Having his work cut out for him. Hulu’s Tell Me Lies introduced viewers to a toxic relationship between Lucy Albright (Grace Van Patten) and Stephen DeMarco — with Jackson James White bringing the complicated male lead to life.
The TV show, which is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Carola Lovering, explores the ups and downs between the college students over an eight-year time period.
Before Tell Me Lies premiered on Hulu, showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer opened up about the writing process that went into making Stephen more likable.
“We had to humanize him a bit more for the show only because this is hopefully an ongoing series. If someone is just completely, there’s no hope for them, then there’s not much space to play with that,” she told Hollywood Life in September 2022. “I think Stephen is going to be very polarizing, just from what I’ve experienced so far.”
For Jackson James White, the most important part was not making a judgment call about the character on screen. “Some people hate him and have no forgiveness for him. Some people don’t like what he does, but they still like him at times. I think it will really depend on people’s personal experience as well and how much he triggers them,” she added. “But I think at least you will understand him more than in the book. Not that you don’t understand him in the book, but we delve into his personal life and his backstory and his family a little bit more, and we tried to explore why he is the way that he is.”
White, for his part, recalled how the audition for the complex male lead came at the right time. “It’s always lined up for me so that the role comes at a perfect time for where I am in my life. And I was at a point where I was really fed up,” he admitted to Esquire that same month. “I didn’t really work for a while, and the pandemic happened. I stayed at home, feeling sorry for myself, and then I had a switch. I just got a different fire, a different motivation for it all. And it made me feel really free, like I could really just do what I want.”
The actor explained how his approach to acting changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “I wasn’t really afraid of how I looked in these auditions or how I was being perceived, and I think that perfectly lined up with this guy. Steven’s superpower became not caring what other people think, and that worked with this fed-up attitude I was having in my career.”
The Confession star noted that he went through a “dark period” in his life before Tell Me Lies. “I was getting sober and coming to terms with a lot and getting my life together. And I realized how important work was to my psyche and how much balance I wanted in my life. I really wanted to put a new foot forward towards it all, and I was throwing my s–t against the wall and screaming and trying to make sense of this business because it’s insane,” White continued at the time. “And I think whatever that was, mixed with a lot of self-reflection, a lot of s–t that I was working on in my life lined up with this opportunity.”
Scroll down for everything to know about the Tell Me Lies breakout star: