Lily Gladstone Was Drawn to Under the Bridge for Very Personal Reasons

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Hulu/Disney/Picture Group

If you've watched Lily Gladstone in the first two episodes of the new Hulu drama series Under the Bridge, then you know she gives a harrowing performance as Cam Bentland, a no-frills cop in Victoria, British Columbia, with an emotionally charged past. As a law enforcement officer who takes it upon herself to investigate the death of 14-year-old Reena Virk, it's a mentally draining role that requires a certain kind of headspace—one that I imagine any psychologist would urge their client not to wade in for extended periods of time.

For better or worse then, Gladstone got a crash course in compartmentalizing her Under the Bridge filming experience when she jetted off to the French Riviera for the world premiere of Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon at the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival last May. “I left from set to go to Cannes, then left from Cannes to go to set and finish my last day of Under the Bridge,” she tells Glamour. “It was nuts.”

From left: Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Lily Gladstone, and Leonardo DiCaprio at Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2023

To make matters even more complicated, the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award winner (for her role as Mollie Burkhart in Flowers) also had to contend with the writers strike at the same time that Under the Bridge was filming. “I remember [creator, executive producer, and writer] Quinn Shephard, [showrunner] Samir Mehta, and all of the other writers just scrambling to lock all of our scripts down because there were a number of little changes that just happened naturally in the course of shooting the series,” she says. “I'd be texting them little things like, ‘You know that thing you said about Cam? We really want to include it, and we have to do it by midnight tonight.’ So there was little line pitches being texted about, and then as soon as the strike went into effect at midnight, those were our scripts.” Gladstone pauses and then adds: “Yeah, it was really interesting.”

Of course, the Oscar nominee's life has been nothing short of interesting since she shot to household-name status for her starring role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the critically lauded Flowers. After a hectic and successful awards season, Gladstone is back on the press circuit to promote Under the Bridge, which is already generating Emmy buzz for her and costar Riley Keough. And this summer she has the debut of her new film, Fancy Dance, which Apple Original Films swiftly picked up after this year's Sundance Film Festival.

But on the day we talk, Under the Bridge has just dropped the first two episodes. So what's premiere day like for Lily Gladstone? “It's really exciting,” she says. “I've had so many of those moments recently, so I don't even know actually what my birthday's going to feel like when it's my real birthday. It feels like Christmas morning in a little way.”

For now, though, it's Under the Bridge's moment. “I'm just excited for other people to see the show and experience it,” the 37-year-old says. “There's relationships that develop between characters that are surprising and really moving. I'm excited for people to go along with the whole ride.”

Below, Gladstone opens up about why she wanted to take on another true-crime role, her own middle school experience with bullying, and what's brewing between her and Riley Keough's Rebecca.

From left: Josephine (Chloe Guidry) and Cam (Lily Gladstone). In 1997, on a quiet island in BC, 14-year-old Reena Virk attends a party and never returns home. Her disappearance intrigues a novelist returning to her hometown, who finds herself drawn into the hidden world of the teen suspects.

Glamour: Much like Killers of the Flower Moon, Under the Bridge does a deep dive into some very sensitive, difficult topics. What made you want to play the role of Cam?

Lily Gladstone: Initially, I leaned away from the idea of doing true crime again so soon after Killers of the Flower Moon had wrapped. But like what [creator/EP/writer] Quinn Shephard said at the premiere, “Rebecca [played by Riley Keough] doesn't care about true crime. She cares about this crime.” And that's how it felt with Killers of the Flower Moon. Nothing in this series is easy, but it starts up conversations that we really need to have as a society.

Bullying has gone nowhere. Just as recently as a couple of months ago, what happened with student Nex Benedict [who identified as transgender and was found dead after an altercation at school]…that was teenage girls, bullying a marginalized teen and to the worst possible outcome. It's crazy to see how every time something like that happens, there is this sensationalism and the swell. There's immediately people trying to deny some pretty undeniable truths that need to be addressed if we're going to keep things like this from happening again.

Right. And we see it in this story with Reena Virk.

Reena Virk's story rocked Canada, but it's not that known in the States. There's a lot that has developed out of Reena's case that we definitely have a lot to learn from. That's in no way saying that Canada's perfect. It's not a monolith on the hill. There's some really ugly history that my character gets to unearth as she goes through this journey of self-discovery throughout the season. But in particular with Reena, her case changed the way that missing-persons protocol happens with policing up there. It changed some things about how trying minors unfolds. It kind of woke people up to the fact that maybe the kids aren't okay. There's that saying, “It takes a village to raise a kid.” Well, if something's wrong with the kids, there's something deeply wrong with the village. So I really value that.


