Hulu’s Tell Me Lies features mesmerizing performances from Grace Van Patten and Jackson James White. Based on the Carola Lovering novel of the same name, the series tells the story of an incredibly toxic relationship between college freshman Lucy (Van Patten) and junior Stephen (White). When intense, stoic Lucy meets and falls for Stephen—the first partner to make her feel something—she’s hooked. Despite Stephen’s elusiveness and apparent lies, Lucy can’t tear herself away.
In real life, Van Patten is less reserved and more discerning than her character. “When you first meet her, Lucy has been numb for so long due to her past trauma,” she says. “My younger self was a lot like Lucy. I was closed off and saw vulnerability as a form of weakness. I’ve gone on such a journey to realize that vulnerability is the most powerful, beautiful thing in the world.”
Van Patten credits one thing with helping her move past her emotional blockage: therapy, and lots of it. “I highly recommend it, especially after watching this show,” she says, laughing. The 25-year-old actress has clearly gotten comfortable prioritizing herself and her needs—no small feat in a world where women are taught to lose themselves in relationships. If it seems like Van Patten has it all figured out, you’re not entirely wrong. Read on for more about how the starlet keeps her world in order.
Had you read Tell Me Lies before getting involved with the show?
I waited until I found out I got [the role] because I knew if I read it before, I’d be too crushed if nothing happened. So, the book was just waiting by my bed.
How did you connect to the character of Lucy?
I didn’t realize how much I related to Lucy until I started shooting. It made me think about how I was at that age. Lucy has built this emotional wall, and Stephen starts to chip away at it. She completely loses control over all the feelings she didn’t know she had. I think that’s so relatable. So many young people are unable to communicate or be honest with themselves. No one knows who they are at a young age, but they think they do. It was also important for me to show that Lucy’s not a victim and that strong-seeming people can get caught up in these toxic relationships. Lucy seems stoic and like she has everything together, but that does not mean she can’t be manipulated.
The book handled Lucy’s struggle with depression well. It shows that healing and mental health journeys aren’t linear.
That’s so true. You only get that little glimpse of it when you see the scene [of Lucy getting ready to go to Bree’s engagement party] when she’s taking the pills, and you don’t understand why. Not a lot of people will even catch that. Lucy seems to have it together [at that point]. She has a stable boyfriend, a nice apartment, good job, and then her trauma literally walks through the door when she sees Steven at the party, and it blows up in her face again.
What does taking care of your mental health look like for you?
I love therapy very much. I’ve been going for almost three years now, and therapy has helped me with being able to communicate my emotions and has made me understand my core values. This business can be unpredictable, and it’s really easy to lose your sense of home and your sense of self. Therapy has helped me feel grounded.
Besides therapy, what else do you do to take care of yourself?
My family is a huge part of my feeling grounded. I recently just moved into a home—I’ve never had my own house before. I felt floaty, so after this job, it was my goal to feel grounded. I moved in a few days ago, and I already feel like I’m not being spread so thin. For me, it’s important to have a safe place that’s mine. I’ve also been attempting to relax. It’s hard for me to get pure relaxation. Still, the act of trying calms me, whether it’s doing nothing or doing a face mask. Attempting to do nothing and be okay with the nothingness is something I’m working on.
What have you been doing to make your house feel like a home?
Honestly, as of now, it’s just a cozy bed and great lighting. I feel like those are the basics. My sister and two friends are crashing here, so it’s a little hard to settle in fully, but they’re making it feel like home already. Scent is big for me, so I’m burning Palo Santo, and I already saged the place to get the bad juju out. I love fancy candles from Diptyque or Le Labo. I also love Boy Smells and Maison Louis-Marie—their Bois du Ballancourt is my favorite.
Do you have a morning routine?
I am so obsessed with skincare, but I’m still trying to figure out my routine. I’m constantly trying new things, and I need to simplify. But I always wash my face when I wake up—I like using the Fresh Soy pH-Balanced Hydrating Face Wash ($38). When I have a breakout, I’ll use CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($9) to wash my face. After that, it’s a free for all. I love Sunday Riley’s UFO Oil because it’s moisturizing and helps with breakouts. The moisturizer I use is from my facialist—it’s from a brand called Face Reality. It isn’t greasy and makes your skin look dewy. I’m trying to use sunscreen—specifically, one from EltaMD or the tinted one from Suntegrity. I also love face masks. Osea’s Red Algae Mask ($48) and the sheet masks from 111Skin are my favorites. The Sunday Riley Sulfur Spot Treatment Mask ($20) will also help get rid of a pimple.
What are some of the things you’re watching and reading right now?
I’m embarrassed to say. [Laughs] Love Island.
Look, I’m a Bachelor Nation devotee, so no judgment here.
I’m deep in Love Island. It’s relaxing to watch because I don’t have to think. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to watch good television because I’m attached to it emotionally. When I watch reality shows, it’s like my brain shuts off. In terms of books, there’s this book of short stories called Heart Broke [by Chelsea Bieker]. They’re all about fucked up love. They’re so detailed, and I had a great time reading them. I’m constantly reading weird articles and books to find interesting material to produce, hopefully. I love reading books that have nothing to do with that too, but it excites me to read something that I could turn into something.