What happens when five high schoolers walk into detention and only four make it out alive? Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. That’s the premise of the gripping murder mystery series One Of Us Is Lying, based on Karen M. McManus’ bestselling novel. Ahead of today’s premiere of the final two episodes on Peacock, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had an exclusive conversation with series’ executive producer and showrunner Darío Madrona and star Jessica McLeod who plays Janae, the lesbian best friend of murdered student Simon, about LGBTQ representation on the show.
“Hopefully we are talking about LGBTQ issues the same way that people are right now in real life”, says Madrona. “There are LGBTQ kids in schools and they have their lives and they have their issues, some of them have to do with being LGBTQ and some of them have to do with completely different things. I think in Janae’s life the least complicated thing about her is the fact that she’s a lesbian. Everything else is kind of a mess, but that’s actually something she’s completely comfortable with.”
“With Cooper it’s the opposite”, Madrona continues, “but not so much because he doesn’t feel good about himself, although there’s a little part of that, but it’s also about, what do you do when you are in the world of sports which is misogynistic and homophobic? Cooper doesn’t tell his dad the truth because he is worried about his baseball career, but he’s also worried about how his dad is going to look at him. That is something that still happens. Sometimes kids are afraid they’ll disappoint their parents if they tell them they’re gay or lesbian, even though they know there’s nothing wrong with it. You don’t want your dad or your mom to look at you in a different way. You don’t want them to stop looking at you with adoring eyes, you don’t want your own family to otherize you. That’s pretty tough. It’s not about self-acceptance.”
“I really think that you got the two most different coming out experiences, which I love,” adds McLeod. “I love that Janae is like, ‘I’m gay and it’s embarrassing that you don’t know that’ to Addy, she’s like, ‘that’s on you!’ Janae is an outcast, but she’s done that to herself, that’s where she likes to be. It’s not that people are like, ‘oh, she’s weird, she’s queer, she’s over there’. No. Janae is like, I’m gonna be over here, thank you.
“When I read the book, I was like, I think she’s super gay”, adds McLeod. “Then in my first meeting with Jennifer Morrison who directed the pilot and Erica Saleh who now is executive producing and writing, one of the first things I said was ‘I think Janae’s gay, what do you guys think?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, maybe she’s queer or bi?’ And I was like, ‘No, I think she’s super gay, for sure.’ And they were like, ‘Okay, yeah.’ Then they completely took that and I think they saw that in her as well. I was really excited to have that representation and to get to play that role. It’s very exciting for me.”
Watch the full conversation here:
By James Kleinmann
All eight episodes of One Of Us Is Lying are streaming on Peacock now. Watch the first three episodes for free.