The show is so embedded in this idea of radical forgiveness, and it points its moral compass toward a movement that was started and is still very much largely led by indigenous communities in Canada, the restorative justice system, restorative justice programs. It's about really getting to the root cause of these crimes and getting to the humanity of the victim but also the perpetrator. It's about addressing what it is that hurt that person. What was it in society that turned that person into a violent person who hurts other people?

How did your awareness of restorative justice come about?

In college, around 20 years ago, learning about how the Anishinaabe community in Manitoba, I believe, did some of the first trials of restorative justice and going into an off-reserve prison. They were experiencing this epidemic of people being incarcerated in disproportionate numbers, but when that person who committed these violent crimes toward their own serve out their sentence and are released, they come back worse than when they went in. It does nothing to solve the problems. It doesn't address the origins of these crimes.

I feel like, especially in the United States, we live within such a punitive system that people who do unforgivable things are labeled monsters and tucked away into the margins of society and are left there to get worse and worse and worse, and that just perpetuates a culture of violence. There was a real wisdom in the Virk family—and that may have come from their faith, their culture, or just the love and compassion they had for their own troubled teen—that they were able to find this level of understanding and forgiveness with others in it. It's really remarkable.

Quinn Shephard told Glamour that she thinks “everyone can see themselves in some facet of this story because coming of age is so universal,” and it's true. I had a tough time watching the episodes because I was bullied so much growing up that I would eat lunch by myself in the bathroom every day. So how did playing Cam affect you personally? And what was your school experience like?

High school was great; middle school sucked. I definitely had moments in adolescence where I was bullied for any number of reasons. My mom's degree is in childhood development, so she did a lot of “behavior management” [with young kids]. She calls herself a behaviorist. So when I would be bullied by other kids, she always helped me find this seed of compassion for whoever it was that was being mean to me. I'm really grateful for that because she taught me to not carry grudges and to have compassion. I think I developed a resilience through humor with all of it, so when I'd be getting made fun of, I would lean into it. It takes the edge off being bullied if your bullies laugh and then they just kind of leave you alone.

That's how I learned to deal with it—in kind of a self-deprecating way. I was claiming my power because what my mom helped me understand when I would get bullied was that they're doing it because they don't feel like they have power. Bullies are created by circumstance. Where I grew up, you get bullied by your cousins…it wears differently on the res. It's like Indians just tease each other, and if you're not getting teased, then it just means people don't like you. So there's a big difference between getting teased and getting bullied.

Exactly. And bullying can be so vicious.

One girl in particular could be very, very mean to me, and I remember watching her spend time by herself on the playground, watching her withdraw. I never really learned exactly what was up, but some of her friends were friends of mine. I got a sense that things at home weren't particularly great that week.

People who commit such heinous things…it certainly doesn't excuse it, but those things keep happening if you don't realize, like I said, that bullies are created. It comes from feeling powerless. It comes from being disenfranchised, and that's a societal issue.

There’s a scene in episode two between Cam and Dusty when Cam tells the teenager that Reena is dead. It’s so chilling and heavy. What was that scene like to film?

Yeah, it was really, really hard for me. There were moments where it was really difficult to not let Lily poke in too much and be too compassionate, but I also knew that whatever I could do as Cam, that was very much just not believing that this girl was being sincere, doing the cop thing. That only served Aiyana [Goodfellow]'s beautiful performance. That kid blows me away. I told them that there aren't many people that are much younger than me that I look up to, but they're one of them.

Chloe Guidry, Izzy G., Vritika Gupta, Aiyana Goodfellow in Hulu's Under the Bridge

Under The Bridge.jpg

Chloe Guidry, Izzy G., Vritika Gupta, Aiyana Goodfellow in Hulu's Under the Bridge

Going into the third episode, there seems to be quite a history between Cam and Rebecca (Riley Keough). What can you tease about that dynamic, and how soon will we find out what’s going on?

Right. Their history was born in their adolescence, so I think that lends itself really well to the investigation, because both of them are immediately forced back into the period of time when they were that age. In revisiting those things, you definitely learn what some of the tension is, or you get a sense of, “Oh, it's that kind of tension.” [Laughs.]

I thought that was a very interesting device, given that my character is fictional. There was not actually a Cam Bentland. There was a woman on the force; she was the arresting officer for Josephine, so the line “I don't think John Gotti's lawyer's available” came from her. Other than that, everything about Cam was fictional, and then therefore the whole [backstory with Rebecca also] was.

What do you hope people take away from this when they finish watching?

I hope people are challenged to have some really difficult conversations, because we need to have those to move forward as a society. How do we build a stronger village to raise well-adjusted kids who are not marginalized to the point they're so vulnerable to violent crimes?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour senior West Coast editor and author of the NYT best-selling book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series.

Originally Appeared on Glamour