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It’s the night before my visit to the set of Tell Me Lies, and I can’t sleep. I toss and turn in the crisp sheets of my Atlanta hotel room bed, too overwhelmed by the reality of what I’m doing there to find a way to rest my mind. An extremely personal novel I spent years writing in private—the idea of publication initially a far-off pipe dream—is in the process of being adapted for television, a ten-episode drama series that will air on Hulu later in 2022. It’s the most surreal experience of my life.
Sometime in the early morning hours, I manage to doze off. I’m drowsy when the sound of my alarm wakes me after too little sleep, but instantly fueled when I remember what I’m doing in Atlanta. I dress and grab a coffee downstairs, then venture outside where my friend Karah Preiss, one of the show’s executive producers, is waiting in a van to take me to the set.
It’s humid when we climb out of the car half an hour later—the May heat edging towards ninety degrees—and the first person I see is Stephen DeMarco. Or, more accurately, Jackson White, the actor so perfectly cast as Stephen. He’s sitting on the steps of his trailer, the door of which is emblazoned with the Tell Me Lies logo—an image displaying the title in the same font used on the book’s cover. As we stride towards Jackson, I feel as though I’m walking into a dream. Or perhaps into the well of my own imagination.
Jackson stands and grins, extends a hand and greets me kindly. He’s read Tell Me Lies, of course, and there’s a shared knowledge between us, like we’re in on a secret. After all, he’s my character come to life. It’s a similar vibe when I meet Grace Van Patten—the actress playing Lucy Albright, the female lead—later that day.
“I have questions for you,” she says, a self-possessed smile spreading across her face. She’s wearing a robe; she’s just finished filming a scene. I can tell immediately that Grace is down-to-earth, relaxed, and yet—she’s a total movie star. Watching her act that afternoon, I feel certain she’ll win an Oscar someday. We’re insanely lucky she’s agreed to play Lucy.
In addition to Karah, there are many brilliant minds behind my book’s adaptation. Emma Roberts and Matt Matruski are also executive producing via Belletrist, as well as Laura Lewis and Stephanie Noonan of Rebelle Media and Shannon Gibson and Sam Schlaifer of Vice’s Refinery29. Meaghan Oppenheimer is the genius showrunner, who’s adapted the series and also serves as an EP.
To say I’m excited to see Tell Me Lies come to life on Hulu later this year is a major understatement, but it isn’t the only book-to-screen adaption I’m looking forward to watching. Here are a few novels I adore that are either in production or have recently premiered on screen:
Luckiest Girl Alive
Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive has remained one of my favorite books since it published in 2015—it inspired me while I was writing Tell Me Lies, and I still recommend it all the time. Now, the bestselling suspense novel is soon to be a film starring Mila Kunis that will air on Netflix in 2022. It’s the unputdownable story of Ani FaNelli, a young, ambitious New Yorker who seems to have it all: a coveted magazine job, enviable clothes, and a handsome fiancé who adores her. But much of Ani’s life is a façade—an attempt to reinvent herself in the wake of an unsettling trauma from her teenage years—and in the midst of trying to conceal her dark past, a buried secret suddenly resurfaces and threatens to unravel her perfect life. Knoll wrote the screenplay and is also an executive producer.
The Last Thing He Told Me
If you haven’t yet read Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, you may be one of the only ones. The Reese’s Book Club pick made a huge splash when it published in May of last year, and has since spent 52 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. The mystery-thriller will soon become a limited series on Apple TV+ starring Jennifer Garner and produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. Dave created the show alongside her husband, screenwriter Josh Singer. Like the book, the series will follow Hannah Hall, a woman who develops an unexpected bond with her teenage stepdaughter while she searches for the truth behind her husband’s sudden and mysterious disappearance.
Daisy Jones And The Six
As a massive fan of content about the music industry and band drama, I truly cannot wait for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six to hit the small screen. The 2019 page-turner tells the story of a fictional 70’s rock band—Reid has confessed to being inspired by Fleetwood Mac—and is structured as a music documentary transcript. This novel was also a Reese’s Book Club pick; the limited series is produced by Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and will air on Amazon Prime.
