Archie’s crew not so sweet now

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Greg Kennedy

Just a men­tion of Archie Comics brings forth fond mem­o­ries of flip­ping through pages filled with clean- cut teens sip­ping so­das and liv­ing out a life of sweet high jinks in the idyl­lic small town of Riverdale.

Well, give your head a shake. With The CW’s new mys­tery thriller Riverdale, which starts Thurs­day on OSN First HD, Archie, Betty, Jug­head, Veron­ica and the gang are now keep­ing it bru­tally real.

One of their own has been mur­dered, driv­ing them into a dark jig­saw puz­zle that’s very nearly an homage to the neo-noir vi­sions of David Lynch of Blue Vel­vet and Twin Peaks fame. Riverdale in 2017 teems with se­cre­tive, lusty, brit­tle and devious teens. New Zealan­der K J Apa, a prime- time soap star [ Short­land Street] in his na­tive land, comes to Riverdale as a brawny, six-packed Archie An­drews who could thump Moose Ma­son with­out break­ing a sweat.

His posse in­cludes: a brood­ing Forsythe “Jug­head” Jones III [former Dis­ney child star Cole Sprouse; The Suite Life of Zack and Cody] rem­i­nis­cent of Twi­light Zone host Rod Ser­ling; a so­phis­ti­cated Veron­ica (new­comer Camila Men­des) whose mil­lion­aire fam­ily lost all their money in an em­bez­zle­ment scan­dal; and an ea­ger-to-please Betty [Lili Rein­hart, The Good Neigh­bour] who has se­ri­ous men­tal health is­sues.

“I wanted to make sure this girl wasn’t just the sim­ple, sweet blonde girl next door,” says Rein­hart when ac­cept­ing the role. “There was so much more go­ing on with her, we were build­ing lay­ers.

“What I love is that we’re tak­ing some­thing that was so hap­pygo-lucky and great and chip­per to some­thing more about shin­ing a light on the dark­ness of th­ese char­ac­ters, mak­ing them three-di­men­sional peo­ple.

“Betty strug­gles with anx­i­ety and goes through self- harm. She’s a real per­son.”

No stranger to high-school drama af­ter a youth spent on screen in the ‘ 90s as Dy­lan McKay in Bev­erly Hills, 90210, Luke Perry is back as Archie’s fa­ther, Fred­er­ick “Fred” An­drews, who’s groom­ing Archie to take over his con­struc­tion firm. Nat­u­rally, Archie wants none of it.

The teen and mys­tery gen­res blend well, says Perry, 50, re­call­ing his first day on the Riverdale diner set of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe: “It had a kind of freaky, scary, tex­tured Peach Pit vibe”, he says, re­fer­ring to the retro diner so pop­u­lar on 90210.

“Archie is your stan­dard kind of high-school kid go­ing through pu­berty,” says Apa. “Af­ter the sum­mer he’s come back and is at­tract­ing girls he prob­a­bly wasn’t at­tract­ing be­fore.

“He also dis­cov­ers his pas­sion for mu­sic over the sum­mer. He’s adamant that mu­sic is his thing. But his old man wants him to start play­ing foot­ball, and that cre­ates con­flict.”

As for the death of high-school team quar­ter­back Ja­son Blos­som: “I hon­estly have no idea [how it will play out],” says Apa.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to see what’s go­ing to hap­pen.

“Archie def­i­nitely has some se­crets, and we learn a bit more about those as the [14-episode] se­ries goes on.”

More se­ries may be in the off­ing as Archie’s han­dlers have as­pi­ra­tions to grow their ti­tles into a cin­e­matic and tele­vi­sion uni­verse on par with those of Marvel and DC Comics.

Riverdale de­buts Thurs­day on OSN First HD at 10pm.

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