What do you get when the pretty girl, athlete, geek, rebel and recluse all get detention in the same room?
Peacock’s “One Of Us Is Lying”. The new series, set to premiere on Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on W Network, based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Karen M. McManus, tells the story of what happens when only four of the stereotypical characters make it out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, the Peacock series introduces viewers to the narrator and victim Simon (Mark McKenna) quite early on. He’s the poster child of the gossipy generation Z stereotype who spreads rumours about the school’s elite on the first day of school, and ultimately gets poisoned to death for it.
Though each character in question has an important life hurdle to overcome, Mark tells ET Canada that his character learned his lesson the hard way.
“My character definitely needs to learn that his actions have consequences and I think the only way that someone can learn that is if they actually see it in person, rather than hear someone talk about it,” Mark said.
Continue reading to find out how each main character in the series feels now that the show is finally debuting after working on the project for the last two years, as well as how the series will explore subjects such as sexuality and mental health different that the highly praised and beloved book.
READ MORE: Chibuikem Uche Felt ‘Pressure’ Portraying A Black, Gay Athlete In ‘One Of Us Is Lying’
How are you feeling now that One Of Us Is Lying is about to premiere on Peacock?
Annalisa Cochrane: So excited! It’s been two years in the making since we got cast and shot our pilot, and I think finally for people to see it, we’re on the edge of our seats.
Chibuikem Uche: So excited! It doesn’t feel real. It’s like, ‘Oh wow, after all this time, they’re finally get to see it!’ It’s fun, it’s such a good time right now, so I can’t wait for people to get their hands on it.
Marianly Tejada: To just have this all come to life and share it with everyone is just extremely exciting.
Cooper van Grootel: I think it’s surreal. We’ve been on this journey for two years. We shot our first audition in September of 2019, and it’s been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster of a ride this whole process through COVID and all that. It’s a really crazy time right now to have this so soon.
Mark McKenna: Excited. We filmed the pilot nearly two years ago now, so it’s exciting for us to finally get it out to the world and have everyone see it, and for us to see it ourselves. I haven’t seen every episode yet.
Barrett Carnahan: We haven’t seen all of them so I’m really excited to see them as they drop. It’ll be really exciting for the fans who have been there from the beginning. As soon as we booked the pilot, they were really on us like crazy so they’ve been dying for like two years to see this so it’s going to be fun.
Melissa Collazo: I mean, it feels pretty unreal because we’ve been on this journey for like almost two years at this point so now that the world’s eyes are going to be on it, and not just our little group, it’s feel very unreal.
Jessica McLeod: Totally what Melissa said. It’s very surreal and obviously very exciting. I just feel very proud of this whole team, cast and crew. It’s just awesome to see them shine in the show.
The series has been described as a mix between The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars. Did either project have an influence on you growing up?
Annalisa Cochrane: I don’t know why, I kind of missed The Breakfast Club growing up. My parents weren’t huge movie watchers, but Pretty Little Liars, definitely my high school experience, that show was all over it. I remember seeing where they made to it the cover of magazines because it was this cultural phenomenon, and the secrets they go through and what they have to protect and hide. That show definitely was on my watch list.
Chibuikem Uche: Not as much The Breakfast Club growing up, but Pretty Little Liars, I definitely binged my way through it.
Marianly Tejada: I feel like we’ve used it as a source to prep our characters and sort of dive into a similar world because it’s been such a big inspiration for the book, and therefore blends into the show. I haven’t watched Pretty Little Liars myself, but it’s been compared to that and I think it’s the murdery mystery part of it where people can see similarities with our show.
Cooper van Grootel: I think “The Breakfast Club” comparison is pretty spot on. When we were talking to Karen about it, she came up with the idea when she was driving a car and heard one of the songs from “The Breakfast Club” and thought of the idea of Breakfast Club with murder, and that’s how the book came about.
Mark McKenna: I got into film quite late so I didn’t see “The Breakfast Club” until I was 17 and I’ve never seen “Pretty Little Liars”, but I think John Hughes in general has had a big influence on me.
Barrett Carnahan: I grew up definitely loving “Breakfast Club”, thinking that Emilio Estevez was the shit. So to be able to be a part of something that kind of has that genre and then flips it into a completely different genre, while holding onto those themes has been really exciting.
Melissa Collazo: I watched a lot of “Pretty Little Liars”, and “The Breakfast Club”. It’s a classic. I don’t know a single teenager who hasn’t watched “The Breakfast Club”.
Jessica McLeod: Oh, I was about “Pretty Little Liars”. I was there for it completely. Addicted. Obsessed.
READ MORE: ‘Queer As Folk’ Reboot Is Coming To Peacock
Since the book sensationalized sexuality and mental illness, how do you believe the show addresses the controversial plot twists surrounding the topics?
Chibuikem Uche: I think it does justice. I hope that people will see that, but I think it highlights topics that are very real and not always pretty in terms of mental illness and how to navigate it and some of the ways that people will try to cope. In terms of sexuality, I think it highlights some of the pressures that young people feel and there’s a loneliness involved in these things, but you’ll watch on and you’ll see that there are lessons to be learned and healthy ways to navigate through these topics. I’m grateful that the show does that and showcases that these topics in their entirety are very raw. There’s something to be taken away from how we portray it.
Annalisa Cochrane: It spotlights the issues and brings them to light, which I think is so important, but then it empowers the characters and it empowers the audience to see how the characters deal with it, and see that you need a community, you need people around you, you need to be your true self, you need to let go of shame, and let go of hiding, and that ultimately can help you come out in your truest self so I think that that’s really beautiful. It’s through the character’s stories that you get to see it, but then you also get to see how they work through whatever issues they’re dealing with.
