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RIVERDALE Will Be Filled with Betty and Veronica Girl Power

RIVERDALE Will Be Filled with Betty and Veronica Girl Power

The lovably girl-crazy Archie Andrews never could choose between girl-next-door Betty Cooper and rich, fashionable Veronica Lodge. One of the most iconic love triangles in pop culture history, Archie Comics inspired over 75 years of Team Betty vs. Team Veronica. But The CW’s live-action Archie drama Riverdale is subverting that classic angle for something a little more modern: female empowerment through friendship instead of rivalry.

Sure, Archie (KJ Apa) is definitely going to take notice of both of these girls as they pass each other in the hallway at school, but Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) won’t just be romantic interests on The CW’s newest series. And that’s because Riverdale isn’t just a carbon copy of the Archie comic books.

“Our show is most similar to the most recent adaptation [of Archie Comics] by Fiona Staples and Mark Waid,” Apa told Nerdist on set in Vancouver. “[The characters] are more similar to the recent adaptations than they are to the classic ones, from like 70 years ago.”

Comparing Riverdale to the Archie comic books everyone grew up reading, Mendes said,”Tonally, it’s very different. It feels like a comic book, but it’s still real life, and I think we’ve done a great job of balancing the darkness with the lightness. And it really isn’t just teen drama, it’s not trivial drama that we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with really high stakes stuff, and with our relationships with our parents, and balancing that with our relationships with each other. They’re going pretty deep. It’s really not surface level, as some teen dramas can be.”

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Archie is still the all-American teen, but struggling with whether he should follow in his dad’s (Luke Perry) footsteps or pursue his passion of music… not to mention keeping his forbidden relationship with Riverdale High’s young music teacher Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel) a secret from everyone. Plus, his former best friend Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) isn’t even on speaking terms with him for mysterious reasons, and his other best friend Betty Cooper wants to take their friendship to the next level, right as new girl Veronica Lodge moves to town from NYC.

“There’s definitely still that iconic triangle, and that’s going to be there for the duration of when the show’s going to be alive,” Apa said. “In the pilot, it’s a classic example of him battling between the two of them, and he does kind of go for [Veronica] in a way. That causes a lot of conflict with him and Betty, because him and Veronica kind of… blah blah blah, so on, so forth. He’s a bit of a naughty boy, eh?”

Matters of the heart seem like life-or-death to teens in high school, but these kids are also going to be balancing an actual life-or-death matter: a homicide investigation. Riverdale kicks off its soon-to-be-mega-hit first season with the murder of high school golden boy Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) just as the new school year begins. The entire town is reeling first from his disappearance, and then the discovery of his dead body which sparks up a murder investigation where anyone could be a suspect. One such suspect: his twin sister Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch), who had an almost creepily close relationship with him (is that … twin-cest?).

“The murder investigation is pretty much the first season,” Apa said. “The love triangle is still included in that as well. It’s not just about the murder, there’s different relationships. Archie ends up having a girlfriend who is neither Betty or Veronica, which also causes some conflict between him and Betty and Veronica.”

But what really excited Mendes about bringing Veronica to life on Riverdale is how three-dimensional and dynamic the writers made her in comparison to her comic book counterpart.

“In Riverdale, Veronica isn’t so unlikable as she might have been in the comics,” Mendes said. “It’s funny, because I was researching the name Veronica, and how a lot of people hate that name because they associate it with Veronica in the comics, and it’s like, ‘Oh, she’s snooty. She sounds like a rich, spoiled brat.’ I think because we’ve added this element to Veronica, we’ve added dimensionality to her. Her father is involved with all this fraud and embezzlement, got arrested, and kind of forced the family to readjust their lifestyle. Now we have no money, and my mom and I are kind of on our own. I think that’s really humbled Veronica. So I think in that way, it’s kind of really easy to sympathize with her.”

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What really brings Riverdale into the 21st century is the relationship between Betty and Veronica–a far cry of simply trying to beat one another to Archie’s heart and attention.

“Honestly in season one, at least up until this point, there isn’t much rivalry between them,” Reinhart said. “At the end of the day we wanted to make sure they were friends. We don’t want to pin these women against each other, that was important to us. We didn’t want to make it seem like these women had nothing better to do than fight over a man, especially one that in the comics picks one one day and the other the next. We’re definitely not falling into that. At the end of the day Betty and Veronica are friends and very supportive of each other.”

That said, promos for the series premiere already spoiled that Veronica and Archie share a kiss early on in their friendship, which may rock the boat when it comes to Veronica and Betty’s burgeoning friendship.

