The CW’s Archie Comics-inspired “Riverdale” has attracted a lot of attention in its first season, given the show’s unexpected blend of dark murder-mystery with Archie’s traditionally wholesome aesthetic.
“Riverdale” received a spotlight panel Friday afternoon at WonderCon in Anaheim, with cast members including KJ Apa (Archie Andrews), Lili Reinhart (Betty Cooper), Camila Mendes (Veronica Lodge), Cole Sprouse (Jughead Jones), Ashleigh Murray (Josie McCoy), Luke Perry (Fred Andrews), Mädchen Amick (Alice Cooper) and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge) all in attendance talking the show’s latest, plus executive producers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (showrunner and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer), Sarah Schechter and Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics’ CEO).
The panel’s moderator, Leanne Aguilera from “Entertainment Tonight,” starts by asking Apa if he’s dogged by swooning fans. “Nah, it’s not too bad,” Apa answered. “We only just got started. It gets gnarly sometimes, but it’s usually chill.” Apa also added that it’s a “real privilege” to work with a TV veteran like Perry.
Reinhart disclosed that her and Amick discovered early on that, in a surprising twist of fate, they have matching tattoos from the same artist. Mendes praised her working relationship with Nichols. “I love playing your mama,” Nichols said.
Amick talked fan reaction on social media, something that didn’t exist during her breakout role on “Twin Peaks.” “Back during ‘Twin Peaks,’ it was called ‘water cooler talk,'” Amick said. “It’s great interacting with fans and finding out what people are thinking and feeling as the show airs.”
“The social media has been a difficult thing for me to get a hold of,” Perry told the crowd. “But I do appreciate how important it is, to hear what you guys like [about the show]. I think that’s pretty cool.
Aguirre-Sacasa pointed out that fan response hasn’t necessarily affected how the creative team has approached this season, as most of it was filmed before the show premiered. “We definitely are aware of what the fans are responding to,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “We wrote and shot most of the season in Vancouver before the show started to air.”
Talk turned to the show’s music, which naturally brought the focus to Murray, who plays Josie (of “Josie and the Pussycats” fame). “It’s been really great making this music,” Murray said. “I suffer from a self-diagnosed form of audio dysmorphia — I didn’t like the sound of my voice growing up. I was presented this opportunity, and I thought, ‘What better chance for me to get over it?’ And also enjoy it, by playing such an iconic character.”
Next subject was Molly Ringwald’s arrival as Archie’s mom. “When they first told me that Molly was coming to play, I wasn’t so sure about it,” Perry said. “After I saw her for about two minutes, I called Sarah [Schechter] and said, ‘I was wrong, you were right.’ She’s great.”
Nichols said she was excited to work with Ringwald as a fan of the actress; Amick said her scenes with Ringwald are “juicy and fun.”
“Molly Ringwald, to me, is the ultimate teenager,” Schechter said. “You wanted someone really iconic to go up against Luke Perry and complete that family. A lot of times when you’re a kid, it’s so hard to imagine your parent ever was your age — for the audience, we all get to see that and remember that.”
Sprouse said there’s obviously some “incendiary dialogue” when characters — like Jughead — are changed in an adaptation, but the challenge is to find tethers to other versions (like “the digests” or the “[Chip] Zdarsky ‘Jughead,'” as he put it) and have it make sense. An upcoming episode will center on Jughead’s birthday party.
Aguirre-Sacasa said when they pitched the show, the premise was that it wouldn’t be the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, it would be, “Archie and his two best friends, his male best friend Jughead, and his female best friend, Betty.”
“We’re so happy that we can tackle these characters together,” Reinhart said of the classic Betty/Veronica dynamic. “There’s no Betty without Veronica, and there’s no Veronica without Betty,” Mendes added.
As far as when Josie will get a love interested, “I think it’s all about finding the guy who is worthy to be Josie McCoy’s boyfriend,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “Let’s be honest — Josie doesn’t have time for anyone who doesn’t have time for her,” Murray added. “You’ve got to come with it.”
