Originally written for Fandom Following.
So it wasn’t until I began to write this post that I realized that, by the time it goes up, it will have been about a full month since I’ve written something for Fandom Following. And, let me tell you, I haven’t done much in the time I’ve had to rest. I had all of the plans to be productive and work on my craft, but just about most of them did not happen.
However, there was one thing that I made sure to keep up with. A small spattering of casting announcements for an upcoming CW show that only hardcore dorks like me would care about.
That’s right, kids. We’re going to talk about the Riverdale casting announcements.
For those that don’t know, Riverdale is a show based on the high school adventures of Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, and Veronica Lodge.
Yeah. These dorks are getting their own live-action show. I am being absolutely serious when I say that I cannot wait. I wish that was a vlogger just so you could be entertained by my facial expressions as I make my way through this post.
At the beginning of February, I wrote about my excitement and personal opinions about how the casting should be done in the post, The Riverdale Casting. Not a full week later, Archie Comics’s facebook page began posting about the casting of Jughead Jones and Betty Cooper. I had opinions from then, but I felt like it was necessary to see the whole cast first.
I was not disappointed.
I write this post with the knowledge that someone else (not on this site) has gotten to it before me. However, as someone who has dared to write about Star Wars 30 years after it was released, I will not be hindered by what others have already done, because I know that my opinion as an Archie fan is just as valid as theirs.
So let’s talk about the Archies.
I’m going to start from the beginning, because I know that there is a method to this madness. Also, it just feels right to begin with what I feel is the most controversial casting.
Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones
We could sit here and talk about how Cole Sprouse, along with his twin brother, Dylan, once spent six or seven years on the Disney Channel playing Cody and Zack Martin, both in a hotel and on a ship. We could even talk about how he was Ross Geller’s son, Ben, on Friends, or Adam Sandler’s son in the movie, Big Daddy. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you all about one interesting fact about Cole Sprouse.
Remember that time Cole Sprouse used his Tumblr to conduct a sociology experiment? Now I personally didn’t care about the “being used” feeling that apparently a ton of people got from it, since the Sprouse twins were never really that interesting to me. However, I do remember being on Tumblr at the time, and seeing whole posts about how people had felt victimized by him. I know we look back and laugh about it now, but I wish I had kept better receipts about the whole thing, simply because I know that there was some damage done, and people are still mad at him today about it.
— Cole M. Sprouse (@colesprouse) November 20, 2012
In any case, I’m not too sure about how I feel about Cole Sprouse playing Jughead Jones, and part of it has to do with how they’ve changed up the character. According to both TV Line and Archie Comics, Jughead is apparently an “emo-heartthrob with a philosophical bent”. I really wish you all could see my face right now. I feel like we’re in for yet another sociology experiment. Why couldn’t they hire the less-problematic twin? I don’t like this. Jughead is a lazy foodie who spends his life daydreaming, and happens to be in possession of a homicidal, crown hat. I don’t expect Crownie to make an appearance on Riverdale, talking or otherwise, but what about Jughead says emo to you? I am also not a fan of Jughead being a “heartthrob”, simply because it means that we will not be getting an asexual Jughead Jones. Now I can’t speak for asexuals, and I’m not sure that I know what a respectful representation of that looks like, but I am sure that the CW doesn’t know what that looks like either. I have no issue with a sexual Jughead Jones, but don’t all of a sudden paint him to be Riverdale’s #3 lady’s man. That would ruin his character entirely. Jughead Jones only worries about himself, his food, and, maybe, his friends. Anything else is a departure, and they’re already doing too much by making him and Archie Andrews “former” friends. Thankfully, this is the most problematic casting out of the whole set (to me). It’s all smooth sailing, and jokes about canon, from here.
Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper
I don’t know who this girl is, or where she came from, but I feel like I’ve seen her on damn near every CW show set in a high school since One Tree Hill. She literally fits the pretty, blonde girl description that this network never gets tired of. This girl is giving me Alyson Michalka vibes. She could play a teenaged Patti Spivot. Thankfully, for her, Betty Cooper is not a hard role to play. She is the girl next door archetype, and Riverdale isn’t doing a thing to change that. What I like about this Betty, though, is the way they’re setting up the people around her. I’m not sure what having an “emotionally brittle” mom and a “goth-like” sister will do for Betty’s story, but I am definitely willing to watch it play out. I am not happy about the return to the love triangle between Betty, Archie, and Veronica, but it’s not something that Archie Comics ever seems to want to stay away from. Archie has dated everyone, and will probably date as many girls as can be casted for this show, but we will continuously come back to this issue. And Betty Cooper will never win. That’s not me taking sides; this girl is literally not meant to win. Mark Waid’s run of Archie features a few of the classic Archie storylines, including one from the 1949 run of Archie Comics #36. In that particular issue, Betty invites Archie over and tries her hardest to woo him. Unfortunately, Archie either doesn’t take the hint, or is carrying out the world’s cruelest friendzone sentencing. Either way, you get the idea that Betty is not meant to win here. She literally changes her Hope Chest into a Hopeless Chest. At least Lili Reinhart is guaranteed a lead spot and three to five years’ worth of paychecks. That has to count for something.
Luke Perry as Fred Andrews
Now, this casting kind of threw me for a loop. I personally didn’t care who was going to be cast as Fred Andrews, nor did I think it would have been a selling point. However, when I found out Luke Perry was being cast, I was a bit shocked. You mean, the guy who was still playing a teenager in his 30s is now playing the All-American Teen’s dad?
I don’t know who is being catered to with this casting, because I can’t outright say if any of the older Archie fans are even going to bother to watch Riverdale. Nor do I know if anyone was even reading Archie Comics during the ten years when Beverly Hills, 90210 was running. So I’m really just a bit stumped here.
A paycheck is a paycheck, though, right?
Another thing about this character is that this version of Fred Andrews owns a construction firm. And apparently, Archie will have worked for him all summer.
Now, you might not know this, but Archie Andrews is canonically clumsy. In a recent issue of Mark Waid’s Archie, the Lodge mansion is destroyed mid-construction because of Archie’s gracelessness. It’s the thing that gets Veronica interested in him.
Whether or not Riverdale will feature a clumsy Archie Andrews is up to the writers, but I do think that it would be a hilarious running gag. Especially since he is expected to take over his father’s business.
KJ Apa as Archie Andrews
Now here we come to the man of the hour. I’d love to tell you that this post is over, but we’re missing two more main players, and this is the middle at best.
So here’s the deal about Mr. Apa. You’ll notice that he is not redheaded. Most fans of the All-American Teen were not too happy about this detail, but it pales in comparison to one other fact. KJ Apa, despite being casted as the All-American Teen, is from New Zealand.
I don’t know how I feel about that. Or rather, I understand that this is the new trend in Hollywood, but is nothing sacred? Superman is British, Thor is Australian, and Archie Andrews couldn’t be some random newcomer from a podunk town in one of those lesser known Mid-West states? He couldn’t be Hawaiian? Alaskan? Canadian? No one would have known the difference.
Fans were honestly scratching their heads about this casting. Surely, a red-headed American boy could have been found? However, it wasn’t until Archie Comics posted a video of KJ Apa to their facebook page that we finally understood why he’d been chosen.
— KJ Apa (@kj_apa) March 1, 2016
To be quite honest, this show probably could have gone without ever talking about The Archies, simply because it’s not necessary for four-fifths of the groups’ stories. Nobody cares about Betty on the tambourine, or Veronica on the keyboard. You might care about Reggie Mantle playing bass, but Archie Comics will never let you forget that Archie Andrews plays lead guitar. And neither will Riverdale, because it’s now a part of his storyline.
Which makes a lot of sense when one considers the casting of the next person.
Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy
In this day and age of racebent casting, not a soul could have called this one.
When Ashleigh Murray was casted as Josie McCoy, fans were confused. Anyone who has ever bothered to look at Josie and the Pussycats, in any medium, for more than five minutes could tell you that the black girl in the group has always been Valerie Brown. In fact, Valerie was Archie’s love interest in the comics a few years back. However, now that Josie is the black girl in the group – and this version is a mixture of both Josie and Valerie – we were all left wondering what was supposed to happen with Valerie.
