‘Under the Bridge’ Star Breaks Down Reena’s ‘Really Heavy’ Beating Scene

Note: This story contains spoilers from the “Under the Bridge” finale.

The killers of Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta) stood trial in the season finale of Hulu true-crime series “Under the Bridge,” while viewers got the last glimpses of Reena before her violent death.

Ahead of the finale’s premiere, TheWrap spoke with Gupta, the 14-year-old, Seattle-based actress who took on the role of the teenager who was murdered in Victoria, BC in 1997.

She talked about filming the “heavy” scene where Reena is beaten by her former friends, including Jo (Chloe Guidry) and Kelly (Izzy G.), what she thought of some of the questionable choices that Riley Keough’s character Rebecca makes and what she hopes viewers take away from the series.

TheWrap: What kind of preparation did you do for this role?

Vritika Gupta: Going into the series auditioning for it, I had no idea this was a true story. So I really wanted to take a deep dive into the character and understand Reena, and I wanted to understand different viewpoints as well. So I read Rebecca’s book and I also read Manjit’s book about Reena. I think that really helped me expand my thinking on how to get into her character.

What was the toughest scene for you to film? I mean, the beatdown looked pretty rough.

Yeah, it would definitely have to be filming the under the bridge sequence beatdown. It was really heavy. I think for a lot of us when we were rehearsing, the heaviness didn’t feel the same as when we were there in that moment. But we were surrounded by such an incredible cast and crew, and I think we all truly felt so supported in that moment. When you have such a bond with each other and that chemistry, it always makes it feel so much safer.

You were on friendly terms, I assume, with your costars and then they had to attack you. Was that tough, mentally, to get into that space?

Oh, my God. When it came to those hard days where we’re really enemies, we did try to get in the character before and we would have these rehearsals, which I think really helped us get into the headspace. It was so much easier to express those emotions and be mean and angry, because we were so comfortable with each other.

I remember Geeta Vasant Patel, our first episode director, she made me and Chloe just stare into each other’s eyes. We felt so uncomfortable at first. We didn’t know each other that well, but that helped us get so much closer. And we were able to have that chemistry off set.

Did you have mental health support or did you feel like you needed that during the show?

I was able to go home after a long day on set and be with my family. The shooting was in Vancouver, which is only a couple hours away from my home. So I had a good support system around me and was able to go home every other weekend and see my friends and have a regular teenage life. I think that was super, super helpful, and super important to me, and helped me feel that I can have these two lives and feel different from Reena.

Were you familiar with any of these ’90s songs before you did the show?

I actually didn’t know any of the songs. But I love listening to oldies. That was so important [to the character], bringing out her music. My acting coach made Reena playlists and we put songs on it that we thought Reena would love, and that she would listen to back in the day. I think that really helped me get into her mindset.

What were some of the songs on it?

“California Love” [by Tupac Shakur] and a more recent song that I thought Reena would love, “Bound 2 “by Kanye West. And also, of course, Biggie.

Under the Bridge
Riley Keough as Rebecca and Javon Walton as Warren in “Under the Bridge.” (CREDIT: Darko Sikman/Hulu)

In the series, Rebecca is so sympathetic to Warren [Javon Walton], even though he helped kill Reena. How did you take that relationship? Did you feel that was a betrayal to Reena in a way?

Oh, that’s such a hard question because I feel like, in our head we always think we’re right at that moment. Each person thinks in a different way and has a unique perspective. And there’s so many factors that can lead up to the way they think.

Were you ever thinking “What is this girl doing?” about some of Rebecca’s choices?

[Laughs] There were moments where I was like, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?” But it was so cool to see the development, all the characters, and how their mindset changes and how their perspectives change as well.

Obviously you’re acting, it’s a role. But was it hard for your parents to see you being bullied on screen?

Yeah, they always told me after each episode, “That was such a phenomenal job.” And sometimes you even forget that that’s you on the screen because it’s so different from yourself. When I’m watching it, my heart drops every time [because of] the music, the actors and the way that the story all ties together. It’s truly so powerful and it’s so gut-wrenching.

When people watch the show, what do you hope they take away from it?

That you need to surround yourself with people that you can trust and who only want what’s best for you. It’s super important to have that aspect in your life. And I hope audiences take away that kindness is really the most important thing. There’s so much to just being kind and being empathetic.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

All episodes of “Under the Bridge” are now streaming on Hulu.

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