Double Trouble: Lili Reinhart & Camila Mendes bring twice the spice to Riverdale
Right now, Betty and Veronica are more than 1.000 miles away from Archie and couldn’t care less. That’s because Lili Reinhart, 21, and Camila Mendes, 23, play a new kind of B&V, respectively, on The CW’s Riverdale: a strong, wise-cracking, complex duo with ambitions and worries that don’t totally revolve aroune one indecisive redhead. Riverdale, which shoots in Vancouver, British Columbia (thus the aforementioned distance from Archie), brings back the famliar faces from the original Archie comics, which debuted in 1942. There’s Archie, of course (played by K.J. Apa), Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley), and Pop Tate (Alvin Sanders); Skeet Ulrich co-star as Jughead’s father, FP Jones; Robin Givens plays the mayor; and Luke Perry steps in as Archie’s father, Fred Andrews. But this new crew inhabits a darker, sexier version of the once-picturesque titular small town. Suren the Chock’lit Shoppe remains, but the milkshakes come with a side of muder, the cheerleaders make out with each ohter, and Archie’s abs make frequent appearances.
Watch! spoke with Reinhart and Mendes about the fun of reinventing icons, their experiences with love triangles, and what it’s like to have women running the show.
What do you think is the biggest difference between your characters and the original comic book characters?
Mendes: Veronica’s way less snooty. She’s not obnoxious. I think it was really easy to hate Veronica in the comics. There was something empowering about her, but she was mean and she’d put people down. She’s put Betty down all the time.
Reinhart: All the time. She was malicious on purpose. Our Veronica is so not like that.
Mendes: Totally. Quite the opposite.
Reinhart: And Betty waws such a pushover in the comics. She would just take Archie back every time he looked at her. Our Betty is so not like that. She’s a modern woman—well, she’s a girl. She’s figuring herself out. She’s very strongheaded. The girls in the comic were pretty one-note—everything was about the love triangle and how the two of them were frenemies. We didn’t get to learn about them as human beings. Our characters are three-dimensional and have layers, and our Betty has a darkness to her that you never saw in the comics. Betty’s not just the good girl and Veronica’s not just the sassy one.
The comics originated in the 1940s. How has your show brought the story into the modern era, and in what ways do you feel like it’s still sort of vintage?
Reinhart: It’s modern in the sense that we talk about modern topics every two seconds. The nature of our show is so pop culture-based, especially the characters of Veronica and Cheryl [Blossom, played by Madelaine Petsch]. But the love triangle is kind of classic—
Mendes: A love triangle is very vintage, for sure!
Reinhart: Also our fashion and our aesthetic, the women have very feminine shapes.
Mendes: I also think thematically we have a nostalgic element where the whole gang is together around milkshakes and fries—
Reinhart: And that we’re in this small town—
Mendes: Where, on the surface, everything is perfect. But then we have this added element of corruption and violence—those themes are very modern.
Speaking of love triangle, that was a huge part of the comics and even in the pilot, but it feels like it’s diminished as the series continues. Do you think Betty has a secret love for Archie or vice versa?
Reinhart: It’s always kind of been on the back burner, but at the end of season 1 we saw a hint that Archie had a realization of his feelings for Betty, and she wasn’t really reciprocating them. You know, with a childhood best friend there’s always going to be a certain kind of love there—but it’s so hard when you’re 16 to decipher between having love for someone and being in love with them, feelings versus infatuation and lust versus love. I think Archie and Betty care for each other so much because they’ve been best friends forever, but Archie’s just confused.
Mendes: One of the classic characteristics of Archie is that he’s indecisive and always wants what he can’t have. Which is why he goes through, like, five girls in the course of a season.
I love that about your show. The girls know what they want, adn Archie’s kind of wishy-washy.
Mendes: The women are no-bullshit. It’s always the men who are complicating things, because they aren’t emotionally aware of themselves. They don’t know how to deal with their emotions. I think the women in the show—even though they are vulerable and honest—there’s so much strength in how they handle that. There’s a shameless confrontation of their vulnerability.
