Elle Fanning is a certified Gleek!
In the first episode of The Girl From Plainville, streaming on Hulu, Elle's character Michelle Carter performs a version of Lea Michele's "Make You Feel My Love" from season five of Glee. In the scene, Michelle is using the song as a means to imitate Lea's emotions.
"Reading the pilot, in the last scene she's singing 'Make You Feel My Love' mimicking Lea Michele's grief," Elle told Variety. "Lea's grief was real in the show; she's also mourning her real-life boyfriend."
On Glee, Lea dedicated to the emotional performance to boyfriend and co-star Cory Monteith, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2013.
Michelle, meanwhile, uses the song to practice grieving in the mirror in the wake of her boyfriend Conrad Roy's suicide. The Girl From Plainville follows Conrad's death and Michelle's subsequent conviction of involuntary manslaughter in a landmark legal case.
Elle said she watched a lot of Glee—which was Michelle's favorite show—during filming. When it came to the "Make You Feel My Love" performance, the actress became methodical in studying Lea.
"I've never met her, but I know every mannerism that she does in that scene," Elle said. "I have a legal pad of notes. I wrote down every time she blinked, every time she moved her hand with each word to mimic the emotion. It was a real exercise. I felt really connected to her, because I feel like I've seen her grieve. It was very meta."
The scene represents a bit of a tipping point in the show's portrayal of Michelle, so Elle knew she had to nail it.
"As an actor, I was very eager to commit," she said. "But I also knew how important it was for the story because I think the series turns and you start questioning Michelle's motives in a way."
In what became known as the "texting suicide case," Michelle repeatedly encouraged Conrad over text messages to take his own life. During her final phone call with Conrad, she ordered him to get back in his truck as it filled with carbon monoxide.
Conrad died by suicide in July 2014 at the age of 18.
The Girl From Plainville follows Michelle through her 2017 trial and features flashbacks of her relationship with Conrad, played by Colton Ryan.
Carter was found guilty and sentenced to two two-and-a-half years in prison, with 15 of those months served. In January 2020, she was released three months early for good conduct.
The Girl From Plainville is available to stream now on Hulu.