Marianly Tejada: Without spoiling anything, a lot of thought and care has been put into those two particular subjects in the show and I really hope that people receive it that way and I feel confident that there’s going to be just grounded situations that reflect the climate that we’re seeing nowadays, and that’s why it’s so good to be a part of this project because we’re just trying to reflect situations that are happening every day around us and hoping that with that, we are creating more conversation around it and we pay attention to it and not taking it lightly.
Cooper van Grootel: I think the show handles these prominent issues in today’s society so well. In terms of mental health, it’s a very touchy subject right now and it’s important to tackle it in a sensitive way, and we’re doing it justice. Mental health is so important and with social media nowadays, it can have a huge influence on that and that’s a big part of the show so I think the show tackles it in a really sensitive, beautiful and amazing way and to make people aware of the challenges of mental health and you’re not alone and it’s always good to speak up and talk about how you feel. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Barrett Carnahan: When it comes to sexuality, the thing the book touches on very well is who this affects other than just Cooper. He goes through so many stages of this conflict that’s eating away at him that he needs to face and it goes literally down every single path in his life and how it affects all these different avenues and all these people that he cares about. I think that’s something that was really, really fleshed out and given a lot of time.
Mark McKenna: The show definitely deals with both topics in a very fleshed out way, especially Coopers sexuality. I think the topic of mental illness is definitely a very broad spectrum. In this show, it’s kind of dealt with in a way that’s not as heavily talked about it the book, but it’s definitely talked on in elements.
Jessica McLeod: I think they’re both really important conversations to have right now. I think the show makes changes that fit with the arch of what the series is as opposed to the book. I mean I really think Karen wrote a beautiful book and definitely did not intend to be isolating to anyone sexually or mental health wise, but we’re living in such crazy, fast changing times that of course people are learning and growing as time goes on, so I think the series has learned and grown since the book came out. It’s hard to say specifics just because there are plot points surrounding these things, but I will say I don’t believe sexuality is used as a twist in the show, and I think the conversations around mental health are just different and a little more detailed in the show.
Like the book, the series produces several important messages for teenagers to learn. Is there one that stood out to you most or that you related to a lot?
Chibuikem Uche: Definitely the journey that Cooper goes on in terms of his sexuality, particularly sexuality within sports and how you just don’t really have many out athletes. I think the NFL had its first openly gay athlete come out less than two months ago, and baseball, you don’t have any major league athletes that are openly gay. I think soccer maybe has one, so that was alarming and for a young person in Cooper’s shoes, it can be very scary to be like, ‘Where do I exist in the world?’ So I think it’s beautiful that the show highlights that and you’ll watch on and see how Cooper navigates it. I did feel pressure, and I had to trust the people that I work with in a sense because the pressure can be shared, but also I had to do my due diligence and terms of research, reading books, reading articles, having conversations, watching videos, and doing everything I could to prepare then trusting my collaborators to tell the best story possible.
Annalisa Cochrane: There are a few issues that should be seen more on screen in today’s world. There’s a little storyline later on that I think is so important. It’s small, but just to know that teens and older are dealing with similar things, and people might not feel comfortable telling others, but it’s still so important that we address it. The more you normalize talking about this stuff, I think the better because we’re so held back when we can’t talk about things, when we can’t be vulnerable. I really resonate with the sharing that all of these characters have to learn because that will save us. Vulnerability is the answer.
Cooper van Grootel: As an actor and as a human being going through high school as well, and really trying to find yourself and find who you are, and navigate such a crazy experience. I mean, high school is filled with a lot of judgement, but also a lot of really amazing moments, and all through that you’re changing and developing as a human being so rapidly so I think to some degree I relate to it massively finding myself.
Barrett Carnahan: I think something that it really touches on is that with social media and kids that have grown up in this era, are always trying to match the people they admire, and they have such easy access to these people they find perfect, and these people who they think have their life together, and they try to be that, but we’re all different, and we all started at different places in our life, and we’re all in different stages in our life and sometimes kids can try to be so much older than they actually are and try to be somebody else entirely, and I think that if you’re constantly focused on making yourself a certain way at such a young age, you don’t even know what life is yet. You don’t even know the reality of what life is and how hard it can hit and sometimes things happen and shit hits the fan and you are not going to have it together the way you think you do.
Mark McKenna: The one that stood out to me is that it kind of showed how important it is for a teenager to talk to somebody about their issues, have a circle, or some friends that they can go to other than trying to deal with it themselves. Obviously the example of a murder is very extreme, but everything outside of the murder whether it’s dealing with the fact that you’re not open about your sexuality, the fact that you’re not living up to your parents expectations, I think the show deals with that in a way that show’s its good to talk to people about that kind of stuff.
Melissa Collazo: I mean basically that it is a murder mystery and there are a lot of things going on, but the core of it is friendship and empathy. I don’t think the show would work without that, and the found family aspect of it is very beautiful too.
READ MORE: ‘Clueless’ Is Being Turned Into A Series On Peacock
In your opinion, why does your character to need to learn how to accept themselves and others for who they are?
Barrett Carnahan: I think my character needs to learn that nobody is perfect, not even himself and that people are going to make mistakes, even himself. And rather than ignore that, he needs to face it and own up to your mistakes. Everyone in this show learns lessons the hard way so it’ll be fun to see.
Mark McKenna: My character definitely needs to learn that his actions have consequences and I think the only way that someone can learn that is if they actually see it in person, rather than hear someone talk about it.
“One Of Us Is Lying” premieres Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on W Network,