In 1994, Tori Spelling’s NBC movie of the week A Friend to Die For became a TV movie phenomenon. Based on the true story of Bernadette Protti, who stabbed cheerleader Kirsten Costas to death, Spelling played a fictional version of Protti. Now Lifetime is retelling the story as Death of a Cheerleader.
Aubrey Peeples plays Bridget, the Protti character. Sarah Dugdale plays Kelly Locke, a new version of Costas.
“The stabbing scene was something that we really wanted to carry with a lot of respect and try to handle it lightly and do the best we could to not make it something glamorized or anything like that,” Peeples said.
Set in the ‘80s, Kelly does lead the clique of cheerleaders. While Bridget may be sympathetic before the murder, it became complicated to portray on both sides.
“Yes, maybe she did come across as that popular mean girl but she was so much more than that,” Dugdale said. “It came from a place of insecurity and all the pressure around her. I feel like because we were playing real people, you have to tread lightly and really take care of this life that you are playing.”
Recreating the scene, Peeples felt, was tragic that Bridget became desperate enough to kill.
“Filming the murder scene, I was like, ‘Oh no, don’t do it. You just need to seek help or something,’” Peeples said. “Obviously not to say that anything justifies a murder but I definitely wanted to figure out what was going on with her mentally and carry that in the most respectful way.”
Still, the stabbing had to be filmed. In between takes, everyone involved kept checking on each other.
“Even shooting that felt really safe because we had already worked together for at least a couple weeks and clicked really instantly,” Dugdale said. “So there was already a lot of love and respect and we both were very much on the same page about wanting to really do honest performances. So I felt really safe, even though you were stabbing me in the back.”
Peeples concurred, “Yeah, we would hug each other in between and be like, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay? Okay.’”
Death of a Cheerleader premieres Saturday, February 2 at 8PM on Lifetime.