Apa and Sprouse discussed their off-screen friendship. “He told me a secret about himself that was so punishing,” Sprouse said, as a testament to their closeness.
When asked for her favorite part of her role, Amick said, “You never quite know what you’re going to get with Alice Cooper,” crediting the writers for keeping the audience on its toes. “She’s delicious.”
The cast reflected on the recent retro-themed dream sequence, which hearkened back to classic Archie Comics. “It was special,” Sprouse said. “Putting on the costume was probably the best part.” Aguirre-Sacasa said the sequence was originally envisioned as being in black-in-white, and then he realized it was their chance to put the characters in classic comics apparel. “I love those costumes,” he continued. “Hopefully we’ll see more of them.”
Aguilera asked some fan questions submitted from Twitter: Will we see Jellybean? Does Jellybean exist? “Certainly in Jughead’s mind,” Schechter answered.
Any chance that Dylan Sprouse (Cole’s twin, who he co-starred with on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”) could guest star as Jughead’s cousin, Souphead? “It would take a lot of convincing,” Spouse said.
Will Sabrina appear in “Riverdale” season two? “No comment,” Aguirre-Sacasa replied.
Turning to audience Q&A, a fan asked about lessons learned from the show, thematically. “Despite all the stories we’re telling, at the end of the day, this show is about a group of friends who are there for each other,” Aguirre-Sacasa answered. “Sometimes the friends you make are the family you get a chance to choose. That’s ultimately at the heart of the show.” Nichols said “Riverdale” also shows that parents have their flaws, too.
Next question asked who in the panel had read Archie comic books before “Riverdale,” and it was a mix of yes and no answers. “I think the Archie comic property is one of those things that’s so long-lived, that it kind of lives underneath cultural memory,” Sprouse said. “You know the names, you see the digests, you might be drunk at a grocery store one night and pick them up. But it’s lived for such a long time. It’s kind of an inescapable property. I didn’t read them, but I know them — everyone knows them in some way.”
Murray said she has a “very warm and very wrinkled” stack of Archie comics at home. Reinhart said she didn’t know what Archie was at first. “I thought Archie was a superhero. I remember reading the script and saying, ‘He doesn’t have powers.'”
A fan is a classic Veronica costume asked, “Will there be an episode inspired by ‘Afterlife with Archie'”? “We’ve talked about it, we’ve for sure had conversations about it,” Aguirre-Sacasa, the writer of the “Afterlife with Archie” comic book series, asked. “We’d love to do something that was a Halloween episode, or something that was related to that.”
Next person up on the microphone asked for the panelists to choose between Betty and Veronica. “I think it’s more important to ask who Betty and Veronica would choose,” Schechter replied.
Asked about the Grundy story arc, Sprouse called it an “incendiary narrative.” “But just because it’s incendiary doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be talked about and put on the show,” he continued, stating that Grundy was the villain of her story.
Who would Mendes want to play Veronica’s dad? “Andy Garcia.” And who would Sprouse want as Jughead’s mom? “Eva Green.”
Last question of the panel: What is on the cast’s “‘Riverdale’ bucket list” for season two? “I want Alice Cooper to have a wild fun night out,” Amick said. “For Hermione, I want to see her have it out with Hiram,” Nichols said. “I would love to see a Halloween episode, and I’d love to see more of Alice and Cheryl,” Schechter said.
Murray answered, “Josie getting a boyfriend. Or girlfriend!” “Jughead gets a house,” Sprouse said. “I’d love to see some Hot Dog. And some more sleuthing.” “I think we need to see ‘dark’ Betty a little bit more,” Reinhart said. “I think we need to explore Betty’s underlining dark side a little bit more.”
“I’d like to see Archie settle down in a relationship, chill out,” Apa answered. “Also, working on the friendship with Jughead would be cool.”