‘Riverdale’: Cole Sprouse on How His Serpents Alliance Will Affect “Bughead” and Archie

“When a Stranger Calls” seems like it could be a game-changer for Riverdale. On set this week in Vancouver, we had a chance to talk to the cast about the aftermath of the episode and where it leaves Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Veronica. With both the Black Hood escalating his game and Jughead being more isolated from his friends as he embraces the Serpents and takes on his father’s legacy, there is plenty to unpack. Cole Sprouse explained how it all affects Jughead, where he’s heading next, and what it was like to have everyone kick his ass during the initiation scene.

QUESTION: Can you talk about Jughead’s initiation into the Serpents?

SPROUSE: Yeah, I think Jughead’s initiation is slow and steady, or rapid fire, was something he knew was coming inevitably, but the influence on his decision is really what kind of agency is he going to have over the Serpents and over keeping the kind of peace of the town, if he’s a little deeper into the gang itself. First season Jughead was all about staying away and consciously objecting against an involvement that would have 1) brought him closer to the other members of the town, but 2) possibly jeopardized him as a person, and I think he’s realizing now that he doesn’t really have the luxury of that choice anymore, to stay away. He has to get involved in the same way that everyone else is involved, and I think his initiation is truly that first step into that decision.

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How is that going to affect Betty and Jughead moving forward?

SPROUSE: Well, it would not be a show about teenagers if there was not some fumbling and some bumbling and some grumbling, but I — considering the circumstances of really all of the kids’ lives in Riverdale and how it’s all affecting them and their psychology — I think it’s a wonder something didn’t happen sooner for poor Jughead and poor Betty! Jughead is always influenced to some greater or lesser degree by his feeling outcast, and I think — even with his decisions that disrupt his relationship with Betty — it’s always somewhat informed by his feeling outcast by either her or his immediate environment or Southside or Northside — so I think as long as that kind of thing can be explained to the people he loves in the long run, then it will all make sense.

What is it like to approach this subversion of the basketcase stereotype from Archie Comics?

SPROUSE: Yeah, no, it’s great! I mean, it’s funny. When we were first doing the research for the show… Archie Comics, in very many different ways, because it’s such a long-lived property, is responsible for those archetypes, which were later taken off with and became sort of the stereotypes of not just teen dramas but all kinds of mixed media, and I think — for us to be able to use those original ones and to amplify them to a degree, to not necessarily make them caricatures but to do something of that sort — I think it’s a blast. We have the tremendous luxury of having seventy-five years of source material to pull off of, which is something that almost no production gets, and it really puts us in a unique place to poke fun at it and acknowledge what it is and simultaneously take it very seriously. I think, for me, the most enjoyable part is that — and Jughead specifically, because he’s probably the most different from the comics than the rest of the core four — we get to take these characters and make fun of them in a sort of meta sense, but when we are the characters and we’re in the town, everything [lowers voice] is taken so damn seriously. You know, maple syrup can become a bad guy! To me, that’s a blast. It’s always really fun. Can you imagine having to say “jingle jangle” on screen over and over again? I think we didn’t stop laughing for the first four episodes!

Have you heard the Jingle Jangle song?

SPROUSE: Yes, of course! Well, the first thing that we all did when we all read “jingle jangle” was go, “Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], what the hell is this?!” and he sent us, you know, this classic, twisty, 70s, drug-trippy Jingle Jangle song, and then it all made sense.

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How important is it to Jughead to fulfill what his father was doing?

SPROUSE: I think, in many ways, the kids in the town are all reflections of their parents and are kind of these ghost-like images of their parents. Even when we start to learn the parents’ story in Season 1, we see that someone like FP made some mistakes that Jughead is either stumbling into blindly or trying to acknowledge, and I think — for Jughead — Jughead has a tremendous yearning for the approval of his father, who was probably not there too much when he was a kid. He’s a kid whose mom is not around. He’s a kid who takes his childhood friendships super, super seriously and is all about the kind of purity and moral rightness of whatever person is making the bad decisions that they’re making, and I think he sees the potential for greatness in his father and he sees the potential for greatness in himself and he’s slowly but surely realizing that there are a lot of different shades to good and bad and that his father is definitely sitting right around the middle of that and what that might mean for Jughead. In that way, we have Luke Perry’s character, who’s very morally righteous, and Archie is a spectre of that moral righteousness as well, sort of a lawful good. And then we have Jughead sort of sitting on that spectrum, trying to figure out what part of that spectrum he sits on and if he leans either way and it’s definitely a shade of his father — and if his father can end up influencing him towards either direction, that’s yet to be said.

When you first got this role, did you ever think you’d be filming a scene where everyone kicks your ass?

