On The CW series Riverdale, the new school year begins as the town is coming to grips with the tragic but mysterious death of high schooler Jason Blossom. Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) would prefer to pursue a career in music rather than follow in his father’s footsteps, while girl-next-door Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is deciding whether to continue to keep her crush on her best friend and neighbor a secret. Throw in new student, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), a curious Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) and Queen Bee Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), who is always happy to stir up trouble, and secrets are bound to surface.
During a series of 1-on-1 interviews with Collider, co-stars K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse talked about their audition process for the show, when they fell in love with their character, their instant chemistry, bringing iconic comic book characters to life in a modern way, the show’s sexuality, whether there would ever be anything romantic between Betty and Veronica, why Betty and Veronica won’t let Archie come between their friendship, what Archie and Jughead’s friendship is like now, their family relationships, and the murder mystery. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: What was your audition process like for this show?
K.J. APA: I came to L.A., and it was my first audition. I went in there and did it, and it was just like any other audition. And then, I got called about two weeks later to play the same character because they obviously hadn’t found him yet. After I did it, our casting director David Rapaport was like, “Have you been in here before?” I was like, “Yeah.” And he said, “Hold on a second,” and he left. I got called back about an hour later and did the audition again, in front of Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], Sarah Schechter, and a couple of the other executives. And then, they called me back for a screen test, a couple weeks later. And then, I did another screen test. Then, I got cast.
LILI REINHART: In November 2015, I got the audition. I was at home. I was living in North Carolina with my parents. I was 19, at that point. I was going to move to L.A. in January. I had to self-tape with my mom, but it didn’t go anywhere. The casting director wasn’t really taken with it. It wasn’t really that good of an audition, on my part, so I was like, “Okay, you win some, you lose some.” I’m used to that. And then, I moved to L.A. and a couple days after I moved, my manager called me and said, “They still haven’t found this girl. Now that you’re in L.A., the casting director will see you in person.” So, I went in there with no expectations and approached the character with a clean slate, and it worked. Our casting director really connected with me in the room. And then, I went in again for the producers. And then, I tested for the network and the studio. Then, I got it. It was from November through February. On February 9 is when I got the phone call. I remember because it’s the day my life changed.
CAMILA MENDES: Mine was very long and labored. I met Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] at my second callback, which was my first producer’s callback. That was pretty quick. And then, the next day, they put me on hold, but it was winter break, so I had all of winter break to prepare. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to L.A. to do the studio test, and this is going to happen.” So, the studio test happened, but that was before the pilot got greenlit. I had to go back again, after it got greenlit. The first time I studio tested, there was only one other Veronica there. Because it was just me and one other girl, I thought I was at the end. And then, I went back and there were five Veronicas. I was like, “Wait, I feel like I just took a huge step backwards. Why are they bringing all these other girls?! Were we not enough?” I freaked out. And then, I made it to the network test. It was me and this one other girl, and right as we finished, I got in the elevator and the casting director was like, “Can we talk to you?” He was like, “So, we’re letting the other girl go.” I was like, “Really?!” And he said, “Don’t get excited. They didn’t think she was a good fit, to begin with. They want to bring someone in that they feel can compete with you and that they feel is on the same level.” I was like, “Why?! Isn’t the whole idea that I won the competition?” And he said, “No, it’s just a formality. You always have to have two options for the network because they want to feel like they have two really good options. So, we’re going to look for her and test her, and then, from there, we’ll decide.”
I was so nervous. I had to go back to New York, and after a few days past, they still hadn’t found her. And then, my contract expired and a few days later, they said they still hadn’t found her. It was two weeks of the same thing, and I was losing my mind, unable to sleep. I was like, “If they wanted me, they would have cast me by now. Why are they looking elsewhere?” I was starting to accept the fact that I didn’t get it. Finally, they were like, “Look, there was a lot of disagreement over who Veronica should be.” It was a character that everyone has grown up with for so long that everyone had an attachment to the characters, but they finally came together on who she should be.
At the end, they ended up only sending my tapes to the network and I was the only one that tested for Veronica, and then I got it. It was a whole process behind it that was literally killing me. I couldn’t sleep. I would wake up and cry. I just graduated college, too, so I was really anxious about working. I was like, “Either this is going to change my life and be this whole journey that I’m about to embark on, or I’m just going to go about doing my daily stuff and it’s going to feel like shit because it’s really going to be sad.” So, I was very happy it was the former. Sarah Schechter said this was the longest audition process she’s ever been through. Normally, it’s two months, but this was six months, while they were looking for all these characters. I think it’s because it was such a responsibility to make sure it’s right. You’ve gotta get the characters right, and get the ensemble right. The show isn’t about any one character. It’s about everyone together, and the town of Riverdale. Having that chemistry between everyone was really important.
COLE SPROUSE: It was funny, I was given Archie to read, at first. Before I auditioned, there was a scene that he does with Jughead, and I wasn’t too familiar with the characters, at that point. So, I read Jughead and I was thinking, “Oh, I really like Jughead.” I found out that he’s the narrator, and I found out all of these really cool things. He’ll be the narrator for every episode, throughout every season. That’s how you know I can’t get [killed]. I thought it was a really interesting character. My audition was a two-page monologue, with me just sitting there and explaining the setting of the town. I thought that was great. I came off of a Twilight Zone binge and just vomited Rod Serling all over the audition, and it happened to be in line with Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and Greg Berlanti, and that entire team. From there, it was suggested to me, pretty early on in the process, that they wanted me for Jughead and that I was their first choice. So, I did about five auditions afterwards, with the chain of command, and each one was me consistently removing the other people. It felt like playing Pokémon, and not really like an audition process. It was a battle royale. It was a grueling process. I read with a couple of the guys who were auditioning for Archie, but I didn’t get to read with K.J. [Apa], at all. And then, we all showed up on set and it was magic. As a cast, we get along like peas in pods. I’m sure every cast says that stupid cliché shit, but as someone who was a little bit nervous about returning to acting, I was wondering about how we were all going to get along as a cast. I’m so thankful that we do and that it works.
Lili, did you meet any of your fellow cast members during the audition process?
REINHART: I did. Camila [Mendes] and I were both at a studio test. We didn’t talk ‘cause there were a bunch of people there. There were like five Veronicas, three Bettys and five Archies. And then, when I did my network test, I saw Cole [Sprouse] there. Actually, I had seen Cole at the studio test, as well, but we didn’t interact, at all. But then, at the network test, it was me, another option for Betty, Camila, another option for Veronica, and Cole and another option for Jughead. K.J. [Apa] wasn’t there ‘cause they were still working on Archie. I was sitting close to Camila and I was like, “Wow, this girl looks like the one.” Once I got the role, I chemistry read with K.J. and another option for Archie. As they got the roles, I knew who they were talking about ‘cause I had interacted with them before.
Was there a point, along the way, that you fell in love with the character and just couldn’t see anyone else in the role?