‘One of Us is Lying’ Returns on W Network

In season two of thriller 'One of Us is Lying,' our Murder Club faces off with a blackmailer who turns them all into puppets in a twisted game of Simon Says

I know what you did last season

After an intense first season of trying to prove their innocence in the death of classmate Simon Kelleher (Mark McKenna)—their school’s “Gossip Girl” of sorts—the four Bayview High students that formed Murder Club found themselves in a much stickier situation as the curtain closed. Having discovered that the person responsible for Simon’s death was captain of the football team Jake (Barrett Carnahan), star athlete Cooper Clay (Chibuikem Uche), overachiever Bronwyn Rojas (Marianly Tejada), rebel-without-a-cause Nate McCauley (Cooper van Grootel), outcast Janae Matthews (Jessica McLeod) and Jake’s girlfriend, cheerleader Addy Prentiss (Annalisa Cochrane), faced off with their enemy in the woods, resulting in Jake’s (un)fortunate death.  One of Us Is LyingW NetworkWith Jake gone and the incriminating evidence finally in the hands of the police, Murder Club should be free and clear to live their best high school lives, right? Hardly.  

It quickly becomes evident that someone witnessed their illicit actions and wants to play a high-stakes game of Simon Says. “The great irony is that at the end of season one, they were on the precipice of freedom, and instead they’re being controlled by who knows who,” says showrunner Erica Saleh. “That is definitely a driving force of the season. How far are they going to go? How much are they going to let themselves be controlled? And at what point would it be better to just tell the truth?” One of Us Is LyingW NetworkIn season two, the series veers away from Karen McManus’s novel on which the show is based. “We are off and running in our own direction and that’s been really exciting and fun,” Saleh explains. “When we hit the end of season one and realized we were going to turn them into a real Murder Club, we were so excited about what that would mean for them in terms of telling darker, scarier, more mysterious stories.” 

The season continues to expand on the characters that the audience fell in love with, taking the foursome to some wild places. “When you put people in a pressure cooker, they’re going to show you who they are,” Saleh muses. “I think that forcing these kids into really extreme situations definitely services the characters’ story and creates great emotional tension. They think they know who they are, but you find out a lot about yourself in these high-pressure situations.” 

Their first mission, though, is figuring out who exactly is texting them these threats, considering real-life Simon is six feet under. “Everything revolves around figuring out who holds our lives in their hands,” says Tejada. But that won’t be the easiest task when one party has the advantage. “We’re almost like puppets and we have to follow these commands,” says van Grootel. “There’s this ticking time bomb aspect to it, too. I think it creates a world where we have to deepen the friendships and trust one another more.”   One of Us Is LyingW NetworkA friendship like this is not the easiest to maintain, however. As Uche reflects: “Every time he’s around Murder Club, trouble is right around the corner, so distancing himself from this trouble so that he can have this career and support his family is the best bet for him. But it’s not that easy.” Meanwhile, tension starts to build within the group about the best way to handle both the secret and the threat. “Janae has very strong opinions, as has Bronwyn, so there is a lot of tension at the beginning of the season,” says McLeod. “And I’m not sure Janae wants to go back to the way things were before. I think Janae is, in a weird way, the happiest we’ve seen her.” One of Us Is LyingW NetworkWhile the series is inspired by horror franchises like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, what the actors appreciate is the ability to take archetypal characters and delve much deeper into them. “I think it started with Karen and the book, because she gave these characters depth beyond their years,” says Tejada. “Bronwyn is the overachiever, but she’s also a sassy Latina and a passionate person. I don’t think I’ve seen that a lot before.” The tonal changes within each episode, from scary to humorous to dramatic, also allow the characters to explore how people can change depending on their circumstances. “We were given the freedom to delve into those nuances,” says van Groot. “And I think we just really understood the characters and where they wanted to take this [show].” 

As the threat against them escalates, Saleh and the writers promise to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats, while never compromising the grounded feel they established in season one. “It’s really a guiding principle in the writers’ room that the characters’ stories feel real,” says Saleh. “We can put them in crazy situations as long as the emotional reason that they’re doing that feels honest. It’s definitely a line that we’re walking, but I think—I hope—we’re pulling it off.”

One of Us is Lying airs Thursdays on W Network