SPROUSE: Yeah, for sure. No, it’s funny. When I first read the first couple episodes from this narrative arc, I was like, “Jughead is such a pompous little kid, thinking he can go into a brand new school, do whatever the hell he wants, and then — when someone tells him no — he goes, ‘Well, my dad is your leader!’” That kid deserves to get his butt kicked a little bit, I think! I think Jughead needs to toughen up if he’s going to survive whatever the hell is about to be thrown at him, and I think this is a really good way to not only build a camaraderie with the people who have been beaten up by the Northside but to really toughen Jughead up simultaneously. I don’t know, I thought it was awesome. I’m really glad it wasn’t as cold filming that as it is right now.

Was Jughead expecting Betty to break up with him? Did you play it that way?

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SPROUSE: Part of it, definitely. I mean, I think there’s that one line in it, too, that he goes, “No, you guys haven’t been good” and he’s trying to lie to himself and he goes, “No, I saw her earlier!” But he knows he’s on the Southside now, and he knows he’s been away from everyone, and I think also Jughead has absolutely no problem seeing himself as someone who could be easily thrown to the wayside, so I think something like that probably affects him a little bit. But he’s also got his boys behind him, so it’s not like he’s going to be like, “NO!” The way that scene was shot was kind of funny to me, watching it back. I think Archie is also Jughead’s weakness when it comes to Betty, because they were kind of the three amigos when they were young, but Betty had always favored Archie and it’s something that will definitely see prevalence later on in the season, and just how much of a friendship Betty and Jughead had, even though it was just the three of them when they were younger or if Jughead felt more like a third wheel. So Archie coming to deliver the bad news is not only a slap from Betty, but really a slap from Archie too, which I think is something we explore a lot later.

Is Jughead going to regret not being there for Betty?

SPROUSE: Definitely. I mean, not to spoil too much, but we do play with a bit of that this episode, but Jughead’s narrative arc is really — much like the last season — a slow burn. The first half of this season for Jughead is like establishing the world that is the Southside, with the inevitable kind of civil war between the North and the South, in which Jughead’s narrative becomes a lot more prevalent, in the same way from the first season, he was kind of on the outskirts and slowly but surely we learned more about him. So there’s not really much Jughead can do. He’s kind of stretched as thin as possible right now, not only trying to fight for the freedom of his father, trying to contain the Serpents’ inclination for violence and also dealing with his own personal demons. I think he’ll end up regretting quite a bit that he wasn’t around for Betty, but I also don’t think Jughead thinks Betty can’t take care of herself, which I think is important. I don’t think any of the four characters that are going through these troubles at any point have been like, “Well, is this kid in over his head!” I think they’ll find the agency and they’ll work it out and they’ll move on.

Is what happens at the end of the episode with Toni cause problems for him later on?

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SPROUSE: I don’t know! I don’t think so. It’s interesting. When I first read how Jughead was going to interact with that, I read it like he just kept brushing Toni off, and then I thought it would be more interesting if he didn’t, and he was actually somewhat interested or enjoyed the admiration of another young woman, which I think is quintessentially the most teenage thing to do. Whether or not Jughead wants to admit it, he enjoys that attention, which is a kind of attention he’s only ever received from Betty and never really has that kind of attention specifically, so when this new girl in a place where he knows nobody else starts paying attention to him. I don’t necessarily even think it’s sexual, so to speak. I think, even if it’s platonic, it’s something that’s brand new, uncharted territory for him and he feels excited by it. I think he would be excited by it.

Are we going to see more inspiration from other, real life serial killers?

SPROUSE: Well, that’s not really for me to say, as the actor! I think a lot of people really, really enjoy the kind of mystery aspect of the show, the ameteur slueth thing between Betty and Jughead. In the first season, it was much more murder mystery, and this season genre-wise it takes a much more horror tone. We don’t know the conclusion, based on where you guys are right now, of the Black Hood narrative, but I think — because it’s such an enjoyed part of the show — it would be hard for me to think that Betty and Jughead would stop doing something with that.

What can fans expect Jughead’s relationship with Betty and Archie to look like moving forward?

SPROUSE: They’re also young kids. Well, they’re teens. I mean, I think they fight, they make up, they fight, they make up, and they fight and they make up, and I think nothing so, so serious has happened between these kind of impenetrable, 75-year-old relationships that Jughead’s going, “I don’t want to see your damn faces anymore!” But also, episode six is one of those scenarios where he has to recruit the help of these people that he doesn’t really want to turn to, and he’d like to handle it himself but he can’t. No man is an island, especially not Jughead.

Riverdale airs Wednesday nights on The CW.

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