Lily Gladstone & Quinn Shephard on Under the Bridge's intersections, queer relationship

Riley Keough as Rebecca and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge
Riley Keough as Rebecca and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge
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There’s a palpable spark when Riley Keough’s Rebecca spots Lily Gladstone’s Cam across the room in a police station in Hulu’s limited series Under the Bridge. It’s already been established that they were childhood friends, but it’s clear from that first moment of reconnection that there’s something deeper between Rebecca, a New York City-based writer who returns home to Victoria, British Columbia in the late 1990s to write a book essentially about girl culture at a problematic group home in Victoria and Cam, an Indigenous police officer who followed in the footsteps of her adoptive dad and her brother who was once a resident of the group home.

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Under the Bridge is based on Rebecca Godfrey’s book of the same name about the aftermath of the horrific and unfortunately prescient death of 14-year-old Reena Virk (played by Vritika Gupta) orchestrated by teen girls Reena attempted to befriend. The series from queer creator Quinn Shephard (Not Okay) also examines the Virk family who are othered as immigrants, the epidemic of missing Indigenous girls, and as star Keogh says, “radical forgiveness.”

Vritika Gupta as Reena Virk in Under the Bridge
Vritika Gupta as Reena Virk in Under the Bridge

Vritika Gupta as Reena Virk in Under the Bridge Bettina Strauss/Hulu

As is telegraphed by their early interactions in the series, the show also features the reconciliation of a queer love between Rebecca and Cam that Shephard says is in part born out of shared grief over Rebecca’s brother’s death when they were all childhood friends and the current heinous murder of one of Victoria’s own.Though Shephard consulted with Godfrey during Under the Bridge’s development, Godfrey died of lung cancer in 2022 just as production on the series was about to begin. Parts of the series are fictionalized for TV.

“The relationship between Cam and Rebecca, because Cam is largely a fictional character, is sort of the most fictionalized part of the show,” Shephard explains. “The approach is really that in two ways, it was important once we put Rebecca as a lead role and perspective in the show, that she had a counterbalance, like a foil who she could unpack her own perspective with and who would have a perspective that sort of opposed her own.”

Chloe Guidry as Josephine and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge
Chloe Guidry as Josephine and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge

Chloe Guidry as Josephine and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge Darko Sikman/Hulu

Early in the series, when Reena’s family reports that she’s been missing for a few days, Cam dismisses it as just another girl who runs away for a few days (they get so many cases like that). As pieces of Reena’s story surface, she works with Rebecca to find the killer(s). With Rebecca embedded with the teen girls as their cool older confidante, Cam increasingly eschews law enforcement and her dad’s methods of excavating the truth. Eventually, Cam and Rebecca reconnect emotionally and sexually through the shared experience of grieving the death of Rebecca’s brother as teens and the current heightened situation.

“We found it really interesting that giving them such an emotionally tied backstory and relationship would allow them to be tied to each other, whether or not they saw the world the same way,” Shephard says. “And it would allow them to view the crime in a very personal nature. Their relationship in the show, it’s very much about grief and about their different views on the world and how they are still tied by experiencing this thing together, even if they're quite different people.”

Riley Keough as Rebecca in Under the Bridge
Riley Keough as Rebecca in Under the Bridge

Riley Keough as Rebecca in Under the Bridge Darko Sikman/Hulu

As Cam and Rebecca uncover the details of Reena’s murder, Cam’s backstory is revealed.

“I knew the history that Cam’s character is pointing to being adopted Indigenous person, and I really liked the conversation and how she was maybe a bit faster to have compassion, to have just a feeling about Reena's case,” Gladstone adds. “Also given some of Cam’s background that you learn revolving around her adoption that gives her another level of empathy and maybe another level of criticism against these kids. And the conversation that both of our characters want in a lot of ways the same thing but are coming from very different perspectives and very different lots in life.”

“You can have a fully rounded conversation about what our characters represented as people but also as institutions around this case, and ultimately the two of us,?” Gladstone adds about their dynamic. “While we are leading this, we think of ourselves way more in supporting roles to the rest of the story, which is so much the brilliance of the kids, and then just anchored in the Virk family and what their experience was.”

Watch The Advocate’s interview with Lily Gladstone and Riley Keough below:

Watch The Advocate’s interview with Quinn Shephard and showrunner Samir Mehta below.