The Girl From Plainville First Look: Elle Fanning Transforms Into Michelle Carter

The use of facial prosthetics in film and TV, much like the practice of having actors wear fat suits, has come under growing scrutiny in recent years, and for valid reason. Obviously, it's one thing to use prosthetics to turn someone into a fantastical creature (the kind that Doug Jones has spent most of his career playing), but it's another thing when you use them to make an actor look more like an ordinary real-life person. The results are often distracting at best, as was recently the case with Jared Leto's makeup-heavy turn as Paolo Gucci in the film "House of Gucci." Even worse, they can make what might've otherwise come across as a sensitive portrayal of a true story feel like a calculated attempt at winning some awards or garnering critical accolades.

Why bring this up? Well, the first images have dropped of Elle Fanning in "The Girl From Plainville," a Hulu limited series where the acclaimed star of films like "Somewhere" and Hulu's "The Great" plays Michelle Carter, the individual at the heart of the notorious "texting-suicide case" involving the death of her boyfriend, Conrad Henri Roy III. However, to make her look more like the real Carter, Fanning has been fitted with a wig, some makeup, and a forehead prosthetic that is, quite frankly, almost comically unconvincing.

First Look at Elle Fanning in The Girl From Plainville

"The Girl From Plainville" is based on Jesse Barron's Esquire article of the same name and was written, executive produced, and show-run by Liz Hannah ("The Post") and Patrick Macmanus ("Dr. Death"). During their interview with EW, Macmanus emphasized that Fanning "did not want [the show] to feel sensational" and wanted to be as "honest" as possible when it came to its portrayal of the families involved, as well as "what people are going through in general on a day-to-day basis when it comes to their mental health." Hannah added that it was equally important for all involved that Fanning's appearance not be "distracting," adding:

"The physicality that Elle found in playing Michelle — she studied all of the courtroom tapes, she studied the documentary [HBO's 'I Love You, Now Die'] — she really threw herself into making sure that the movement and the way she spoke was authentic, as well. So I think that in tandem with the change physically really brings it all together."

Hannah and Macmanus also consulted with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Eating Disorder Association to aid with the show's portrayal of mental illness. As Hannah noted:

"We wanted to show that dealing with mental health, being depressed, having issues with anxiety — it doesn't look the same for everybody, and it doesn't look the same every day for everybody. There's a lot of variables and variations in that for our characters, and not just Michelle and Conrad, but for the parents, for their friends, that felt like we could tell a story that was a little more well-rounded of a conversation of mental health as a whole, rather than saying that everybody deals with this specific issue or everybody presents this specific issue this way."

Will Fanning's forehead prosthetic prove to be an ill-advised misstep in an otherwise serious look at mental health and "how we treat young women in the media" (as Hannah also touched upon)? I certainly hope so. Fanning is a compelling artist, and it seems that she, Hannah, and Macmanus have all made a real effort to treat the series' subject matter with the respect and gravity that it deserves. Even so, the larger discussion about how we should or shouldn't use prosthetics to change actors' physical appearances is one that very much needs to continue.

Joining Fanning in "The Girl From Plainville" cast are Chloë Sevigny (as Lynn Roy), Colton Ryan (Conrad "Coco" Roy III), Cara Buono (Gail Carter), Kai Lennox (David Carter), and Norbert Leo Butz (Conrad "Co" Roy II). The show debuts this spring on Hulu.