Cooper van Grootel & Marianly Tejada Interview: One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying took the Peacock streaming service by storm in the last few weeks, inviting a wave of fans both new and old to theorize about murder and root for young love. The new series, based on Karen M. McManus' novel of the same name, centers on a group of students known as the Bayview 4 try and the mystery of their classmate, Simon Kelleher's (Mark McKenna, Wayne) death.

Given that Simon was infamous for running a Gossip Girl-esque blog that exposed everyone's secrets, every member of the Bayview 4 had a motive to kill him. Not only that, but they were the only people in the room with him when it happened, meaning everyone's a suspect and no one can be trusted. But trust is exactly what they must do in order to ensure the real culprit pays and they are able to live their lives in the free and clear.

Related: One of Us Is Lying Makes A Major Change To Simon's Death From The Book

Marianly Tejada and Cooper van Grootel, who play booksmart Bronwyn and wrong-side-of-the-tracks Nate respectively, spoke to Screen Rant about their characters' tender but tumultuous romance. They also shared what they hope to see in season 2, as well as what changes to the novel surprised them most.

WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for One of Us is Lying!

Screen Rant: What was your experience with the novel before you got the role, or did you first dive in once you were cast?

Marianly Tejada: I read the novel for the first time when I heard I got the part because I had already felt so connected to Bronwyn and really wanted it to happen. I felt like if I read the novel and didn't get the part, I was gonna be devastated, so I waited.

There's a reason why people have reacted so massively to the story, because there's a depth to them that goes beyond their years, and the relationships are so incredible in the book. I think I had a very visceral feeling when I read the book - that's the best word I can use to describe it.

Cooper van Grootel: Karen McManus just does such an amazing job at creating such beautiful characters and envisioning such an in-depth world. I did my first audition not having read the book, and then when I went into my producer session, I was like, "I got to get my hands on this book and have a read of it." I went out and bought it, and then I read it in like two days. I was like, "Wow, this is something else."

I fell instantly in love with the Bronwyn and Nate relationship as well, and that made me all the more excited. It's just such a beautiful love story between two young people, and I think it's a great message to put out to the world.

After getting the role, I remember we chemistry read as well. Instantly, we knew the chemistry was there.

There was a collective sigh of relief when they finally kissed in the finale, but then the season still ends with a "We're not each other's normal." What is stopping them at this point? What is the last roadblock there?

Marianly Tejada: Yale!

Cooper van Grootel: Yale is stopping them. [laughs] That's a great question.

Marianly Tejada: I think if it was up to Bronwyn, nothing would stop them.

Cooper van Grootel: No, nothing would. I think it's Nate's inability to allow himself to love, to want to be wanted, and to feel like he can lean on someone. He thinks he can't lean on someone and has to do everything alone, which is heartbreaking. I just don't think he wants to lead Bronwyn down this path. I think that's what breaks it off in the end.

I love the fascinating sisterly bond between Bronwyn and Maeve (Melissa Collazo). Can you talk about how their view of each other changes over the course of the season?

Marianly Tejada: I remember when I was reading the scripts for the first time. Every episode, I was really surprised by Maeve's life and how much I didn't know about her life as an older sister. I think it's really beautiful when you get to have those complex relationships because Maeve is really like, "Well, this is my reality, Bronwyn. I'm your little sister, but you're so busy with your life and trying to keep everything together that you just haven't been present in all these other areas of my life."

I think for Bronwyn, it comes from a place of wanting to protect Maeve from as much as she can because Maeve has gone through leukemia and overcame this massive disease. There's this sense of heightened protection around the house from my parents and myself, and that makes me kind of shut her out a little bit - but only to protect her. That was amazing to get to dive into with Melissa who is an incredible actor and really cares for Maeve. She really just prepared for Maeve in a way that was unmatched.

A lot of Nate's own issues come from his parents, and we got to meet his mom this season. Can you talk about that dynamic and Nate's struggle to accept her back into his life? Would it even be a good idea for him to do so?

Cooper van Grootel: I don't think he even has the ability to open his arms up to his mom just yet. I feel like he will further down the track in a few years, but he's still so young and it still feels very fresh. There's a lot of resentment towards his mother, and it really throws complications into the story.

It was really amazing to explore that dynamic with the beautiful Aidee Walker, who plays my mom, and Erroll Shand, who plays my dad. They were just such amazing people to play these characters with. It's so important, when a teenager is young, that they do have a support system and loving parents. I think what's hard for Nate is that he's still afraid to accept people back into his life. It's complicated for him, amongst everything else going on in his world too.

