If the only Archie you know from comic books is a red-headed, All-American teen who loves to hang out at the malt shop, then get ready for a surprise with “Riverdale.”
Creators of the new CW Network have ramped up the characters from Archie Comics and put them in the kind of intriguing and creepy stories that would make the residents of “Twin Peakz” nervous. It’s an approach that fits the darker comic world on the network, even if it may make the heads of fans of the traditional comics spin.
In “Riverdale,” high school junior Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) is sleeping with very young music teacher Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel). Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is a brooding writer chronicling the events unfolding in the town. Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley) is exploring his sexuality.
This darker version of Archie is not a complete change from the current comic books, which have gone away from the boyish Archie who first appeared on the printed page in 1941 to take on a more adult tone. Makers of “Riverdale” are confident the series will work because fans of the comic embraced the changes.
You can only go down that road for so long and then you need to change the dynamic.
Jon Goldwater, CEO and publisher of Archie Comics, about the new direction in ‘Riverdale’
Jon Goldwater, CEO and publisher of Archie Comics, says, “The backlash was all good. People were thrilled that we changed it. You can only go down that road for so long and then you need to change the dynamic. So the backlash was good.
“It showed in our sales, and to be candid, I’m anticipating the same great backlash when people see ‘Riverdale.’ I don’t think there’s going to be anything but a great backlash.”
Makers of the new TV series will have to go to major extremes to surpass what happened to the print version of the characters. The changes to the comic book were huge, including killing Archie during an assassination attempt.
Goldwater has assured the TV makers that the walls around Archie have been knocked down and they have leeway to go in a variety of directions. That starts with the first episode that sets up numerous mysteries including a potential murder investigation.
The original plan was to turn the new Archie into a feature film but no one could come up with the right idea for a movie. That’s when the idea surfaced to make it a TV series. The CW Network is a natural place because it already airs five series based on comic books.
Sarah Schechter, executive producer, describes “Riverdale” as a story about the loss of innocence.
“It is the loss of your childhood, and with that, I think, this small town having sort of darkness underneath, it’s just such a natural fit with what people are experiencing and feeling,” Schechter says.
I see playing Archie as a responsibility to create a new version and to create the best-version Archie.
KJ Apa, star of ‘Riverdale’
The bulk of getting that story across falls on New Zealand native Apa. The producers needed just the right actor to tell this story about growing up in a strange town and the search was so lengthy, Archie was the last character cast.
Apa, who has only a limited number of credits, knows being the central figure in a TV series comes with a lot of responsibility.
“I see playing Archie as a responsibility to create a new version and to create the best-version Archie,” Apa says. “It was a little bit nervewracking coming in here because I’m from New Zealand, and coming into the States and playing such an iconic character, I wasn’t sure what people would think.
“I think most of the feedback was really great. And, I’m going keep doing my best to play this character.”
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