Why '80s Queen Molly Ringwald is Riverdale's Perfect Mary Andrews

Molly Ringwald, one of the most iconic and recognizable stars from the '80s, makes her debut on "Riverdale" tonight as Mary Andrews. Her arrival on the series will mark an emotional shake-up for Archie (KJ Apa), who has been burying the pain of his parents' separation for too long. Mary will show up during a pivotal moment in episode 10, following an explosive birthday party-turned house party -- a la "Sixteen Candles."

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At WonderCon in Anaheim, the cast and producers of "Riverdale" spoke to the press about Ringwald's appearance on the show, and discussed the benefit of casting someone as recognizable as Ringwald for Archie's mother.

"I love Molly Ringwald, this was one I was particularly excited about, having grown up with 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Sixteen Candles' and 'Pretty in Pink,'" executive producer Sarah Shechter said. "To be honest, she is the first lady of teenagers... we get calls all the time about [other actors] but we’re very careful... we’ve only cast actors on this show that are great actors who auditioned and were wonderful."

Ringwald is not the first teen star to join the cast of "Riverdale." Archie's dad, Luke Perry, previously played heartthrob Dylan McKay on "Beverly Hills 90210" from 1990 to 2000. Betty's mom, Mädchen Amick, previously played diner babe Shelly Johnson on "Twin Peaks" from 1990 to 1991. Jughead's dad, Skeet Ulrich, is well known for his psycho high school boyfriends in "The Craft" and "Scream," both released in 1996.

To Shechter, casting these known actors gives each character a layer of backstory with which the audience can identify. "For me, it’s helpful when you as an audience knew the parents when they were teenagers because parents were teenagers. I think it adds a level of understanding and depth to that relationship when you knew them when they were kids," Shechter said. "So it’s like, I knew Luke, I knew Skeet, to have Mary come back, it felt like she was some sort of ghost hanging over this family and so we wanted her to have this big presence... and there’s definitely a level of homage there, but Molly was really up for it and she did a great job."

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According to Perry, who plays Ringwald's separated husband, "I loved seeing Molly come in because we’re just really comfortable, we fit together like that. She’s a total pro. She knew her job, she came in, and she killed it."

Luke Perry and Molly Ringwald on "Riverdale"
Luke Perry and Molly Ringwald on April 27's episode of "Riverdale," "Chapter Eleven: To Riverdale and Back Again."

Executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa recalled Perry and Ringwald's first day on set with their "Riverdale" son, KJ Apa: "Luke said it after the first scene that they shot with Molly and KJ, Luke called and was like 'she is Mary Andrews.' When you build up to a character, it’s nice when you recognize them and it makes sense in the right story and she is Mary Andrews, of course."

Shechter compared Mary to a "ghost hanging over the family," which is the perfect way to describe a woman who has been missing for at least nine episodes. It's hard to say when she separated from Fred, considering Archie hasn't spoken about it much -- perhaps she's been gone for months or even years. "There was this negative space in that family," Shechter said. "This missing piece, so you wanted it to be someone who could really fill that space, someone who could open something in KJ."

Will the spark of love be rekindled between Mary and Fred when she returns? To that, Perry said, "Love is a difficult thing and when you’ve been through a separation with somebody, and one of the parties wants to get back together, the other person may not be interested, that’s a big gamble, that’s a big risk and that’s where the best drama is born."

So far, no clues have been given yet as to why Mary left in the first place, but she won't be too happy to discover Fred has been dating in her absence.

"Riverdale is a small town, we all know each other, we all have a lot of history together. So they [Hermione Lodge and Mary] obviously have a past together," Perry said. "Just like she and Alice have a past, me and Hal have a past, I have a past with the Blossoms as well, I think there’s a very good chance Hermione will intersect with Mary."

RELATED: Why Archie Goes Undercover with the Blossoms on Riverdale

Considering Ringwald's past as an '80s on-screen prom queen, it would be fun to see that somehow acknowledged on the show. When asked if any upcoming "Riverdale" episodes would venture into this kind of homage, all the executive producers could say was that the '80s would play a role in the upcoming Homecoming episode, "Chapter 11: To Riverdale and Back Again," airing on April 27. Perhaps Betty will ask Mary to help her sew a satin, off the shoulder dress, "Pretty in Pink" style.

Watch Mary Andrews return to Riverdale in this preview for tonight's episode, "Chapter 10: The Lost Weekend":

Airing on the CW network weekly on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., “Riverdale” is a modern take on the Archie Comics universe starring K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, Marisol Nichols as Hermione Lodge, Luke Perry as Fred Andrews, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.

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