The executive producers and stars of One Of Us Is Lying gathered for a virtual panel at New York Comic Con on Saturday, to tease their new YA mystery series, which began streaming on Peacock October 7.
Panelists joining moderator Ashley Bellman for the conversation included EP-showrunner Darío Madrona and EP Erica Saleh, along with cast members Annalisa Cochrane, Chibuikem Uche, Marianly Tejada, Cooper van Grootel, and Mark McKenna. Each was asked during the chat to try to sum up the new show in two words, with Van Grootel calling it “incredibly transforming,” Cochrane referring to it as “highly bingeable” and Madrona describing it as “an emotional rollercoaster.”
The Peacock Original based on Karen M. McManus’ New York Times bestseller of the same name is set at Bayview High, telling the story of what happens when five high schoolers walk into detention and only four make it out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. Cochrane plays popular cheerleader, Addy, with Uche as the baseball team’s ace pitcher, Cooper; Tejadaa as future-focused overachiever Bronwyn; Van Grootel as Nate, a misunderstood student struck by tragedy early in life who is on probation for dealing drugs; and McKenna as Simon, the student who dies during detention, after creating online gossip group About That to terrorize other students.
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Saleh noted during the panel that the series is highly faithful to McManus’ debut novel, embracing its idea of taking four main characters representing “teenage archetypes” and breaking them down to “reveal they’re a lot more complicated,” while honing in on the “same central mystery.”
The EP, who penned the series, added that the novelist has been highly involved with the process of adapting her work, at every stage. “We did the writers’ room and she was so generous in letting us run and have fun, but she was definitely reading all the scripts, has seen all the episodes, gives her feedback,” she said, “and has been such an important part of the process throughout.”
Saleh continued to say that even if “the heart” of the book is captured in the series, there will still be “quite a few” added twists and turns, along with more murder suspects and surprises.
Madrona reflected, for his part, on how much he brought to the series from his work on Netflix’s Spanish-language show Elite, noting that while both involve teenagers and murder, his latest effort is quite different in terms of themes and tone. “If anything, what I brought from Elite is the fact that when you’re a teenager, everything feels so important. Everything is so heightened,” he said. “I think for both the kids in Elite and in One Of Us Is Lying, everything is a matter of life and death—not only [in terms of] the murder, but [also with regard to] their relationships.”
The showrunner called working on One Of Us a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” he never thought he would have, noting how much it meant to him to break through as a showrunner on an American series, as someone for whom English is a second language. “I just thought it was something impossible, and I think I’m still just pinching myself,” he said. “I think it’s an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Elsewhere in the panel, each of the series’ stars shared a little detail on their character, the common thread between them being that there’s more depth to each than is visible to most. McKenna noted that while his character Simon dies at the very start of the show—thus setting its events in motion—and appears at the start to be a bully, we’ll come to see him in somewhat of a different light through flashbacks. “At the beginning of the show, the flashbacks are quite sparse and it’s kind of what people thought Simon was,” he says. “Later in the show, we get to see more of the human side of Simon and the fact that he was a friend to people, and not just always terrorizing people.”
McKenna also addressed potential takeaways from the show, opining that it’s critical viewing for young people, in particular. “It deals with a lot of subjects, in terms of mental health or how you deal with issues as a teenager, which a lot don’t know how to do properly,” he said. “Having a hard time and going through something you might not necessarily know how to deal with is just one of the steps of being a teenager, and I think this show spotlights that you’re not going through that alone.”
Tejada also spoke to the themes at the heart of the show, and a potential takeaway, saying that “keeping an open heart and an open mind leads you to paths that are great and you never knew were there.”
One of Us Is Lying‘s cast also includes Barrett Carnahan, Jessica McLeod, Melissa Collazo and more. The series is produced by UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group. Saleh and Madrona exec produce with John Sacchi and Matt Groesch of 5 More Minutes Productions, who developed the pilot.
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