How Lily Gladstone Brought Cam Bentland to Life on ‘Under the Bridge’

under the bridge
‘Under the Bridge’: How Cam Bentland Came to LifeDarko Sikman
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Hulu’s Under the Bridge tells the story of Reena Virk—a fourteen-year-old girl who was murdered by her peers. On the surface, it’s a true-crime series that explores the dangers of bullying. Beneath that, there’s a compelling story about how race and identity affect the experience of people of color in Canada. That narrative is driven by Lily Gladstone, who plays Cam Bentland, a police officer investigating the case.

In an interview with the The New York Times, Gladstone linked Under the Bridge to her Oscar-nominated film Killers of the Flower Moon. “Having just come off another ‘true-crime’ piece that self-indicted sensationalism and looked at the people that were affected as well as unearthing some of the system issues that create these scenarios, I was really interested in this one because of how it indicts all of us in what was happening around Reena Virk,” she said.

While Under the Bridge is based on a true story, and many of the characters on the series are inspired by real people, Cam Bentland is not. Her character is a composite of the officers in the police department who investigated Virk’s case in the nineties. My sincerest apologies to anyone who hoped her romance with Rebecca Godfrey was real! Though Cam is fictional, her role as an Indigenous officer illustrates the inner failings of the criminal-justice system, which is helmed by white men.

Here’s everything we know about Under the Bridge’s portrayal of Cam Bentland.

Is Cam Bentland a Real Person?

Cam is a Native woman who was adopted by a white family as a child. Like Reena Virk, she is a woman of color. Throughout her investigation, she realizes how race affects Reena’s case—from how the police react to the news to whom they deem potential suspects. (The police chief points to Reena’s father.) Gladstone told the The New York Times that she felt like her character provided a fresh perspective on true crime as it pertains to women of color. “It was really clear to me that this was another opportunity to have a nuanced conversation about the system failures of law enforcement,” she said. “When you’re making a true-crime story about being self-aware about it, you can go on a journey with your audience and have a conversation about these things in a way that didn’t happen at the time.”

under the bridge
Lily Gladstone as Cam Bentland. Darko Sikman

Though Cam Bentland isn’t real, her character is meant to represent the police department that looked into Reena’s murder. Given her identity as a queer, Indigenous woman, she also highlights the tension between the police force and people of color. “Cam represents a lot of conversations that are not in the book [which Under the Bridge is based on] itself but that were worth including,” said Gladstone. “The murder happened just by tribal land. The bridge connects the municipality to a reserve. So inherently, there’s a First Nations presence in the story. I thought it was a brilliant construction to have a First Nations, adopted cop who feels compelled to Reena in a way that becomes clearer and clearer to her.”

Though Reena isn’t Native American—her family is Indian—the way the two are treated within their community is jarringly similar. Both of their identities are muffled by their environment, which is predominately white. While speaking with the The New York Times, Gladstone noted the Native imagery throughout the series, which is cleverly in the background of most scenes. It’s both literal, in that Saanich, Canada, is on Native land, and symbolic, in that non-white experiences are constantly pushed to the sidelines. “There’s a really strong First Nations presence—the art on the buildings, the faces in the streets. That was a helpful thing for Cam because she grows up knowing that she’s Native, but she doesn’t know how to engage with it.”

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