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Lily Gladstone, Riley Keough hunt a killer in gripping “Under the Bridge” trailer

Series creator Quinn Shephard and showrunner Samir Mehta unravel the complex, addicting mystery in an exclusive interview with EW.

The pairing of Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Emmy nominee Riley Keough (Daisy Jones and the Six) for a moody detective thriller feels like something out of a #TrueDetectiveSeason5 Twitter trend. The fact that this team-up wasn't just mere dream casting for the Hulu series Under the Bridge feels equally cosmic to both the series' writer/creator Quinn Shephard and showrunner Samir Mehta.

"I moved into a house January 2022," Mehta tells Entertainment Weekly. "One day, I'm taking out the trash, met my new neighbor, became very close friends right away. I was telling him I just got this show and he is like, 'I'm really good friends with Riley Keough. I think she'd be great for it.'"

"And then Lily and Riley had been Instagram friends," Shephard adds. "They never met in real life. They'd been DMing each other a lot. So we were like, 'It obviously should be Lily Gladstone in this role.'"

A brief teaser for the series, the first glimpse of the magic this combination created, aired briefly during this year's Oscars ceremony, where Gladstone was being recognized as a nominee for her breakthrough performance as Mollie Burkhart in Martin Scorsese's acclaimed drama. EW can exclusively reveal the full trailer, along with insights from Shephard and Mehta.

"Neither of us wanted to make yet another classic murder mystery," Mehta says. "We really wanted to find a way to elevate the genre and do something new with it." Shephard notes their main source material, author Rebecca Godfrey's compelling 2005 work Under the Bridge, was already doing that in some ways: "It was a crime book that didn't feel like a crime book. There was a real gentleness and femininity to the way that the story was told. I felt like it offered a lot of space to tell a story both about Reena, but also about childhood and the stories of the other teenagers."

Hulu's Under the Bridge (premiering April 17) centers around the murder of Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta). On the night of November 14, 1997, the 14-year-old from Victoria, British Columbia, left to meet friends at a party and never returned home. Her body was later found floating in the Gorge Inlet waterway.

The story unfolds partly through the eyes of Cam Bentland (Gladstone), a local police officer determined to find Reena, even though her colleagues pass the kid off as just another "Bic girl." (Like Bic lighters, a particular group of Victoria's troubled teenagers are seen as just as disposable.) In a fresh nuance, the show is also told from the perspective of Godfrey herself (Keough), who returns to her childhood home in her 20s to write a book about these teens and begins to unravel startling truths about the girls accused of Reena's murder.

Godfrey died from complications with lung cancer at the age of 54 on Oct. 3, 2022, one week after Hulu announced the adaptation of Under the Bridge. The late author retains a posthumous executive producer credit on the series.

<p>Disney</p> Lily Gladstone as Cam Bentland in 'Under the Bridge'

Disney

Lily Gladstone as Cam Bentland in 'Under the Bridge'
<p>Disney</p> Riley Keough as Rebecca Godfrey in 'Under the Bridge'

Disney

Riley Keough as Rebecca Godfrey in 'Under the Bridge'

Shephard points to the audio book release for Under the Bridge, which includes an interview with Godfrey — one of the first things she listened to in her research. "There is this hip, young, cool, edgy vibe to her," the writer explains. "She related to the teenagers and they trusted her. I found that so interesting to do almost a Capote-style approach, but through the eyes of a young woman who's reliving her childhood through a tale of a really horrible thing."

The adaptation became richer for that narrative choice. "The show is an adaptation of [Godfrey's] novel, but also the story of her writing that novel," explains Mehta, who came aboard the series two years ago. "That extra layer allowed us to look at the nature of true crime from the perspective of someone creating it, which is something that we were doing as well. So it had that meta layer to it."

Shephard read Godfrey's book in 2019 at a time when she was looking to explore the psychology of violence in young women. Citing classic '90s cinema and the work of filmmaker Gus Van Sant, Shephard also mentions referencing the photography of Justine Kurland while scripting the scripts. With Godfrey, they'd discuss how the subjects of these photos were "young, scruffy girls in beautiful wilderness," which reminded Godfrey of these teens from Victoria.

"We wanted this to be our take on a fable or a fairytale while also being grounded," Mehta says of the show's visual style. "The place where reality and fantasy meet is the universe of the show."

'Under the Bridge' premieres on Hulu April 17
'Under the Bridge' premieres on Hulu April 17

In addition to Godfrey and Under the Bridge, the team also worked with Virk's father Manjit Virk to option the rights to his memoir about the incident, 2008's Reena: A Father's Story. Ezra Faroque Khan plays Manjit in the Hulu drama, which also weaves in flashbacks to the family's life before their daughter's death. "It's a larger, more holistic view of the whole story," Mehta says of the series. "This crime in the '90s was told by certain people, and their own perspectives impact the storytelling. It really allowed you to, in an interesting way, comment on storytelling and on who tells whose stories within the show itself."

That's where Shephard and Mehta found many of the twists in the scripts for Under the Bridge. They were able to use perspectives — particularly those of these teenage girls in the vacuum of a high school rumor mill — to play with unreliable narrators. Who's really telling the truth at any given time? What are their motivations? What is fact and what is just gossip?

"It's like the way childhood fantasy grabs a story and twists it into its own narrative," Mehta explains. "We never wanted to create red herrings that meant nothing, that go nowhere simply to manipulate the audience. We're always telling the character story by way of these twists and turns."

And the fact that Gladstone and Keough are the ones through which we navigate this mystery.... Mehta thinks back on that fateful neighbor meet and greet and thinks, "I literally hit the jackpot."

Under the Bridge premieres on Hulu April 17. Watch the trailer above.

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