Conversations With Friends
I’ve been an avid Sally Rooney reader since devouring her debut in 2017, so I jumped at the chance to watch Conversations with Friends on Hulu when it premiered in May. The 12-part series—created by the same team that adapted Rooney’s Normal People—is moody and character-driven and beautifully shot, with no shortage of steamy scenes and awkward moments. Like the novel, the show follows two Irish millennials, Frances and Bobbi, who fall into a complex romantic entanglement with a slightly older married couple.
Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale blew me away when I read it several years ago, tears streaming down my face as I turned the final page. Like millions of others who loved the novel, I’m eagerly awaiting the film, in which real-life sisters Elle and Dakota Fanning will play on-screen sisters Isabelle and Vianne. Like the book, the movie will follow the French sisters during World War II as they struggle to survive Germany’s occupation of France and resist the Nazi regime. The film rights were first optioned by TriStar Pictures in 2015, but production was delayed several times and the release date is now slated for early 2023.
Images: Javier Díez / Stocksy.com; Amazon (5)
With my semester on Zoom University coming to a rapid end, this past weekend was the weekend before Finals Week. So, naturally, what did I do? I decided to give Hulu’s Normal People a shot to see what the fuss was all about. Just to give you an idea of how thirsty this show is making everyone, there is an Instagram account with over 27k followers dedicated to the NECKLACE that Connell, the male lead, wears during the show. The necklace! And it’s not even a particularly interesting necklace, it’s just a simple chain. So safe to say, this show has been making people lose their minds, and it feels like everyone is talking about it, and I’m here to tell you why.
The series, based on the Sally Rooney book of the same name, is set in Ireland and follows the on-again, off-again relationship of Connell and Marianne. First of all, the entire series only has 12 episodes that run 30 minutes each, so it’s a pretty low-commitment binge. You could probably finish the whole thing in one day (not that I did that or anything…), so it’s not as exhausting of a task as, say, trying to catch up on Game of Thrones.
While the premise of Normal People is not revolutionary in any way, as the title would indicate, I think it captures the essence of modern love in a pretty wholesome manner. Relationships are often messy, especially when we’re young, and Normal People portrays that messiness realistically. Marianne is a headstrong and talented woman from a well-to-do background who has gone through a lot sh*t. Connell, who comes from a much humbler family background, is similarly talented, but uniquely damaged in his own right. (I know, it’s a tale as old as time.) Together they are sort of perfect, but never quite on the same page at the same time. Anyone who’s had a years-long situationship with some guy because the “timing was never right” can relate (even though, in your case, he probably was just never that into you and you were his safety net—sorry).
Finished #NormalPeople this morning and it’s fair to say pic.twitter.com/rQc0zYyRDc
— Michael (@FindTheSausage) May 4, 2020
The fragility of Connell and Marianne’s dynamic is what makes this show so interesting. And while the intimate scenes in the series faced some controversy in Ireland, I’m sure Americans will have no problem. You know, since quarantine horniness is all we can think of. More than anything else, this is a coming-of-age story that follows two people who always find their way back to each other. We see them experiencing intimacy with other people, but somehow it never feels right. Normal People feels like what we all thought our high school relationships would be—two star-crossed lovers who find their way back in each other’s arms no matter what happens because it’s meant to be—when in reality, the second you both set off to college you went your separate ways and barely spoke again.
I’ve also accumulated a decent amount of Irish slang (they call their mothers “Mam”!?) after watching this show, so if any Irish cuties reading this want to hit me up, that would be swell. Speaking of Irish cuties, Paul Mescal is a site for my sad quarantined eyes. Aside from obviously being hot, there is an innocence in Connell’s character that Paul Mescal pulls off spectacularly.
Fans of the book, you’d be glad to hear that Sally Rooney is not only a producer of the show but also co-writes many of the episodes. And to anyone who’s read the book and watched the show, this is overwhelmingly clear. The best dialogue from the book makes it to the screen, but we have the added treat of Lenny Abrahamson’s directorial vision.
You might start Normal People for the pretty faces and the steamy scenes, but you will definitely stay for the storytelling that keeps you pulled in until the very end. Overall, I would recommend this show to anyone who wants to get in their feels. Even if you cannot #relate to the toxicity of the relationship being portrayed on screen (congrats on being better than me), you will still find yourself rooting for Connell and Marianne to get together. I wasn’t raised to give out spoilers like that, but if you want to talk about that ending sequence, pls hit me up.
Images: Giphy; Hulu; FindTheSausage / Twitter