Nothing will ever be the same on Tell Me Lies. In a major change from Carola Lovering’s novel, Lucy confronted Stephen about his relationship with Macy and what happened the night she died. In a rare moment where Stephen didn’t have the upper hand, Stephen was forced to tell the truth — or at least most of it.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY to Tell Me Lies executive producer Meaghan Oppenheimer about how the Macy confrontation levels the power dynamic between Lucy and Stephen. As Lucy and Stephen become more attached to each other, Meaghan teased that Lucy will start to “behave in ways that are similar to Stephen.” She also weighed in about that last scene of episode 6 and how Stephen’s friendship with Wrigley is “poisoned.” Read our Q&A below:
We have to talk about that Lucy and Stephen confrontation about Macy. That scene was not in the book. Talk me through why you made that change and had Stephen actually reveal the truth about Macy to Lucy.
Meaghan Oppenheimer: I’ve made so many changes from the book, and from the beginning, Hulu was very clear that this was a show that was going to be inspired by the book as opposed to a direct adaptation. The book is so internal, and we knew that we needed to put more plot in it and things to externalize their feelings and put more action behind it. It felt like in order to have the Macy storyline even be any part of the show, it needed to have some sort of payoff because in the book she doesn’t even really confront it. She just thinks that she knows what happened, and then she leaves it. I think that in the show when you’re seeing Lucy go through everything she’s going through, and you’re seeing her accept all of this abuse and become submissive, it’s very different than reading about it. I think seeing it we knew the audience was going to want her to show some teeth of her own really, and we knew we wanted it to be more of a back and forth. We said, what would give her some power over Stephen? And knowing this secret is a huge piece of currency for her, and it sort of changes everything. We thought that was really fun to play with. And also, it’s more dramatic to have the confrontation. So there was that, but I always knew that I wanted her to confront him about it.
In that moment, I do feel like he’s genuinely scared because someone has called him out for the first time in a long time. Is that fear from Stephen genuine, or was this partly his way of trying to get Lucy back in his orbit and make her sympathize with him? He does shift the blame onto Drew even though he still left Macy there.
Meaghan Oppenheimer: Totally. I think that part of it I would like to leave a bit of a mystery for the audience to decide if he’s being genuine, but I do think when he throws Drew under the bus, it is agenda driven. I think it’s also a bit of a f**k you to Wrigley because what I can say about episode 6, and you kind of get it in that sauna scene, it’s the beginning of a very different dynamic between Stephen and Wrigley. It is the beginning of him really setting his sights on Wrigley in a very different way, and that little moment he doesn’t have to tell. She’s already forgiven him in that moment, and then he adds the Drew thing, and it was unnecessary. I think the audience will see how that becomes a bit of something more.
Stephen does end up breaking things off with Diana in the same episode amid the whole Wrigley saga. Do you think part of him broke it off and ultimately chose to focus on Lucy given what she knows? She gave him an ultimatum and has that peace of currency over him, so he can’t really leave her high and dry because she knows this really big secret about him.
Meaghan Oppenheimer: I think it was two things together. I think that he was genuinely very, very hurt and feels extremely betrayed by Diana. He’s someone that is so possessive of his things, and he sees relationships and sees women as his things to a certain degree. I think he’s appalled that she’s been with his friend, even though it’s completely hypocritical because he’s been with everyone. I think that is a big part of it. But then I think Lucy gives him this ultimatum and she has this secret. I think he knows he has no room to mess around. He’s thinking, Lucy could really hurt me if she wanted to. I need to focus fully on her. There is also a part of him because Stephen views love as a currency, it’s always about what is this person doing for him. How do they make me feel? It’s never really selfless. I think in that moment in the greenhouse, he does genuinely feel her selflessness towards him. He feels like, I revealed something really terrible, and she is still wanting to take care of me. I think that, however Stephen is able to love, I think that is something that feels like love to him.
To bounce back to the Stephen and Wrigley situation, there is this truly fraught tension between Pippa and Stephen. I feel like they’re about to claw each other’s eyes out all the time. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before they explore. Maybe Stephen is projecting more of his anger onto Pippa about Wrigley. I don’t know.
Meaghan Oppenheimer: I think it’s partially that he views her as connected to Wrigley, and now everything connected to Wrigley is slightly poisoned for him. But I think he knows that she is on to him. I think what narcissists do in relationships is isolate and conquer. He knows that Pippa is someone that is a hindrance to his relationship with Lucy. He’s going to do whatever he can to put a wedge between Lucy and Pippa because that’s what narcissists do. They separate you from your friends or anyone that might criticize them. They find a way to stay away from those people.
