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RIVERDALE Showrunner on What to Expect From the Edgier ARCHIE Characters

RIVERDALE Showrunner on What to Expect From the Edgier ARCHIE Characters

Warning: this story contains spoilers from the Riverdale series premiere.

When The CW first announced that an Archie Comics live action drama was in development, much of the reaction was… well, confusion. Riverdale was described as Twin Peaks meets Gossip Girl with Archie characters, all surrounding a murder mystery. It honestly sounded like the showrunners put a bunch of TV tropes and ideas into a blender and hoped whatever came out would work.

But then Riverdale premiered, and critics and fans alike became obsessed. Just one week ago, Riverdale achieved the kind of critical success with its series premiere that most shows can only dream of. Executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has had the time of his life watching the roller coaster of response from viewers.

“I love Twin Peaks and that’s definitely an influence, and I did watch Gossip Girl and I loved that,” Aguirre-Sacasa told Nerdist. “Weirdly, I would say Blue Velvet was an even bigger influence than Twin Peaks. What was really good about Twin Peaks was that it’s this great mystery, this FBI agent is solving this mystery, but it’s about the death about the high school homecoming queen and that’s such an iconic elemental figure in high school. It felt like we could do that with Riverdale. The movie that really, really influenced it was River’s Edge, the idea that the dead body of a kid was found at the river’s edge. So I like those comparisons.”

Riverdale -- "Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil" -- Image Number: RVD102a_0178.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, and Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved

This isn’t the first attempt at bringing Archie Andrews and his friends to live-action, but it’s already the most successful.

“There was that made-for-TV movie where Archie characters were grown-ups coming back for their high school reunion and that was very, very poorly received,” Aguirre-Sacasa said with a dark laugh. “To Riverdale and Back Again had like, Jughead rapping ‘Sugar, Sugar.’ It’s infamously known for that. And then there have been a couple attempts to do pilots before, I know of at least two. It definitely has been a big priority to get this thing done right. It’s been a long road.”

So what about Riverdale captured that lightning in a bottle that the others didn’t? “Probably the added mystery element, the genre element, the noir and crime of it,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “People are really responding to that. It is the Archie they think or remember, but it’s also this other thing and I think that juxtaposition of those things really appeals to people. People go on this journey where they’re like, ‘Wait, what are they doing?’ to, ‘Oh, that works better than I thought it should,’ to, ‘Oh wait, I think I love this.'”

Of course, this isn’t the Archie you read about in the digests. The CW’s version is a darker, edgier drama than what everyone expected from the redheaded teen (played by KJ Apa).

“Early on in developing it, there was a priority to make sure the show would not be too earnest,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “The show had to have edge in some way, however that would be. It should be a show about a town and not about a high school, which is why it’s called Riverdale and not Archie or Riverdale High. That’s where my mind always was. It’s not just about these kids, it’s about the grown-ups too and their stories and the town itself. The tone is the thing that took some dialing in, but when we finally landed on it, it immediately clicked in. The first draft didn’t have Jason’s [Trevor Stines] dead body, but once we landed on that idea, it slotted in so perfectly. It really solidified what the show could and should be.”

Riverdale -- "Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil" -- Image Number: RVD102d_0448.jpg -- Pictured: Ross Butler as Reggie Mantle, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and KJ Apa as Archie Andrews -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved

According to Aguirre-Sacasa, the way they could update Archie for a new generation was simple. “We’ve updated the world,” he said. “The world is darker and it’s the world we live in, where horrible things happen, sometimes to innocent kids. More than making the characters dark, edgy and gritty, the world is a morally-complicated place. Now, after the premiere, we’ve started to see how our characters respond to that. They sink or they swim. They fight against it or they embrace it. They’re closer to the darkness or they’re further away from it. That has been the key – keeping the characters kind of the same at their core, but changing the world around them.”

Archie comics have been able to sustain the iconic love triangle between Archie, Betty (played in the series by Lili Reinhart), and Veronica (Camila Mendes) for over 75 years because comic books can reset and refresh every issue. Since television is a different beast, and love triangles can get stale fast, the Riverdale showrunners are keeping that love triangle alive through “trial and error.”

“There will always be some version of that love triangle underneath the scenes,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “But in season one, Archie, Betty and Veronica will all have love interests that don’t feed into the love triangle. Partly that is a delaying tactic because once you get that started you don’t want to keep playing the same beat over and over again. It’s elemental, though, and there will always be–no matter who Betty’s dating or who Archie is dating, and even though they are all friends–there is always going to be a little something there. But the Betty and Veronica friendship is amazing, and that’s going to be a big, big part of the show.”

Riverdale -- "Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil" -- Image Number: RVD102a_0129.jpg -- Pictured: Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved

Another big friendship on the show, or lack thereof as of now, is the one between Archie and Jughead (Cole Sprouse).

“It’s really strained,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “After the estrangement in the pilot and really starting in episode two, [Archie and Jughead] start to get closer and closer. That friendship will become a very, very important part of the show. Big time. It’s nice to tell friendship stories. You will learn their whole history and the answers about what happened between them in episode seven. You’ll learn what caused the rift.”

Aguirre-Sacasa loved that they were able to play around with who Jughead is as a character, especially when compared to who he is in the comic books.

“He’s the character from the comic books that is the most changed,” he said. “Cole came in for the audition and was brooding–Donnie Darko, Twin Peaks. Jughead is usually funny. He’s the comic relief. But he always felt a little bit wiser than the other characters. Smarter is not the right word, but just a little more philosophical. I always wanted to make him a writer. When [Riverdale] became a murder-mystery, it made sense to have a hard-boiled narrator, and that’s what Jughead became organically. Starting in episode two, we’ll integrate him more into the world of the kids while still maintaining his outsider status. He’ll get involved in their adventures moving forward.”

Which storyline are you most eager to see play out on Riverdale? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!

Images: The CW

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