I have a possible answer for this. Judging by the fact that Josie and Archie’s casting announcement was done together, and Josie’s character description implies possible chemistry between herself and Archie, I’m of the opinion that Josie’s black for a very particular casting reason.
It is very much possible that Ashleigh Murray, who has been cast in a musical role before, was casted as lead singer, Josie McCoy, for both her acting talent and her musical talent, just like KJ Apa was casted for Archie Andrews. That way the Riverdale casting directors wouldn’t have to look for yet another person who was both musically and dramatically talented to play the much more minor role of backup singer, Valerie Brown. It’s much easier to allow the lead singer to also be the love interest.
This way Valerie and Melody, the last Pussycat, either need to act well enough and pretend they can sing/play instruments, or sing/play instruments well enough and pretend they can act. I actually have reason to believe that Valerie and Melody have already been cast, but, without a confirmation, I’ll have to hold on to that info.
Either way, I’ll still be watching.
Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom
Oddly enough, this is the one of the few major casting announcements that didn’t come with a side-by-side picture of the original character. She’s also the only redheaded character being played by an actual redhead.
(I will die laughing if it turns out that her hair is dyed.)
Madeleine Petsch’s most notable work to date is a movie that won’t be out until May. I don’t know anything about The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, but she’ll be playing Eliza if you happen to get curious.
The casting of Cheryl Blossom is notable in that it signals that Riverdale really will be exploring Archie’s dating life. Cheryl has been a thorn in the side of both Betty and Veronica since her inception, because Archie was always so quick to leave the two girls to be with Cheryl. Cheryl was always implied to be flirtatious, but uncaring, and was once considered too adult for the comic. Eventually though, she returned to Riverdale and, later, got her own series.
Archie Comics describes Cheryl as, “a manipulative mean girl who kills with kindness,” who apparently, “ recently lost her twin brother [Jason] in a mysterious accident”. Because this is the CW, don’t expect Jason Blossom to stay dead. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the main writer for Riverdale, and he’s the same guy who made sure we understood that the Blossom twins had an incestuous relationship in Afterlife with Archie. There is no way he won’t sneak that into the show without some type of payoff.
I’m calling it now: Jason Blossom will find his way onto Riverdale as soon as they can get a full season order. If that’s not a reason to care about Cheryl Blossom, then nothing else will be.
Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge
So by the time Camila Mendes was casted, they’d basically stopped caring about doing side-by-side comparisons with the characters. Archie Comics must have gotten tired of fans complaining.
I was actually very happy with this casting, because they said that they were looking for a Latina, and they made sure to get one. I’ll consider this payback for Teen Wolf.
Camila Mendes has one other acting job to her name, which was a short from last year. She must have wowed the casting directors, because they seem to have been picking a ton of unknowns for the main cast. Seriously, Cole Sprouse and Luke Perry probably cost the most money.
I don’t expect this version of Veronica Lodge to be much different than her comic book counter-part, but I do think it’s interesting that she is returning to Riverdale when she was, canonically, almost always an implant. Again, this is probably because of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: in Afterlife with Archie, the Lodges moved to Riverdale while Mrs. Lodge was pregnant with Veronica.
The reason that Veronica is moving back to Riverdale now, is so that she can “reinvent herself after a scandal involving her father”. According to the TV Line article, whatever it was that Hiram Lodge did caused him to end up in prison. I don’t know what this means for Veronica’s story, but I, for one, will miss the the way Mr. Lodge used to blow up at Archie all the time.
Oh well, Fred Andrews will probably be doing all of the screaming at Archie in this show.
Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle
I feel like the casting directors read my spiel about how Veronica should be an Asian-American girl, and Reggie Mantle should match her culturally, then took the part they needed. Ross Butler’s most notable works (to me) are K.C. Undercover and Teen Beach 2, and in both he is understood to be Asian-American despite not having an Asian name.
