The world of Archie Comics comes alive in Riverdale, the latest comic franchise brought to life by uber-producer Greg Berlanti (Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). In The CW’s soapy series, the world of Archie (K.J. Apa) and his friends is upended when the death of a classmate turns out to be murder.
“We call it ‘sexy Archie,’” says Lili Reinhart, who plays All-American teen Betty Cooper. “It’s a drama. There’s mystery. It’s The CW, so it’s very sexy. It’s quippy. It’s really well written.” The show’s rich writing gives the former comic book characters a less static and more modern feel — great, considering the characters are 75 years old. “We’re making three-dimensional people,” says Reinhart. “They’re not just drawings on a page; we’re making them real human beings who have problems. Our show is very dark. It’s very twisted and moody and complicated. These characters that you always see in such a bright light in the comic books, our show shines a light on the bad parts of these characters, their struggles and their problems.”
Part of the show’s character growth comes from giving Betty and Veronica (Camila Mendes) something to do. “They’re the iconic love triangle with the sugar and spice,” says Reinhart, but notes, “These girls have other things going on in their lives besides Archie.” Reinhart shares that part of Betty’s story includes feeling pressure to be perfect and a struggle with anxiety, something the actress has also dealt with personally. Reinhart notes that she serves as an advocate for mental health awareness and is glad to bring relatability to her character.
Also for the first time in Archie history, the parents of Riverdale’s teens are a major part of the story. “They were always kind of off to the side, or that classic ‘wah wah wah wah wah’ in the background,” laughs Mädchen Amick, who plays Betty’s controlling mother, Alice. Former Beverly Hills, 90210 hunk Luke Perry stars as Archie’s father.
Amick is no stranger to playing a resident of a small and mysterious town. She starred in Twin Peaks as perky waitress Shelly Johnson, a role she’ll resurrect in David Lynch’s reboot for Showtime in May. Amick calls Riverdale’s Alice “one of my favorite characters to play, because she is that perfect Connecticut housewife,” and notes, “My inspiration is Annette Bening from American Beauty.”
Amick is struck by similarities between Twin Peaks and Riverdale, saying, “I would say that there’s a few things that are similar in that we open the show with a murder mystery where it’s small-town America and it looks perfect on the outside but it’s got a dark underbelly. Then I think there’s also a timelessness to both Twin Peaks and Riverdale, which I think is really nice because even though it’s modern day, it can be happening at any time.” And being compared to Twin Peaks — the series that single-handedly created the surreal thriller genre — is a very good thing.
“Riverdale is a timeless small town, an American slice of pie that has a lot of beauty and wonder in it, but there’s a lot of dark mystery that’s bubbling underneath the surface,” adds Amick. And that timeless, American Graffiti feel is a perfect segue for Archie and his friends to jump from the flat world of comics to the subjective reality of television.
Riverdale > The CW > Thursdays at 9pm Et/PT beginning Jan. 26