Co on the beach, they talked about it. And then throughout the course of the series as a whole, we keep talking about it.”
“So, we knew we wanted to see it,” he says, adding that the showrunners “hope that we’ve done an honor to him in some way.”
For the actor, his main focus in portraying Roy was finally telling his story in a way that went beyond the headlines or mere mention of him as Carter’s boyfriend. “I wanted to, if I could in any small way, help in the process of reminding someone, anyone that people are more than just their ending,” Ryan says, happy with the way the series “addressed the elephant in the room” by not over sensationalizing Roy’s suicide.
“I had a really huge sigh of relief because I thought artistically, it was taking a really big swing,” he continues, adding later: “I’m really proud of the episode, especially in this sort of sensory overload of it, seeing the beauty of life.”
In the end, Ryan says, “it’s a very touching and I think very beautiful episode.”
In addition to seeing Roy’s last day, the series also flashes forward to another fantasy after a shattered Carter learns of her guilty verdict. This time, she imagines what her life would have been like if Roy hadn’t killed himself and she went off to college.
The fantasy starts with Carter returning home for the holidays, where she’s greeted by her family. “You have your whole life ahead of you,” Carter’s mother, Gail (Cara Buono), says as the two bond over what’s next for her. “Sometimes I can’t believe I made it here,” Carter responds.
“When you look at the reality of the tragedy, your mind goes to the fantasy of what could have been or what your hopes and dreams would be for your child,” Buono says of that scene, which is later mirrored by the reality of Carter getting one final haircut before being sentenced to prison.
“One day you wake up and find out your daughter’s complicit in a suicide, and then everything you thought your life was gonna be is now over,” Buono continues. “So there’s the loss, there’s the death, there’s the grieving of that dream for yourself and your family, so your mind will always go to what could have been.”
Later, the fantasy continues as Carter goes to the bar to meet up with her high school friends (who are no-shows) before eventually bumping into Roy, whom she hasn’t seen since the two first met in Florida on vacation.
“We ride bikes, we buy bunny ears, we’re under the pier, then you f**king ghost me,” Carter quips before Roy makes up an excuse about losing her number. The two then start playing their word game as the two reminisce about the past.
The fantasy eventually comes to a dark end as Roy tells Carter she needs to face reality and that she can’t keep escaping to these moments in her head. “You can’t keep hiding here,” he says before leaving the bar for good as an emotional Carter watches on.
The fantasy then turns to reality as Roy is seen getting back into the truck to kill himself. It’s an emotional gut-punch for both Carter and the audience, especially after spending some much time fantasizing about them together throughout the series.
“We knew we had to pay it off at the end,” Macmanus says. “Our goal was to try to get into what her subconscious was feeling. And it was a culmination of that and the text reenactments, which is how we put them together in the same space over the course of their relationship.”
He adds, “We felt like we owed it to the story to try to tie that up.”
“A young boy’s life was lost. She went to jail. Those are the facts. So, there’s nothing more that we can say about that,” Fanning says.
But with the fantasy sequence, which she says “is almost like an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind moment,” they’re able to go explore this alternate reality that she’s been living in. “From the pilot, when she’s singing ‘Make You Feel My Love,’ she’s in her head and she’s dramatizing events,” Fanning says, explaining that Carter is “someone that sometimes needs to be pulled back down and grounded into reality.”
The Girl From Plainville is now streaming on Hulu.
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