The only description that Reggie Mantle is given is that of Archie’s rival, which scares me a bit because I’ve just been introduced to a more nuanced version of Reggie, and I’m not ready to let him go yet. Funny thing is, Reggie Mantle’s casting was the whole reason I had waited for this post, but is says a lot that he was announced with two other much more minor characters.
If it’s any consolation, Ross Butler has three Disney credits to his name, so it’s possible that he’s musically talented. Here’s to hoping that Reggie isn’t just Archie’s romantic rival, but a musical rival as well. Hopefully he’ll form his own rock group with Alan M.
Cody Kearsley as Moose Mason
Remember when jock’s were portrayed as dumb, but sometimes good-natured? That’s been Moose Mason for his entire career in the Archie Comics Universe. He was a dumb jock, who was relatively nice right up until you messed with his girlfriend. Then he wasn’t so nice any more.
I have no reason to believe that Riverdale is going to change a thing about this character, but I have every reason to believe that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will imply that Moose is a domestic abuser. Seriously, go read Afterlife with Archie. There is a reason that this show is being described as subversive, and it has everything to do with the fact that the guy who wrote that comic is also writing this show.
In any case, Cody Kearsley has one other credit on IMDb: as a cinematographer for a short. I don’t know what he’s been doing for the last six years, or how he got cast, but I hope something comes out of this for him. Moose Mason, in the hands of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is not someone that I think anyone would want to be known for, but he is also not a character that an aspiring actor would pass up.
I wish him the best of luck.
Daniel Yang as Dilton Dooley
Our last and final casting announcement is for the “brilliant Dilton Dooley”. This is Daniel Yang’s first and only casting credit, according to IMDb. What I like about it is that Daniel looks younger than the rest of the cast, which is the same way that Dilton has always been drawn.
Moose and Dilton are canonically good friends, but I don’t see Riverdale keeping this story. I would like to see Dilton invent some things, but it’s more likely that he’ll be used for some sort of hacking. Ultimately, Dilton’s use will be left up to how fantastical they are willing to allow Riverdale to be.
In other words, there’s a good chance that Dilton won’t be allowed to be great for a long time, if at all.
In other news, Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), and Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) were also cast. None of them were outright casting announcements, but Mädchen Amick and Marisol Nichols are acknowledged on the Archie Comics website. Casey Cott was acknowledged by the Archie Comics Facebook account. Hermione Lodge is an especially surprising casting because she is rarely ever used. However, Veronica would need someone, besides her butler, to parent her now that her father is in prison.
Another woman on screen with actual lines is always a good look in my book.
What I like about Riverdale is that this is coming directly from people who actually sit down and run Archie Comics. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is too high up in the corporate offices, and involved in too many unfinished projects, for me to be truly happy with him, but I trust that he’ll eventually let someone else write for the show so that he can go back to concentrating on the comics. Still, I like that he’s currently showrunning Riverdale because it means that we’ll be seeing a lot of people who already exist in the Archie Comics Universe.
I like that people like Ethel Muggs, Midge Klump, and Chuck Clayton are possibilities. I might never see Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but there’s still a chance that Sabrina Spellman and Harvey Kinkle can make an appearance. I like that the ACU is so extensive that you could give all of the extras in Riverdale a canonical name, and then bring them back or recast them for random story arcs without ever having to make a new character.
Riverdale will probably be the first time, since comic book movies and TV shows truly got popular, that we will have access to an entire universe full of characters without any conflict. Archie Comics is owned by Archie Comics, and Riverdale will benefit from the fact that all of the licenses are in-house.
I’m excited. I may be weary about the cast, but the CW is the best place for these newcomers to grow and work on their acting talents. This is a network that just renewed most of it’s 2015/2016 lineup, so the moment that Riverdale finds it’s groove, it will be set for at least five seasons. It has seventy-five years of history, and four active love interests for Archie to choose from. This show will survive on the shipping wars alone.
I’m not going to say that’s it’s impossible for Riverdale to fail, but the people involved would have to try really hard to make it so. Hopefully, that means they’ve put something in Cole Sprouse’ contract that will keep him off of Tumblr for the entire run of the show.