The Biggest Differences Between Hulu’s Tell Me Lies and the Book

For anyone who’s ever had a toxic, just-can’t-quit-you sort of relationship with a spouse, the brand new Hulu show Tell Me Lies might feel somewhat too familiar. Executive produced by Emma Roberts and based on the addictive novel by Carola Lovering, the series introduces us to Lucy Albright (Grace Van Patten), a twentysomething woman on her approach to her college friend’s engagement party—only to seek out her biggest-deal ex, Stephen DeMarco (Jackson James White), also in attendance. The series then flashes back to Lucy’s first yr of school and proceeds to indicate us exactly how Lucy and Stephen got involved—and what their relationship ultimately cost, not only the 2 of them but everyone else of their orbit.

In the way in which that the storyline closely tracks Lucy’s time at Baird College and the evolution of her relationship with Stephen, the Hulu series stays fundamentally faithful to its source material. From the primary scene, though, it’s clear that showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer isn’t afraid to make a number of departures from Lovering’s book. So what tweaks were made in adapting Tell Me Lies for the small screen? Glad you asked.

Tell Me Lies

Spoilers for each the book and series of Tell Me Lies follow.

Setting: Within the book, Lucy and Stephen have relocated from the neighboring Long Island towns of Cold Harbor and Bayville (respectively) to attend Baird College in sunny Southern California. Within the series, Lucy and Stephen are each still Long Islanders—but Baird College has been moved to Recent York State. It’s hard to inform exactly where the faculty is positioned, but given the characters’ semi-regular jaunts into NYC, we’d need to guess it’s not more than an hour or two north of the town.

Lucy’s relationship with food: We learn from almost the primary page of the book that Lucy lives with a reasonably severe eating disorder, and that she’s been battling it for quite a while. Throughout the novel, Lovering pulls no punches in describing the extent to which Lucy’s preoccupation with food shapes her life. Within the series, nevertheless, little to no mention is fabricated from Lucy’s relationship to food. In reality, this appears to be a whole nonissue for her.

Family matters: Within the novel, Lucy comes from a well-off family in Cold Harbor, Long Island, and grew up surrounded by preppy teenage tennis players with their sights set on Ivy League colleges. Her dad is well-to-do, whereas her mother, CJ, comes from a less illustrious background and may be very invested in her identity as a wealthy man’s wife. Within the series, Lucy hails from the identical affluent community, but her circle of relatives’s circumstances are somewhat less grand. CJ is a working mom, and Lucy—who, within the book, took tennis lessons during a pivotal highschool summer—hasn’t spent much time courtside. Most importantly, her father, who passed away several years ago, was a military vet—not quite the high-flying financial skilled he’s within the novel.

Episodic Changes

While the big-picture changes are significant, the differences get loads more pronounced as you watch the person episodes. Here’s what each installment does otherwise from the novel.

Episode 1

Quite a bit happens in the primary episode: Lucy settles in at college, where she meets her soon-to-be besties and her latest roommate—Macy Campbell. Lucy and Macy quickly bond with Pippa and Bree, who live within the room across the hall, and Pippa invites the women to a junior-year party at her friend-with-benefits Wrigley’s house. There, Lucy meets Stephen—who seems to intrigue and alienate her in equal measure—in addition to Diana, whom Lucy doesn’t yet know is Stephen’s on-again, off-again ex-girlfriend. Inside days, the joy of the brand new school yr comes crashing to a halt—literally—when Macy dies in a automotive accident while driving home from an off-campus party.

  • Bree getting married: Within the book, Lucy is heading to Bree’s wedding (and plus-ones aren’t allowed unless engaged or married, so she’s flying solo). Within the show, Lucy is on her approach to Bree’s engagement party—and she or he leaves her boyfriend home on purpose, telling him it’s not a sufficiently big deal for him to return, then lying to her friends on the party by saying that he was held up due to work.
  • Rearranged roommates: Within the book, Lucy shows up at Baird haunted by the death of a highschool friend named Macy Peterson. Once there, she quickly forms a bond along with her roommate, Jackie, who’s also from Long Island. In the primary episode of the series, though, Lucy shows as much as her dorm room to fulfill her latest roommate—Macy Campbell. By the top of the episode, Macy dies just as she did within the book, making the trauma of her death a much more energizing experience for Lucy than it was within the novel.
  • Stephen’s mom: Stephen has a fraught relationship along with his parents in each the book and the series. Within the novel, that’s because his mom was severely mentally unwell, and he hasn’t seen her since his dad—who’s still hung up on her—divorced her when Stephen was a young person. Within the series, Stephen’s mom remains to be a difficult woman, nevertheless it’s his dad who’s not in the image: he tells Lucy that his dad left them when he was little, leaving his mom to lift him and his two siblings by herself.
  • Wrigley’s brother: Wrigley is basically similar to he was within the book—warm, friendly, somewhat too into coke—but a distinguished latest addition is the addition of Drew, Wrigley’s little brother, who can also be a freshman at Baird. (Wrigley makes no mention of any siblings within the novel.) Drew seems to hit it off with Bree, but that ends after he ghosts her following Macy’s death. Speaking of which, it becomes clear by the close of the episode that he knows more concerning the accident than he initially let on…

tell me lies    “lightning strikes”   episode 101    lucy starts her freshman year at baird college, where an unexpected turn of events during welcome week flips her life upside down macy lily mcinerny and lucy grace van patten, shown photo by josh stringerhulu