The ending scene where his mom finally comes back, I remember that day being a really surreal moment to just have her standing there. And at that point in the story, the day before we were starting to come together and unite as a group. Following that, we all had our own family dynamics that we were exploring.

It feels like everyone is super invested in their characters. It makes me wonder what kinds of conversations you had behind the scenes, or while working with Erica Saleh and the writers, to get that character work done across the board

Cooper van Grootel: I think it was just about really building a history; just having conversations about the characters and being transparent and open and on the same page with the producers and the directors - and obviously with each other as well. With chemistry comes a lot of authenticity, and so I think that was a big part of it too.

Marianly Tejada: Yeah, and we also had the luxury of sitting with these characters for a long time, because the shooting was delayed during the pandemic. We had conversations when we shot the pilot back in 2019, and then we sat with that for such a long time.

I remember we had a really precious conversation with Erica, our showrunner Darío Madrona, and our first block director John Scott about our characters and where they were coming from. It was a really in-depth and detailed conversation that helped us and carried throughout the whole shooting experience. Of course, if we had any questions or doubts, they were always there and happy to answer or find a solution to whatever question we had.

We would help each other out, read scenes, and prep for the day of shooting. And we would have so many conversations about our characters, especially the Bayview 4 had so many things in common. They had their situations at home that come with parental pressures, or the neglect of certain parents, and how we're misunderstood by our parents and not heard. That just made the off-screen and onscreen relationships more real, because we have those things that make us empathize with each other.

I feel like the most shocking adaptational change was the ending to Jake's story. But were there any other plot twists along the way that you were most shocked by?

Marianly Tejada: Definitely Maeve and Janae.

Cooper van Grootel: I think that's a really big one. But it's beautiful to see that relationship come to life in the story.

I don't think I was too shocked by any change because I think it was handled very well. There was a lot of discussion about what they were changing within the story, and I think they did every change justice and worked it into the story. It still flowed really well, and what we see on the screen is such a compelling story. Props to the writers and the producers; Karen and everyone on board that helped to create something that's so beautiful.

I am very much looking forward to season 2, which I'm crossing my fingers is happening. However, we know that a second season would no longer be following the blueprint of the books as much. What would you want to explore for your characters?

Marianly Tejada: Bronwyn and Nate need to have a massive conversation - just more in-depth.

I would also love to explore Bronwyn and Maeve, and probably come to an agreement where we both see more eye-to-eye and resolve things. But I also love that there's sisterly bickering and all that good stuff, so maybe we keep it as is. But just more in-depth relationships; growing the relationships with the Bayview 4 and everyone else.

Cooper van Grootel: The characters have overcome so much adversity, and I would love to see them grow from that and become stronger - and how that changes them and their relationships within the story. And also, of course, Bronwyn and Nate have to work it out.

Aside from your dynamic, which is of course fabulous, what would be your other favorite dynamic on the show?

Cooper van Grootel: Cooper and Kris. I think Karim [Diane] and Chib [Chibuikem Uche] just did such a beautiful job bringing those characters to life, and I love the journey that they both went on. Karim brings so much light and joy and a breath of fresh air to the screen, and I ship them hard.

I just love the transformation that Cooper goes through as well, and I think Kris allows him to kind of break away from his old skin and become someone new that he's content and happy with. And I think that's beautiful.

Marianly Tejada: Cooper and Kris, for sure. But I think Addy [Annalisa Cochrane] and Janae [Jessica McLeod] are a really fun dynamic that needs to be explored more.

What would you say are the biggest lessons that you learned on set, either as an actor or simply through working as part of a team?

Cooper van Grootel: Enjoy the process as much as you can. There's ups and downs, but we have a great crew around us and great people. Try and give you all every single day, and just enjoy the company. We know that we're doing something that we love, and we get the opportunity to go out and explore these characters. Every day, you grow - every day, you grow as a person, and I think that's beautiful.

Marianly Tejada: It really makes me appreciate the collective effort that is creating a TV show because it does take a village. From every single person in the crew to the cast and family members who give us support when we need it - because it's intense - it really does take a village.

I think having this job and doing the first season of One Of Us really made me appreciate every single person who worked on this show because it is a big collective effort.

More: One of Us Is Lying: Who is the Blackmailer? Every Season 2 Theory

All 8 episodes of One Of Us Is Lying's first season are available to stream on Peacock.

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