Emma Roberts Talks Grace Van Patten and Jackson White’s ‘Chemistry’ in Hulu’s New Toxic Romance (Exclusive)


Adapting Carola Lovering’s bestselling novel Tell Me Lies into a twisted and sexy series for Hulu came down to casting in the end. Executive producers Emma Roberts, Meaghan Oppenheimer and Karah Preiss opened up to PopCulture.com about how Grace Van Patten and Jackson White came to be the perfect Lucy Albright and Jackson White ahead of the new Hulu show’s Sept. 7 premiere, revealing it all came down to “chemistry.”

“For us, it was all about Lucy,” Roberts told PopCulture. “We’re like, ‘There’s no other conversation to be had until we find our Lucy.'” Van Patten’s name was the first one that “kept coming up,” the About Fate actress continued, and it was a “real unanimous yes” to cast the Nine Perfect Strangers star as their leading lady. 

Finding the perfect actor to play the alluring yet toxic Stephen was a harder task. “[Casting Stephen] was obviously more complex because it was like, who are we going to fall in love with, but also believe is not a good guy and all the other things that Stephen is?” Roberts explained. “And of course, ironically, we got the best human, Jackson White. I feel like always the nicest guys play the best bad guys.”

Roberts continued, “He came in, and him and Grace together, we were like, ‘There they are.’ And I feel like the best casting choices in my experience are things that are just felt. You could look on paper all day long who’s right for something, but really when you see it, you know. … Their chemistry, everyone’s chemistry, is just so perfect.”

Executive producer and showrunner Oppenheimer recalled White’s “utterly bizarre” audition self-tape he sent in, which was set to The Cure and shot like a movie. “It was just very weird. It was very bold. It was a very bold choice,” she told PopCulture with a laugh, adding, “I watched it, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy is so confident. …Like who else could play Stephen?'”

Finding the balance of allure and aversion between Stephen and Lucy was key in a show that centers around toxic relationships and the secrets we hold. Preiss reasoned to PopCulture, “It’s a weird thing to say that a show about a very sexy, toxic college romance would say more about the things we keep from each other, but I do think the show does a good job of balancing the emotional weight and also just the binge-ability and addictiveness of a show like this.” Roberts added, “I think that we want people to be entertained obviously, but we also don’t want people to go date Stephen. So that sums it up pretty well.” Tell Me Lies premieres Wednesday, Sept. 7 on Hulu.

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