But that scene between him and Pippa, it was such a crazy night because we were in this location, and we’d had this huge party scene. We filmed that whole scene with all the extras and everyone first and then that was the last bit. Most people had gone home except for Sonia [Mena] and Jackson [White] and then we had gunfire. We hear these popping noises, and I was like, “What is that?” And then our first AD was like, “Everyone get on the ground.” And I was like, “Are you kidding me?” We all had to stop and get on the ground inside, so that was very scary. All the Georgia crew were like, “It’s fine. This happens.” All of the LA people were like pissing our pants. Literally, some of us were texting our family. I was texting my husband. If you think about it, this is what you read about. It ended up being an AR-15 like two blocks away or something. Some kind of a fight broke out, and it sounded like it was right outside the house we were at. We didn’t know what it was. We didn’t know if someone was going to come in, so it was really scary. And then after that, we filmed it. Sonia’s so amazing this whole season, but I thought Sonia was so amazing in that scene because I think when you’re so emotionally exhausted from something, there’s no room to have anything except for what is real happening in your performance. I felt like both of them were so grounded and so real in that scene. But that was crazy. It was a weird night.
Chemistry is a spectrum. They have insane chemistry, even though it’s rooted in hatred. There’s that last scene of the episode with Lucy and Stephen at the party. I feel like there’s so much unsaid between them, and then it’s almost like they’ve gotten what they wanted, but it’s still not enough. What does that moment mean for them?
Meaghan Oppenheimer: I had the idea for that moment pretty early on in the writers’ room because I knew there was going to be a point in the season where they become an island of toxicity together. The first half of the season, they’re together but they’re apart. Suddenly at the end of episode 6, she knows this thing about him, and they are in on the secret together. I had this image of them wearing trash bags because the imagery of that is this trash couple. She really hurt Evan. He has just been foul to Pippa. Stephen’s already been really pretty nasty to Wrigley and has put the line in the sand where you know he’s going to go on this mission against Wrigley, and then they find each other in that party after all this mayhem that they’ve started to create. They just have each other, and it’s that thing when you’ve kind of burned so many other bridges, but you just have that one person that you’re with. Whether or not that person is good for you, you’re going to stick to them no matter what because you made your bed. That to us in the writers’ room was always just symbolic of them becoming this little island of toxicity. All the other costumes are sparkly and lively and creative. They’re just in trash bags. I was like, “I don’t want anyone in anything that’s dark or boring.” I wanted all these sparkliest and prettiest costumes to surround them because I wanted them to really stand out as this dark hole.
The Macy revelation definitely shifts Stephen and Lucy’s relationship in a big way. You mentioned before that Lucy has this big piece of currency on Stephen. How will their relationship be altered now that there is more of a level playing field between them?
Meaghan Oppenheimer: It definitely is it at points, absolutely. Even in some of the future episodes, there’s one episode in particular where Lucy is really on top, for lack of a better word. She’s really driving things and she’s really sort of oppressing Stephen. It’s a shift and he suddenly realizes that. It’s a different position for him. With Lucy, the thing we wanted to kind of hone in on is that when you’re in this kind of relationship, even if you’re not a bad person, it can bring out the worst in you. Lucy is not a bad person, but she’s drinking the poison, and it’s starting to come out. She’s starting to behave in ways that are similar to Stephen. She’s starting to do manipulative things, to think in selfish ways. You get numb because the behavior you’re witnessing is so sh*tty that you forget how you treat people. She goes quite dark. Lucy has some dark episodes that come up. After [episode] 6, things go pretty crazy.
We’ve had a sprinkling of what’s to come between Evan and Bree. I feel like that relationship is so opposite from Stephen and Lucy and even Wrigley and Pippa. What can you say about how that relationship evolves? I know we know how it ends, but what does it look like in college?
Meaghan Oppenheimer: I think it’s absolutely a relationship you want to root for. They are the two characters who sort of see the behavior of their friends, and they’re by far the most emotionally mature characters. But there will be speed bumps for them.
What I find so fascinating is that in so many shows there are problematic relationships that people end up rooting for. With Lucy and Stephen, I do not root for them. You know that they are bad for each other, and they’re kind of deconstructing what we think about relationships on TV. It’s not like we have to root for them just because they’re a couple on the show. I find it really fascinating to break that down and really see a toxic relationship for all that it’s worth. Like, with Chuck and Blair, let’s face it. They were really toxic and bad for each other, but fans rooted for them.
Meaghan Oppenheimer: Because they always had some sort of redeeming thing in their relationship. Not every relationship is a good relationship, you know what I mean? There are many relationships you shouldn’t root for at all. It was interesting because it was definitely the scariest thing about this show. We knew we were telling a story that is about a relationship that people are going to find problematic, and we’re not trying to find redemption for the relationship. Maybe we’re trying to find some redemption for the characters, but at no point are we trying to say this relationship should be. I think the reaction has been so great because people have had amazing relationships, but they’ve also had deeply traumatic relationships. I’m getting so many messages from people that are like, I’ve had a relationship like that or my friend did. We don’t only need to see a good relationship. We learn so much from the bad stuff as well.