When Riverdale first came to Netflix UK at the end of January, everyone was desperate to know one thing: who killed Jason Blossom? The teenager’s disappearance left the people of Riverdale puzzled, suspecting those around them and wondering what Jason found out that led to his death. Many names were brought to the table over the course of the season, but it’s the students of Riverdale High who search tirelessly for the truth, including jock-turned-musician Archie Andrews.
Archie, the lead character of the comics that the series is based on, is played by New Zealander KJ Apa, who is currently sitting in the press room at MCM London Comic Con. Sporting his character’s flaming red hair, the actor is making one of his first appearances for fans since the show has been released and, for him, it’s good to finally see how people feel about it: “It’s great to see the fans face-to-face I think, a lot of it is on social media and I try not to engage with it too much or look at all the stuff but… they’re telling me what they love, what they don’t really like and stuff like that so it’s interesting!”
“We’ve been shooting [Riverdale] for a long period of time and you kind of feel like you’re in this bubble because you’re making this stuff, you’re completely wasted, and you’re thinking ‘who is actually receiving this content that we’re making?’ So, for it to finally come out like that and for us to have the reaction we’ve had, we all are really stoked.”
The comics were first published in the 1970s, so the show has piqued the interest of fans who grew up reading them, as well as those young enough to relate to the characters’ teen angst. It quickly became a Netflix favourite (you can read our reviews of Season 1 here), but for KJ, the shows he likes to watch are a little more familiar to us: The Office UK and The Office US.
“That’s pretty much all I watch, ay, all of Ricky Gervais’s stuff, he’s probably one of my favourite actors I love him so much,” he laughs.
Archie is a household name, but KJ admits he wasn’t aware of the character before the show.
“Actually, when I read the pilot it was the first Archie moment that I had, but my old man grew up with them, so that’s kind of cool,” he explains. “He grew up in Samoa – I’m part Samoan – and it’s crazy to know that Archie made its way over into the islands. But I wasn’t too familiar with it before I started.”
“I think it’s good that we’re exploring a lot of the characters from the comics,” he continues. “We are still incorporating those iconic aspects as well, like the love triangle, and just diving into these characters on a more relatable level.”
“Every two weeks, I’m getting my hair bleached and my eyebrows done!”
The original series may have focused on Archie as the lead, but it’s all about the group in this show, and KJ likes that. There’s enough fan service to satisfy those that read the comics – there’s even a nod to Archie’s fellow comic book character, Sabrina Spellman – but it’s versatile and takes inspiration from its source material, while also presenting something new onscreen. One thing that had to be perfect, though, was Archie’s red hair and since KJ’s locks are not naturally that colour, it takes some time for him to get that specific look.
“It’s gnarly. The first time we [dyed] it I was sitting in that chair for six or seven hours, we tried to get the tone of it right and I was hungry and I was not happy, I was hangry or whatever they say,” he reveals. “Then they did the eyebrows which is kind of gnarly as well. They ended up [making] a formula and that formula has been passed down to several different hairdressers that I go and see, even in hotel rooms. I’ve done it all, mate, and I don’t know how girls do it – every two weeks, I’m getting my hair bleached and my eyebrows done! Other people are looking at me in the salon asking ‘what is this guy doing dying his eyebrows orange?'”
What we’re really curious about, though, is how much KJ knew as the show went on and where it could go next, especially given the dramatic cliffhanger we were left with at the end of Season 1, but even he can’t say for sure.
“We’re kind of kept in the dark a lot, we don’t really know what is being written until we read it which is usually a couple of days before we start shooting,” he confesses. “Only me and Luke got sent the ending the night before we were meant to shoot that scene and we sat down, we had a chat about it, we spoke to the writers, and we just got it done. Nobody knew about it except for us at that time. [Even] with the death of Jason Blossom, they didn’t tell us anything… so we really don’t have a clue what’s going on most of the time!”
“I’m really excited to explore a [darker] side of Archie that we haven’t seen yet…”
Warning: Spoilers for Season 1’s finale follow
That being said, he is enthusiastic about things to come; “I’m really excited to explore a different side of Archie that we haven’t seen yet, a darker side after Freddie gets shot. It kind of shakes things up for him, for sure, and things start to get pretty gnarly. Fred being shot is going to definitely change things up a bit. It’s like his Peter Parker/Bruce Wayne moment, where he wants vengeance and he will desperately go out to find it, and that’s going to switch something in his mind and we will see a darker side of him.”
He even has the chance to talk about a certain teenage witch.
“Actually Sabrina isn’t set in stone yet, so we don’t know what’s really going to happen with that, but I’m really excited because Hiram, Veronica’s father, is going to be included in Season 2, which is awesome. We have Mark Consuelos playing that character which is awesome. We all got to meet him the other day and he’s a legend.”
“Another thing for Season 2 is that Riverdale is going to separate between the north side and the south side, and people are going to have to choose a side,” he adds, speaking animatedly as he reflects on the show. “Honestly, I believe it’s going to be a big season and I think there’s a lot of things that we are going to be diving into which is really exciting, I can’t wait for you guys to see it and I can’t wait to start!”
Given how well-received the first season was, we can’t wait either.
Riverdale Season 2 premieres in October 2017. Season 1 is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
Photos: The CW Network / Roxy Simons