“At the beginning, they do have a rift between them as Veronica’s the new girl and she’s kind of attracted to Archie and really interested in him,” Reinhart said. “But she finds out Betty has feelings for him. Veronica kisses him and it kind of breaks Betty’s heart, but at the end of the day Betty is very, very forgiving and understanding. She kind of comes to terms with that, definitely. So Betty and Veronica are friends and you’ll see that.”

Despite the initial Archie-shaped bump in the road, Betty and Veronica will be committed to their “chicks before dicks” pact.

“They’re a lot closer in this version [than in the comics],” Mendes said. “Episode two is entirely about us trying to be friends again, with Veronica desperately trying to apologize, and recognizing her mistake, and Betty trying to come to terms with that as well. Throughout the entire season, they’re always going to be working on their friendship. Whatever rivalry happens, it’s going to happen because of Archie, but it’s never really going to get in the way of the essence of their friendship.”

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Of course, Riverdale wouldn’t be Riverdale if Archie and Veronica didn’t constantly struggle with their attraction to each other.

“She will start to suppress it a bit, especially for the sake of her friendship with Betty, but we’re always getting a scene here and there, where Veronica and Archie do connect, and you can feel the electricity between them,” Mendes said. “But they’re doing a really good job of letting that build rather than rushing it. Like, we all know the triangle’s coming, so we’re trying to gradually get there rather than just starting it with the triangle.”

Another premiere plot point spoiled in promotional trailers for the series is that Veronica also shares a steamy kiss with Betty, but both Mendes and Reinhart agreed that Veronica and Betty’s friendship is strictly platonic.

“[Veronica] sees all this potential in her that is being pushed down, because of her mother, and her mother really has a negative effect on her life,” Mendes said. “I think Veronica recognizes that and is trying to bring all of the good things about her, all the strength in Betty out so that the world can see it.”

As for the final member of Riverdale’s core four and the narrator of the series, Jughead Jones is the least like his comic book alter ego. Moody, intellectual, brooding and a loner, Jughead begins the season on the outs with his former BFF Archie for unknown reasons, but he definitely makes some waves when it comes to Archie, Betty, and Veronica’s dynamics.

“There’s ‘love triangles’ with everyone in the sense that there’s jealousy between them,” Reinhart said. “The two girls are spending time together. Betty and Juggy are spending a lot of time together. Archie and Veronica are spending time together. All of the characters are trying to suppress the jealousy. But there is definitely a bigger love triangle than just Betty, Veronica and Archie. Archie has a lot of love interests, let me put it that way.”

Mendes added, “I think it stalls the triangle. For a few episodes, it’s like, Veronica or Betty can’t really get to Archie, because he’s distracted, and I think that’s part of what makes Archie Archie. He wants everyone. It’s not even just Betty and Veronica. He wants Cheryl. He wants any girl that comes his way that gives him any slight bit of attention.”

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That’s why it was so important for the writers to expand Veronica and Betty as real people, more than just Archie’s romantic interests.

“Veronica, her overall objective, is to redeem her family name, and to take hold of her own identity, and separate it from that of her parents,” Mendes said of who Veronica is outside of Archie.

Who Betty is outside of Archie is a little more complicated, because her character in the comics was all about beating Veronica for Archie’s attention.

“We wanted to make sure she wasn’t a damsel in distress–that was important to us,” Reinhart said. “And she wasn’t a pushover. She wasn’t fawning over Archie. That wasn’t her goal in life, which is kind of was in the comics, where she lives her life for Archie. On our show she has so much more going for her than just him. She has her own problems and she’s dealing with mental health issues and her family. At the end of the day we just wanted her to be a real person dealing with real world problems and shining a light on the darkness that comes with being a woman in this age and time and having the pressures on young women these days with appearances and being perfect.”

Because Betty is so concerned with achieving perfection, it’s only a matter of time before she reaches a breaking point.

“Oh my God, she lets loose, let me tell you,” Reinhart said with a laugh. “She lets loose pretty early in the season, which is going to be amazing. Betty definitely has mental health problems that she’s working on and has a lot of built up anger [stemming from] the pressure that Betty feels to be perfect. She can’t show any cracks. She can’t be weak around her parents, so it builds up and takes over her. It comes out and you see her … act out a little bit.”

What do you think about how Riverdale is updating the Archie/Betty/Veronica triangle? What are you most excited to see from The CW’s new show? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum, and catch Riverdale on Thursday at 9 pm on The CW.

Images: The CW

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