Archie Goes Dark in the CW’s new show, Riverdale

Given the CW’s inclination to create comic book shows and angsty teen dramas, Riverdale seems like the perfect new show to mix both. It also adds another program to Greg Berlanti’s comic book dominance of the CW schedule. This is not the cheery Archie Comics of old, although there are still a lot of familiar elements: Archie’s love triangle with Betty and Veronica, the “rich” girl Veronica, the down-to-earth Betty, and Jughead’s never-ending hunger for hamburgers. But there’s a lot more going on in this new, dark adaptation.

Roundtable Interviews

The showrunner, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, talks about his lifelong love of Archie Comics and how he wrote for comic books and TV, eventually landing his dream job, a live-action Archie show. They deliberately set out to cast diverse ethnicities to reflect the real world. Thus, Josie and the Pussycats end up being described as like the Dreamgirls, or Destiny’s Child. Also, please note the Archie patch on his jacket. This man is a fan. (He’s also the Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics.)

KJ Apa plays Archie Andrews and while he’s not a natural redhead, he is willing to get his hair bleached and dyed weekly. Let’s hope he doesn’t go bald after this. Apa was not familiar with Archie Comics, but his dad was a fan and helped him prepare for his role. As a New Zealander, or Kiwi, Apa felt a bit nervous trying to play such an iconic American character, but he demonstrates a very good American accent in his interview. He could not be convinced to sing, however. We’ll just have to wait for the pilot for that. Riverdale’s Archie has had an inappropriate romance and pens a song about it, which leads him to try and become a musician. Archie gets a band together and competes with Josie’s band, who is not happy about this development at all. Archie’s dad is also not too pleased, since he’s been trying to get Archie to play football so he can get a college scholarship. Apa mentions that Gossip Girl and Twin Peaks are two shows that have been compared to Riverdale, so it sounds like an interesting mashup of genres.

Speaking of angsty teen drama, Luke Perry returns to TV as Fred Andrews, Archie’s father. Perry isn’t going to have the Fred Andrews mustache, but Fred will be a blue-collar guy who wants his son to get a football scholarship. Archie, of course, has other ideas. Perry also teases other Archie characters that may make an appearance, like Sabrina.

Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead, describes the show as a modern film noir teen drama. Not something I would have expected from Archie, even though the comics have involved various universes – zombie apocalypse Archie, anyone? So Sprouse thinks fans will be up for a darker look. Sprouse is definitely a fan of the comics and is very happy to be playing Jughead, who is also the narrator of the show. Jughead is not only a lover of hamburgers, but he’s also a budding writer and amateur sleuth and will no doubt be trying to figure out the central murder mystery of the show. The show is following the Mark Waid version of Archie, so fans can watch out for that.

Camila Mendes and Lili Reinhart, who play Veronica and Betty, respectively, talk about their characters’ less than perfect lives. Veronica is the new girl in Riverdale and is trying to remake her life after her dad, a Bernie Madoff-like financier, was arrested for fraud and embezzlement. Betty is trying to be the “perfect girl” for her mother, who plys her with Adderall to get her to focus. In addition to this, Betty is trying to tell Archie that she wants their lifelong friendship to be something more romantic. So while the love triangle will be there, it’s not the focus of their characters and the two girls are kinder to each other than the old comics would suggest. Both Mendes and Reinhart were not fans of the comic prior to the show, but both had friends who were. Mendes’ friend even cried when she got the role. Also, I must mention: at some point Veronica wears a cape.

Ashleigh Murray and Madelaine Petsch round out the cast with Murray playing Josie McCoy, of Josie and the Pussycats, and Petsch as Cheryl Blossom. Cheryl Blossom, as it turns out, will be the villain, even though it’s her twin brother who is murdered. Petsch hints at some very inappropriate relationships in the Blossom family. Josie McCoy will, as one of the more ambitious musicians in Riverdale, have to battle Archie’s band eventually. Murray jokingly calls her Josie Beyoncé, while referring to Archie as “Justin Gingerlake,” if that gives you any idea about what their rivalry is about. Murray also makes it clear that while she understands that fans might not like her playing Josie, she is not trying to undo or erase anything. To her everyone is relatable in Archie, and she doesn’t have to look like Jughead to have him be her favorite character. Also, we should be on the lookout for whatever they’re going to be using for the little pussycat ears. It’s going to be their trademark!