Interview taken from HEROINE 7.
Based on the Archie Comics, hit TV show Riverdale gave the franchise a radical neo-noir spin. In season one, the seemingly wholesome, all-American town of Riverdale was shook by a series of scandals, secrets, mystery and murder.
This evening, the show returns for a second series and, according to the show’s creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, promises to pick up where the debut series left off: centred around Archie’s journey to darkness. To mark the return of Riverdale, here we revisit our HEROINE 7 interview with the show’s Lili Reinhart (AKA Betty Cooper).
With her blonde hair and blue eyes, actress Lili Reinhart is the living, breathing physical embodiment of Archie Comics’ classic girl-next-door Betty Cooper. So it was a case of perfect casting when she appeared as the iconic character in Riverdale, which reimagines the comic’s vast mythology in the modern day.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Reinhart’s mum would drive her to New York City for auditions – a whopping 940 mile round journey. These road trips provided apt time for Reinhart to perfect her lines. And that commitment paid off, having cut her teeth in theatre, Reinhart starred in a series of indie flicks and TV roles before securing her plum role as Betty Cooper. “I just wanted to make this character as loveable as possible,” Reinhart says about her character. From one side of the spectrum to the other, the actress has just wrapped Mélanie Laurent’s noir thriller, Galveston, where she’ll prove she isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Joey Levenson: Am I right in saying you start filming the second season of Riverdale tomorrow?
Lili Reinhart: Yeah, we actually film in Vancouver, so we’ve all been here for little over a week and start shooting tomorrow.
Joey: And you normally live in LA?
Joey: They’re quite different cities, at least from what I’ve experienced. How do you find Vancouver compared to LA?
Lilli: I mean, it’s nice that I’m still on the West Coast, so there’s no time difference I have to worry about. But, yeah, it’s very different. I’ve wanted to live in LA my entire life, and I’ve only been able to be there for a very limited amount of time because I booked Riverdale pretty quickly after I moved and I’ve been filming sporadically ever since. But I’m really happy we film in Vancouver, it’s such a great place to work. I don´t know if I could live here all the time though because I don’t appreciate all the grey skies and rainy days.
Joey: You’d hate London then.
Lili: [laughs] I’d love to visit at some point. But yeah, Vancouver is a great place. Just yesterday I went on a bike ride around Stanley Park with my cast mate Madelaine [Petsch], and it was beautiful. I’m kind of happy we didn’t end up filming in LA, because moving to Vancouver collectively forced us as a cast to get to know each other, and that was a real bonding experience. It’s a huge factor in how close we are to one another.
Joey: Yeah, I’ve noticed you all seem to have a genuine friendship.
Lili: Yeah, we’re best friends.
Joey: So how important is it for you guys to find time together outside of a work environment? I imagine days are long and most of your time in Vancouver is taken up on set.
Lili: It’s extremely important for us to spend time together on the weekends, or just celebrate each other’s birthdays, go out for dinner together, things like that. But we’re also with each other five days a week and fourteen hours a day, so of course we all value some alone time too.
Joey: And the show really has got rave reviews, not just from the fans but from the critics too. What do you think it is about Riverdale that is so well received by everyone?
Lili: I think it helps that it’s Archie Comics, it’s something an older audience has grown up with. We were lucky to have that built-audience and comic book fandom that was out there. But honestly, I think our show is very different from the other teen shows you see on TV at the moment. We don’t even like calling our show a ‘teen show’ because so many more people watch it, and not a lot of people expected it to be more than just soapy teenage binge-able drama. There’s a lot of effort and time put in to each episode. Not to say there isn’t time and effort put in to other shows, but just the general style of our show is so different. It’s kind of dark and a little edgier and riskier than everything else out there. It’s so stylised in its cinematography alone, it feels like stepping in to a different world. It’s kind of like when you watch a sci-fi and engage in a completely different reality. It’s not as extreme as that, but it’s a world in which you can lose yourself.
Joey: Absolutely, it’s incredibly stylised for a show with a teen demographic. It feels almost surreal. So, in that sense, how did you take someone as iconic as Betty from Archie Comics and make it your own?
Lili: Well, I think at first I was more intimidated than anything. I took the basic outline of a sweet happy-go-lucky girl, and went from there. I then made her silly and goofy, someone who was friends with everyone. She’s so driven and ambitious and always looking to help people, so I just wanted to make this character as loveable as possible. And that’s also what I love about working on a TV show: you have so much time to develop your character, you can start in one place and end somewhere completely different in a such a long span of time. Every script that lands in my hand gives me the opportunity to create a better character, and it’s wonderful that I get to do that.
Joey: When you are approaching a role, especially as Betty for Riverdale, do you draw on any influences that you were privy to when growing up? Or do you prefer to bring something completely original?
Lili: I bring a lot of myself to Betty, which is something I didn’t do much as a teen in theatre. I bring a lot more to Betty than I have done in any other character before, and I think that’s because I now have a lot more confidence in myself and my acting abilities. I don’t think about it too much, and that helps create a more natural and believable character. The reactions you see on screen are from me, not necessarily crafted for the Betty character.
Joey: When you get those scripts, do you know what Betty’s overall arc for the season will be?
Lili: Oh, not at all [laughs]. We get it script by script. We find out every week and a half, the showrunner likes to keep it in suspense for us. We know the general outline of the next few episodes, but honestly we know just as much as we are told, which is not a lot.
Riverdale season 2 is out the US on 11th October 11 on The CW. It’ll then premier on Netflix UK on Thursday 12th October.