Macy (Lily McInerny) and Lucy (Grace Van Patten) share a moment within the dining hall.

Josh Stringer/Hulu

Episode 2

Firstly of the episode, Drew tells Wrigley and Stephen exactly what he knows about Macy’s death—and Stephen advises him to maintain it a secret. Meanwhile, Stephen and Lucy grow closer.

  • Drew’s involvement: In tears, Drew admits that he was at an off-campus party the night Macy died, left to make an alcohol run—and swerved to avoid an oncoming automotive that appeared to return out of nowhere. The opposite automotive crashed, and Drew fled the scene without calling for help, only discovering later that the driving force who crashed was Macy. This marks a big departure from the book, wherein Macy’s death took place while she and Lucy were still in highschool, and Stephen was the one other person at Baird who ever knew her—let alone was affected by her death.
  • Princess Diana: Within the book, Lucy never really interacts with Diana, Stephen’s on-and-off ex. Within the second episode, nevertheless, she attends a fundraiser thrown by Diana’s sorority, where she’s dismayed to learn that Diana is definitely a genuinely sweet and type person.

tell me lies    “hot blooded”   episode 102    lucy struggles with the aftermath of welcome week and goes on her first date with stephen diana alicia crowder, shown photo by josh stringerhulu

Alicia Crowder as Diana.

Josh Stringer/Hulu

Episode 3

The key of Drew’s involvement in Macy’s death starts to achieve latest people. Meanwhile, Stephen and Lucy are getting hot and heavy, but Stephen doesn’t wish to be monogamous along with her. (Probably because he’s secretly still attempting to get back with Diana, though Lucy doesn’t know that.) He encourages her to see other people—and she or he decides to take him up on it. At home, Stephen goes through his old photos…including several naked pictures he took of Macy. Dun, dun, dun!

  • Wrigley’s disability: We learn on this episode that Wrigley has a serious learning disability, but he apparently hasn’t told anyone in his life about it and is incredibly reluctant to ask for testing accommodations. Just when it seems a failed midterm may force him off the football team, the sports-obsessed alumni association arranges for him to receive academic support in private.
  • The bartender: While out getting drinks on the town with Bree, Lucy meets a bartender named Max, who seems to be the bar owner’s son. Bree heads back to campus, but Lucy stays behind—and winds up spending the night with Max, who doesn’t appear within the book in any respect.
  • The reality gets out: After attempting to make one another jealous at a celebration, Pippa and Wrigley get right into a fight that only gets further complicated by Drew. When Drew drunkenly blurts out some cryptic comments in front of Pippa, Wrigley chases after her and tells her about where Drew was the night Macy died. Though Wrigley and Pippa ultimately make up and choose so far exclusively, she admits to him that she wishes he’d never told her.

tell me lies    “we don’t touch, we collide”   episode 103    pressure on wrigley intensifies, bleeding into his relationship with pippa lucy and stephen discuss exclusivity wrigley spencer house and drew benjamin wadsworth, shown photo by josh stringerhulu

Spencer House as Wrigley (left) and Benjamin Wadsworth as Drew (right).

Josh Stringer/Hulu

Episode 4

While attempting to juggle secret relationships with each Lucy and Diana, Stephen goes to remain at Diana’s family’s place in Manhattan while interviewing for a crucial legal internship. He tells Lucy he’s actually staying at Evan’s parents’ house, but after he invites her to return join him in the town, Lucy begins to suspect that Stephen could also be lying to her. Pippa and Wrigley have made their relationship official, but Pippa is deeply conflicted about hiding Drew’s involvement in Macy’s death. Meanwhile, Bree finally loses her virginity and begins exploring a newfound reference to Evan—in addition to reconnecting with Drew.

