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SDCC 2016: ‘Riverdale’ Stars Ashleigh Murray & Madelaine Petsch Dish on Their Archie Comics Characters

Nora Dominick ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor

Set to premiere mid-season on The CW, Riverdale is a fresh take on the Archie Comics. The new TV show follows Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and their friends as they explore the surrealism of small town life – the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade. Riverdale will stand out in a crowd of superhero shows on The CW as it brings a film noir take on the teen drama.

At SDCC 2016, Ashleigh Murray (Josie) and Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl) dish on their Archie Comics characters and Murray discusses her casting as Josie.

Check out the full interview below!

So Madelaine, tell us about your character on Riverdale

Madelaine Petsch: Well, I play Cheryl Blossom, who is the head cheerleader, vixen and lead villain on the show, which is very juicy and fun. At the beginning of the show, my twin brother passes away in a mysterious way and we aren’t really sure what happens there.

M.P: So, that’s kind of the arc of season one and that allows Cheryl to evolve as the villain with the hurt of her brothers death and then the repercussions of him dying throughout the season on her. There’s a little bit of ‘twincest’ in there.

And Ashleigh, tell us about your character on Riverdale.

Ashleigh Murray: I play Josie McCoy. I am the front woman of Josie and the Pussycats. You know, my take on Josie is she’s kind of like a reincarnations of Josie and the Pussycats, but dealing with same kind of things we deal with now. You know, in 2016 and how far we’ve come as woman and that we don’t have space and time to be ditzy. Everything that I do and want is very purposeful. I’ll do whatever I need to do to get there. I’m not going to let anybody get in my way, especially boys. And that is not necessarily the same sentiment that my Pussycats share. We’ll kind of discover you know, why Josie is so driven and why she feels like she needs to succeed and can’t have a man, specifically get in her way.

A.M: So, when Archie [K.J. Apa] comes into play, we’re going to bump heads. I am Beyoncé and Archie is “Justin Gingerlake.” So, when he comes asking for my help, I’m like ‘Nah, dude.” So he goes to create his own band. So, we’re going to have a Battle of the Bands and I’m gonna have some crumbling in the empire because Archie’s really cute, whatever. My girls are gonna see that, so that’s gonna be kind of her strongest point and how she evolves as a character in season one.

Josie and the Pussycats. Photo Credit: Archie Comics
Josie and the Pussycats. Photo Credit: Archie Comics

Ashleigh, did you feel any additional pressure taking the role of Josie knowing that it was race bent and some people might, sadly, have a strong reaction to your casting?

Ashleigh Murray: You know, for a hot second I did. For like, 2 minutes right before the network test. You know, I understand that, you know, because I’m a big nerd. I’m a huge Dragon Ball Z fan, so when they were trying to make a life action movie I was like, ‘No!’ So, I understand that sentiment, but I think what’s really important is that I’m not trying to erase the original Josie.

A.M: I grew up loving her and what’s really great about the Archie Comic’s as a whole is that everybody is relatable. I didn’t have to look like Jughead to have him be my favorite character, you know? I didn’t have to look like Archie or Betty or Veronica to understand the situations that they were going through. So, I feel like if people can go into it with an open mind of just being like, ‘Oh this is a girl that happened to be born with the name Josie and wanted to be a rockstar and came up with this band the Pussycats and let’s see what she’s got.’ I’m not trying to undo or erase anything that’s already happened.

Did you sing before taking on the role of Josie?

Ashleigh Murray: It’s my first time recording original music! We didn’t write it, but  it’s original, composed music. I did musicals. It’s funny because it’s easier for me to hide behind a character and a voice, but when I have to bring myself and my own voice to it, it’s very nerve-racking, but it’s exciting. it’s pushing me to really make Josie, this new Josie, stand out in a way. She’s going to be kind of rockish. She likes to get the party going and when everybody wants to leave I’m like, ‘Psych, I got another song.’

The most important question: Does Josie wear ears?

Ashleigh Murray: Oh! Oh my God! Does she wear ears? Yes she does! And you aren’t even ready for what the ears are. Like, it’s going to be so specific and pointed. It’s great because Lee Toland Kreiger, the director, and I came up with the notion ourselves. He kind of asked me the question and we came back 24 hours with something. That’s going to be the threw line with Josie and the Pussycats trademark. It’s so fun! I can’t wait for you guys to see it.

Check out Ashleigh Murray and Madelaine Petsch on Riverdale, which premieres mid-season on The CW.

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