'Riverdale' Star Camila Mendes on More Mature Role in 'Dangerous Lies': "It Felt Nice to Graduate"

Dangerous Lies Still 2 - Netflix Publicity- H 2020
Netflix

The actress breaks down some of the twists and surprises in the Netflix thriller about a married couple who inherit a mysterious estate.

[The following story contains spoilers from Dangerous Lies.]

Camila Mendes is drawn into a web of lies and deception in Netflix's Dangerous Lies.

The thriller centers around caretaker Katie (Mendes) and her husband, Adam (Jessie T. Usher), following the unexpected death of her client Leonard (Elliott Gould). When Leonard leaves his estate to Katie, she and Adam begin to experience ominous incidents. They soon realize that they must fight to keep the estate and to save their lives.  

"It's just that perfect amount of darkness, but it's still light and satisfying," Mendes told The Hollywood Reporter about the tone of the film.

Jamie Chung, Cam Gigandet and Sasha Alexander also star in the Michael M. Scott-directed film, which is now available to stream on Netflix.

Mendes, who currently stars as Veronica Lodge on The CW's Riverdale, spoke to THR about playing a more mature role, some of the film's more memorable scenes and releasing the movie during the coronavirus pandemic.

First off, I hope you've been staying safe and healthy during this pandemic.

I'm doing fine. I'm just watching all of this unfold and trying to keep myself busy and entertained. I'm just doing my best to stay safe.

How would you describe your character Katie?

I would describe Katie as very sweet and a hard worker. I see her as somebody who didn't necessarily grow up with much and who's trying to make the most of her life. All of a sudden, this thing that she's been working tirelessly for, which is this idea of security, is given to her unexpectedly. But it comes with all of these other weird moral dilemmas and responsibilities and lies that have a domino effect. One thing leads to the other, and she's sort of sifting through it all.

You're best known for playing high school student Veronica Lodge on Riverdale. What was it like for you to play a more mature role?

It was really nice to know that I could be seen that way, to play a more mature role. Obviously I love playing high school, too. It's not like I'm opposed to either. It felt nice to graduate to an older character.

Katie works as a caretaker for Leonard, who takes a liking to her. He even gives her and Adam money when he learns that they are struggling financially. Do you think Katie and Leonard's relationship was strictly professional, or was it more personal than that?

I wouldn't say that he viewed her as a daughter figure, but I do think that Leonard and Katie had a very close relationship. To be someone who has nobody left in his life, I think Katie meant a lot to him and he to her.

Your character on Riverdale comes from a wealthy family. What was it like playing a character who's part of a young couple struggling financially as they begin their life together?

It was really nice. I really enjoyed that change of pace of playing a character that wasn't born with money. I think it's nice because not only does it make the character more relatable to the audience, but I also think it's sometimes a more interesting story to have a character who is really working toward something. Not to say that Veronica isn't. She definitely is very ambitious. But I always personally gravitate toward characters that are kind of figuring it out.

Katie and Adam are having financial problems in the beginning of the film, and they're seen discussing paying off his student loans. When Leonard dies, he leaves his estate to the couple. How does inheriting Leonard's estate change their dynamic?

I think they learn a lot about each other in that process. I don't think you can really prepare for that sort of situation until it happens. Katie is trying to understand how Adam is coping with all of this, and the way he's dealing with it is very different than how she is. He's ready to just jump in and start spending money like there's no tomorrow. Katie is way more on the cautious side, not wanting to call attention to it, and is still a little bit skeptical about the whole situation. I think the more that Adam is fearlessly spending and making his decisions, the more Katie grows suspicious of him.

Throughout the film, Detective Chesler (Alexander) implies to Katie that Adam might have been involved in Leonard's death. At what point do you think Katie begins to second-guess her husband?

That's a good question. I think there's a moment when Adam suggests getting burner phones. He also wants to keep things private and tries to burn the checks. It's more toward the end of the movie when she starts to really see him making these very bizarre choices, and I think that's when she starts to question his motives. But I think that questioning is very much buried in the back of her mind, though it doesn't really come forward until the very end of the movie.

A turning point in the film is when Katie finds a dead body with diamonds at Leonard's estate. She and Adam figure out that the body belongs to a former gardener who Leonard said disappeared. Do you think that discovery changes how seriously they're taking being framed for Leonard's death?

Totally, because it adds all of these layers to it. There's not only the diamonds, but there is a dead body in there. All of these questions start to come up. Who did this? Who was this guy? Why did he have diamonds? And how does this make us look now that we have this house? We're living in this house, and this man has passed away, and now there's a dead body in the back. It all starts to look very suspicious and brings in a whole other onslaught of questions.

It's revealed at the end of the film that there are diamonds hidden in the estate's garden. Do you think Katie knew that they were there? If so, do you think she had plans for how to use them?

I don't think she knew about the diamonds. At least, that's how I chose to play it, because Leonard went off and hid them on his own, and he died before he could tell her where they were. I can imagine when she went looking for them, she was looking all over the house. I'm not sure that it had occurred to her that the diamonds could be buried in the soil. I really do love that at the ending of the movie.

Was there a particular scene that was most memorable for you to film?

I would say that the whole shootout sequence was the most memorable. It was such a big scene and such a pivotal moment. It was chunky, and it took an entire day to film. We had to shoot from every angle. I had to stay in that state of hysteria for an uncomfortably long time. It was really challenging, but I remember that being the most memorable scene to film.

Did you perform your own stunts for that scene?

I did do some stunts, but there was a stunt double there to make some of the things more believable. When I'm watching the movie, I really can't tell which is me and which is her. From the shots that were chosen, I can't tell if some of them were me.

How do you feel about the film debuting on Netflix, as opposed to it getting a theatrical release? 

I love that it's a streaming movie, because I really see it as a movie that has a specific mood. You can watch it alone at home after you come home from a long day at work and you just want to watch something that gives you a little bit of an escape. This movie is accessible, but it also has a really interesting story that will pull you in. It's also something I can see people wanting to watch together and making a fun night out of it. It's something that you can watch with your family or your partner, so it really fits on a streaming platform because it's the kind of movie that you want to get on the couch and cuddle up under a blanket and watch because it's a fun and suspenseful thriller.

Right now seems like a good time for this movie to come out, since many people want an escape from current events.

Totally. When this release date was scheduled, we had no idea what was gonna be happening in the world. It timed out nice, because I feel like it is a movie that is very much an escape and a story that you can get lost in and have fun with. I feel like that's what people need right now. It's dark, but it's not crazy dark.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.