Archie uni­verse gets even darker with ‘Sab­rina’

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Brian Truitt

Kier­nan Shipka takes up the teen witch man­tle in Net­flix’s “Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures” se­ries linked to CW’s “Riverdale.”

Faced with the Gar­goyle King and the devil, Archie An­drews and friends are a long way from milk­shakes and sock hops.❚ CW’s fan-fa­vorite “Riverdale” (Wed­nes­days, 8 ET/PT) is in its third sea­son putting a crime-noir spin on the high school lives of long­time goody-two-shoes Archie Comics char­ac­ters Archie (KJ Apa), Jug­head (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Rein­hart) and Veron­ica (Camila Men­des). And a weirder, darker cor­ner of that world – namely, Green­dale – comes alive in Net­flix’s “Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures of Sab­rina” (stream­ing Fri­day) star­ring Kier­nan Shipka (”Mad Men”) as teen witch Sab­rina Spell­man.

“Hor­ror and teenagers go hand in hand, and a lot of hor­ror is set around a com­ing of age,” says Roberto Aguirre Sa­casa, the cre­ator of both shows who points out “Sab­rina” mines sim­i­lar ter­ri­tory as “Car­rie” and “The Ex­or­cist.” “We’ve seen this be­fore, so it felt strangely nat­u­ral and or­ganic.”

In­flu­enced by “Rose­mary’s Baby,” “Sus­piria” and Nathaniel Hawthorne short sto­ries, “Sab­rina” in­tro­duces its half-hu­man, half-witch char­ac­ter on the eve of her 16th birth­day, when she’s re­quired to sign her soul to the dark lord (aka Satan) and be­come a true witch. But she’s not ready to leave her mor­tal pals be­hind, in­clud­ing boyfriend Har­vey (Ross Lynch), and tries to nav­i­gate her way through both the nor­mal and mag­i­cal worlds.

“Her fear­less­ness and her pas­sion to de­fend her friends and fight for what’s right, that was some­thing that was re­ally in­spir­ing to me,” says 18-year-old

Shipka. “I was just re­ally in awe of her be­cause she was so young, but still so sure of herself. That’s re­flec­tive of a lot of teenagers th­ese days.”

Hor­ror el­e­ments abound, although there’s a def­i­nite “Harry Pot­ter” vibe to the Academy of Un­seen Arts, headed by Sab­rina’s main foe, Fa­ther Black­wood (Richard Coyle). “We kind of feel like we’re at Hog­warts a lot of the time,” Shipka says.

The sit­u­a­tion’s spooky in Green­dale, but down­right kooky in Riverdale. The first sea­son of the genre mashup was a straight-up mur­der mys­tery; the sec­ond was both a se­rial-killer thriller and Mafia drama; and 2018 brings a sto­ry­line in­spired by HBO’s “True De­tec­tive,” which “sort of brushed up against the su­per­nat­u­ral but never went there, Aguirre-Sa­casa says.

“The the­sis of the show has al­ways been that Riverdale is this quaint, whole­some, all-Amer­i­can town that has an un­der­cur­rent of dark­ness on the fringes and it’s sort of been bub­bling through. In this sea­son we sort of say, ‘OK, the forces of dark­ness won.’”

Teen love­bird sleuths Betty and Jug­head are in­ves­ti­gat­ing stu­dents’ in­volve­ment with the role-play­ing game “Griffins and Gar­goyles,” and the ar­cane cult known as The Farm, a group that counts Betty’s sis­ter and mom as mem­bers and is headed up by the charis­matic but shad­owy Edgar Evern­ever. (And might th­ese two mys­ter­ies some­how be tied to each other?)

“Riverdale is a very crazy town where th­ese oth­er­worldly, in­tense, ex­treme cir­cum­stances hap­pen daily,” Rein­hart says, and the char­ac­ters are “aware that the things that hap­pen on the show are crazy, that they’re out of the norm. It’s not sup­posed to be an en­tirely re­al­is­tic show. That’s what makes it so fun.”

Rein­hart is a fan of scenes in which Betty goes through the hor­ror-movie wringer, and an up­com­ing episode is “quite in­tense,” the ac­tress says. “It’s a lot more vul­ner­a­ble and scared side of Betty that you haven’t nec­es­sar­ily seen yet. It was kind of phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing and emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing, but that’s what makes it fun to me.”

For Shipka, be­ing creeped out amid warmth is fine. Yet shoot­ing Sab­rina’s dark bap­tism scene in a Van­cou­ver for­est,

“Riverdale is a very crazy town where oth­er­worldly, in­tense, ex­treme cir­cum­stances hap­pen daily.” Lili Rein­hart

in the freez­ing cold and clad in a not-very-prac­ti­cal dress, “you’re think­ing, ‘Why do I do this job?’ ” she says, laugh­ing.

That “su­per crazy” se­quence took an en­tire night to film, Shipka adds. “Some (an­gles) from so far away that we couldn’t even see the cam­era. That was pretty ter­ri­fy­ing when you have some­one anoint­ing your face with blood. Some of those mo­ments are truly a bit chill­ing, no pun in­tended.”

For Shipka, it’s worth the on­screen ter­ror just know­ing young girls will look up to Sab­rina.

“As some­one who was very re­cently 16 years old, I find that I’m re­ally happy that teenagers are be­ing por­trayed on tele­vi­sion as in­di­vid­u­als, as smart,” she says.

“They de­serve to see rep­re­sen­ta­tions of them­selves that are ac­cu­rate, that are in­spi­ra­tional. All th­ese char­ac­ters are be­ing por­trayed with which such depth and they’re mul­ti­di­men­sional and they’re fem­i­nist and they’re for­ward think­ing and all of that is re­ally won­der­ful. It’s go­ing to be en­ter­tain­ing above all else, which is awe­some, but the deeper mes­sages are also there, which makes it dou­ble the fun.”



Sab­rina (Kier­nan Shipka, cen­ter) takes part in a dark bap­tism in Net­flix’s “Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures of Sab­rina.”

Sab­rina nav­i­gates her mag­i­cal world and the nor­mal one, which in­cludes boyfriend Har­vey (Ross Lynch).


Sab­rina (Kier­nan Shipka) doesn't see eye to eye with Fa­ther Black­wood (Richard Coyle) in “Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures of Sab­rina.”

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