Lily Gladstone returns to the '90s in 'Under the Bridge'

In Lily Gladstone's latest film , Under The Bridge , teenage characters play Steve Madden, admiring gangster John Gotti, and slamming Notorious BIG and Nirvana. It was a surreal experience for the 37-year-old actor.

"It feels weird to go back to adolescence," Gladstone tells Bustle of the series, which is set in 1997. "I was definitely listening to a lot of the same music and wearing the same necklaces that you see on [the character]," Josephine, the one with what looks almost like a neck tattoo. I still have it and wear it. "

Set in Victoria, Canada, this historical drama follows an ambitious detective (Gladstone) and her estranged childhood friend (Riley Keough) as they investigate the murder of 14-year-old Rena Vick ( The real-life murder of Reena Virk. It's a dark drama that delves into race-based bullying, not entirely unlike last year's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which thrust Gladstone into the national spotlight and earned her a Golden Globe and U.S. Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Gladstone plays Cam in "Under the Bridge." Bettina Strauss/Hulu

After the Oscars, where she became the first Native American woman to be nominated for the Best Actress award, Gladstone's tribe, the Blackfeet Confederacy, gathered more than 2,000 people in Browning, Montana, to honor her. . "I was transferred into a female standing tiara, which is the greatest honor anyone can receive," she said. "They call it Lily Gladstone Day. It's amazing to see so many Blackfeet people across the league celebrating what is truly a shared victory throughout the awards season."

Since then, Gladstone has starred in Memory Cop and the romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet . Her film "Fancy Dance ," about a woman's search for her missing sister, will be released on Apple TV in June. Still, Killers of the Flower Moon went on to create an enduring legacy for Gladstone, and her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio even made a surprise appearance in Under the Bridge .

“There was a poster of Leo on the wall in the teen room, which I happened to find interesting,” Gladstone said. "When I walked in, I was like, 'Oh, hey, what's up, man?'"

Below, the actor reflects on high school, Keough's hustler spirit, and relaxing after awards season.

Lily Gladstone receives a standing headdress from the Blackfeet Nation. Tommy Martino/University of Montana/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

What drew you to Under the Bridge ?

Riley. I've received the description, but I'm filming fancy dance , so my time is limited. I'm not sure that's the right thing for me, especially after Killers of the Flower Moon . I hesitate to quote-unquote True Crime again. But once I knew that Riley liked her—had been a fan of hers for a long time, and knew how thoughtful and engaged she was about many of the same social issues that I did—I thought, okay, there might be something here.

How does Under the Bridge differ from other true crime dramas ?

The project is guided by empathy and social awareness, moving beyond the idea of ​​true crime as an entertainment genre. Real stories are your entry point into having these very important conversations.

I read "Under the Bridge," and I was delighted to learn that [Rena's father] had written a manuscript that they had chosen to flesh out her and her family's experiences throughout the event. It adds a necessary layer of nuance.

How did you come to research Reina’s case?

A lot of the research I did was on the experiences of survivors of the Sixties Scoop, a broad government initiative in Canada. This program removes Aboriginal children from their families and adopts them to non-Aboriginal families for very stupid, despicable and arbitrary reasons. It’s an epidemic and it’s having extremely long-lasting effects.

The impact of Rena's case reminded me of the Matthew Shepard case in the United States. [It gave me] insight into what made this crime so heartbreaking.

You're very close in age to Reena and the girls of the late 90s. How does it feel to go back to that time?

Back in that space, I thought about what we had been through and how we had been through some of the same things. I had just moved from a reservation to a suburb of Seattle and was opening a new school. As the only Aboriginal child, I definitely felt marginalized.

I was 11 years old and in middle school, and I remember that suddenly our teachers and adult society became very concerned about our fascination with gore and disability culture. There's almost a "prevent gang violence" thing in there, which baffles me. [In hindsight, because] it was so close to Victoria where it happened, it made sense.

A few years later, at Columbine, I remember it all started over again. Suddenly, adults were regulating the music we listened to and the media we consumed. Even then, I remember thinking that wasn't what was causing this . We are now more focused on preventing bullying, and a lot of that has to do with looking at what causes bullying and what inequalities in society lead to bullies or victims.

Riley Keough and Gladstone in "Under the Bridge." Darko Hickman/Hulu

How did you and Riley Keough work together to build your character's chemistry?

You have to give credit to [the casting department]. They know we're going to work together. So Riley and I don't really have to do much except spend time together.

Tell me about your favorite on-set memory with Riley.

Riley has a bit of a trickster spirit that occasionally comes into play, especially in scenes where we're in close physical proximity. She has a very funny but also very annoying habit of [jokingly] saying "Oops" just to get a response. So it's like you worry if you stepped on [her] toes or did something that hurt [her]. She does this to improve people's status. So it's funny and annoying.

That's funny. I'd also love to hear what life is like for you after the Oscars. How was your week after awards season?

I took my mom and dad to a great spa in Palm Springs and [visited] the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. My best friend growing up was their tribal lawyer. We grew up together in Montana. She and her boss, the tribal chairman, invited me to relax at the spa after the Oscars. After promoting a movie about a reign of terror, it was wonderful to step into a vibrant, prosperous, powerful sovereign tribal nation.

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.