  • Stephen’s class anxiety: Within the book, Stephen pursues a legal profession with a single-mindedness born of his desire to flee the less-secure circumstances of his youth. He is set to be wealthy, at any cost. Within the series, Stephen is similarly concerned with setting himself up for fulfillment, but his family’s financial precarity is way more pronounced, and its effects on Stephen’s psyche are made clear. In his job interview, Stephen tries to present himself as more affluent than he actually is—a move that ultimately backfires and ends in his tanking the interview. And when Lucy later accuses Stephen of hiding their relationship by only taking her on off-campus dates as a substitute of to parties, he calls her spoiled for failing to contemplate that he comes from a less privileged background than hers—so the proven fact that he spends what money he has on dates actually matters. (In fact, two things will be true: in spite of everything, he’s hiding their relationship from Diana…)
  • Diana’s background: We all know little or no about Diana within the novel aside from how Stephen feels about dating and sleeping along with her. Within the show, she gets to be a completely fleshed-out person—even when she seems unrealistically perfect. She clearly comes from money; her family’s Recent York City loft is very large, and after Stephen bombs his interview (and it seems she could have pulled some strings to get him in the primary place), she takes on the responsibility of helping him find something else. Still, it’s clear that Stephen resents her privilege, at the same time as she tries to leverage it to support him.
  • Bree’s backstory: As written within the novel, Bree doesn’t have much to do, but that changes because of this of her expanded role within the series. In each the book and the show, Bree and Evan travel in the identical circles. In contrast to the novel, where Stephen finally introduces them for the primary time after everyone’s out of school, their first meeting within the show is a little more awkward: Bree is hired as a nude model for Evan’s art class. They next bump into one another on the mailroom, where he sees her laughing at a postcard she’s received. This results in a conversation wherein Bree reveals that she’s a former foster kid—a component of her background that was not present within the book—and admits that she hasn’t told this to any of their other friends, not because she’s ashamed but because “they haven’t asked.”

tell me lies    “take off your pants and jacket”   episode 104    bree attempts to lose her virginity stephen goes to new york city for the weekend, while lucy tries to figure out where their relationship stands bree catherine missal, shown photo by josh stringerhulu

Catherine Missal as Bree.

Josh Stringer/Hulu

Episode 5

Lucy and Stephen make loose plans to see one another over Christmas break, but those plans fall by the wayside as each gets caught up in family drama: Lucy stokes her resentment toward her mom while Stephen’s mother becomes determined to weasel her way back into her ex-husband’s life. Meanwhile, Lucy decides to go to Macy’s memorial service in Stephen and Macy’s nearby hometown of Bayville—where she finds evidence that Stephen and Macy were closer than he’s led her to imagine.

  • Stephen’s family: In the primary episode, Stephen told Lucy that his mother, who raised him and his siblings alone after their dad left, is a difficult woman. (Within the book, Stephen’s mother is the absent parent.) On this episode, we learn that that is an understatement. She guilt-trips her three children into centering their lives on her emotional whims, barely seems aware of her responsibilities as a parent, and has began stalking her kids’ father’s pregnant girlfriend. At the least the youngsters are somewhat united of their efforts to survive her destructive ways: When Stephen’s little sister Sadie asks him for help applying to boarding school—an application process that requires a parent’s signature, but which the youngsters’ mom would never in one million years log off on—Stephen blackmails their father into signing the forms, thereby giving Sadie an additional shot at getting out of their childhood home.
  • CJ’s betrayal: In each versions of the story, Lucy’s disdain for her mother, CJ, runs deep. Within the novel, her animosity will be traced back to the summer Lucy was 14, when she witnessed her married mother having an affair with Gabe Petersen, Lucy’s 22-year-old tennis coach and crush (and Macy’s older brother). Within the series, CJ is a widow, and her betrayal is much more heart-wrenching: Three years ago, when Lucy’s dad was dying of cancer, CJ had an affair along with his best friend Jake. Now, while on holiday break, Lucy is horrified to find that CJ has seemingly been spending time with Jake again.
  • Diana and Wrigley: While the book implies that Stephen has introduced his family to Diana, it’s unclear how much she knows about his fraught relationship along with his parents. On this episode, nevertheless, it’s clear when Stephen calls Diana for emotional support that she has not less than some understanding of what he’s going through. She surprises him with a visit to his mom’s house, and after sex, she shares some information that didn’t exist within the novel: During Welcome Week their freshman yr, Diana and Wrigley connected. She thinks the story is funny and inconsequential, especially now that two and a half years have passed, but one have a look at Stephen’s face makes it clear that he isn’t amused.

tell me lies    “merry fcking christmas”   episode 105    lucy and stephen go home for winter break and deal with family tension meanwhile, lucy uncovers a secret cj jessica capshaw, shown photo by josh stringerhulu

Jessica Capshaw as CJ, Lucy’s mother.

Josh Stringer/Hulu

Watch Tell Me Lies on Hulu

This story might be updated.

Keely Weiss is a author and filmmaker. She has lived in Los Angeles, Recent York, and Virginia and has a cat named after Perry Mason.

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