One Of Us Is Lying is the TV series based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Karen M. McManus. The story of what happens when five students walk into detention and only four of them walk out alive, it’s a murder mystery inspired by 80s films like The Breakfast Club. The surviving students, known as the Bayview Four, are the prime suspects, and while they may not be guilty of murder, they all have secrets. This past October, it made its debut on Peacock in the US, and began airing on W Network in Canada in November.
I spoke with series stars Marianly Tejada (Bronwyn Rojas) and Cooper van Grootel (Nate Macauley), two of the Bayview Four, about the twists on well-known character archetypes, and the relationship between Bronwyn and Nate.
Were you familiar with the source material before you auditioned for the series?
Marianly: I didn’t know about the book until I did the first audition for this, which was a self-tape. It wasn’t until after a month that I heard back. By then, I was aware of the book, but then at that point, I didn’t want to read it. There was something about Bronwyn, and specifically like the Bronwyn and Nate dynamic, that really drew me to this role, and I didn’t want to jinx getting the part if I got more attached by reading the book.
Cooper: I didn’t know about the book, either. I did my first self-tape, not knowing about it. Before going in for the next round of auditions, I read the book. It put the pressure on a bit because the book is so amazing. I wanted to get a sense of the Bronwyn-Nate dynamic and delve into that. It’s an amazing story. It’s been an honor to be a part of this project and be able to explore these characters and the story.
Cooper, you’ve touched on the Bronwyn-Nate dynamic, which I found fascinating. It takes the brainy girl/bad boy trope and twists it in some exciting ways. What can both of you share about the relationship between your characters?
Cooper: It is your typical bad boy and brainiac [dynamic], but Bronwyn and Nate complement each other so well. Nate brings out things in Bronwyn that she might not have known were there and vice versa. It’s a symbiotic relationship where they’re both uncovering truths about each other. It’s quite beautiful in that sense.
Marianly: I agree. The difference between your good girl and bad boy archetypes coming together in Bronwyn and Nate is that they’re both very strong-willed. Bronwyn is a thriving nerd, and Nate is a thriving bad boy, so they’re both really good at what they do and what makes him who they are. I love that there’s some tension in their dynamic as well, not just romantic tension, but [a sense of], “What are we supposed to do now?” That makes for incredible playtime with Cooper in creating that dynamic. It’s also very compelling to watch. They find a lot of strength in one another, and a safe space to be vulnerable. It’s something that is precious about the two of them.
Cooper: There’s definitely a Bonnie and Clyde element to Bronwyn and Nate as we go on our investigating.
Marianly: Yeah, there is a murder mystery that has to be solved.
With a series like this, I’m guessing that each script you received was filled with unexpected surprises. What was your process when you received a new script? Did you skim through to see what was going to happen overall, or were there specific storylines that you were curious about besides your own?
Cooper: We received the first three episodes while we were in quarantine in New Zealand, so we all got together and read them as a group. We’d go through it to see where the next Bronwyn and Nate scene was because we had so much fun exploring that dynamic.
Marianly: It might be cheesy to say, but we’re Natewyn fans.
Cooper: 100 percent.
Marianly: Because it’s based on a book, and you have an idea of where the story is headed, I wasn’t expecting some of the twists. There are great friendships that flourish [in the series that didn’t come from the book], so those were big surprises for me.
You’re also part of this ensemble of characters — the others from detention in the first episode — who are trying to solve a mystery and clear their names. It almost goes into caper territory, even bordering on comedic at times. How much fun was it to film those scenes because it was so entertaining to watch?
Marianly: Sometimes we would get notes on set telling us that the relationship between characters “is not there yet,” because we are so close in real life. This project has been in the making for two years, so we had more time to be around each other. It’s been an incredible journey with really amazing people, and I don’t say that lightly.
Cooper: We’ve known each other for the past two years and have been through a pandemic. We stuck together through hard times, and having the experience of filming the first season with them was such an honor.
Marianly: I wouldn’t want any other Bayview Four, and the whole cast for that matter.
Besides your own, which character arcs are you most invested in?
Cooper: I’m very excited about Cooper Clay’s arc. It’s very important, especially in today’s world, and Chib [Uche] does an incredible job at portraying that character.
Marianly: I’m really excited about Cooper Clay as well, but I’m a fan of Janae. Jess McLeod is an amazing actress. She just kills it in this show.
Photos Courtesy of W Network