Reinhart: It’s a women-powered show.
Have you guys ever been in a real-life love triangle?
Reinhart: Maybe when I was in, like, third grade. It was sad—I remember coming home crying and throwing away the necklace that the guy gave me. I remember being in my bedroom, talking to myself in the mirror, getting ready what I was going to say to the boy. All of the sudden I hear “Lili?” and I’m like, “Yeah?” and my dad’s like, “Are you OK?”
Mendes: “I’m, uh, rehearsing!”
Reinhart: I was so embarrassed.
Which character in the show do you most relate to?
Mendes: Betty. I’m just more bubbly, I’m much sweeter. I’m not as quippy and strong and fierce as Veronica.
Reinhart: We’re both just a lot more laid-back than all of the characters. I feel like that’s what makes me most like Jughead. Maybe I’m Fred.
Mendes: You’re a dad!
Reinhart: I’m a dad, dude. I just want to be at home, raising my own son.
Mendes: I’m, like, Midge or something.
Reinhart: You’re Moose, dude.
Who do you most root for in the show?
Mendes: I root for Jughead. He just has it the worst, always. And you know he just wants it to be all OK, and it never works out.
Reinhart: Yeah, definitely Jughead. Everyone’s heart goes to our Jughead.
How did you guys wind up on the show? What was the process like?
Mendes: Yes, it was long for everybody. I got an agent my senior year of college; I was auditioning for a long time and didn’t get any bites. This was the first role that was an actual fit for me, because my look isn’t fully Latina, but it’s not white either, so I’d have trouble finding a role that was somewhere in the middle. They just wanted diversity for the role, but the point of the role wasn’t that it was Latina. I just really felt like I could play Veronica. But then there were these series of auditions, and I remember at the first sutio test, it was just me and one other Veronica. I thought, OK, I’ve got a shot. But then I cam back for the second studio test and suddenly there were five other Veronicas. That’s where I met Lili—
Reinhart: I don’t remember that at all. I was so nervous.
Mendes: So that Monday, they called me for the network test, where it was down to just me and one other Veronica again, and that’s where Lili and I had our first conversation, and I knew Lili was going to get Betty—
Reinhart: And I knew Cami was going to get Veronica!
Mendes: What really sucked for me was, after the network test, the casting director came up to me and said, “So, we’re going to let the other girl go. You’re still in the running, but we’re going to open up another nation-wide search for someone to compete against you.” And I’m like, “Really?! That wasn’t it?” For two weeks, I was just losing sleep and crying every nigt. I couldn’t imagine being so close and then not being good enough—it was so terrifying to me. I was on the brink of success. The thought of getting that close and then losing it all would be just devastating.
Reinhart: I remember feeling that way, too. I got so far and I was thinking that this would be it for me, and it just felt too good to be true. I couldn’t imagine being able to say I’d achieved my dream. It was so close I could taste it, and I’d auditioned, like, seven times—we both did—and when I finally got the role it such sweet relief. You’re waiting for epople to agree that you’re the right person—
Mendes: And there are so many cooks in the kitchen, so many people who need to nod their head and say “yes” to you, people of all different backgrounds, all different expectations for the character—
Reinhart: So when you find out these people agreed on you, you’re so elated. It’s like when you smile so hard your face hurts and you feel like you’re stuck in time for a minute. And it’s just the calm before the storm, because you know your life’s about to change.
What was it like when you first met?
Mendes: We met a the hot tub at The Sutton [Place Hotel in Vancouver]. I had Madelaine’s number—no, wait, I had your number—
Reinhart: No, I Instagram DM’ed you. We were all staying at the same hotel during the pilot—
Mendes: And she and Madelaine had gotten to know each other from chemistry reads in L.A. I was in New York.
Reinhart: So I was like, “Hey, come down to the hot tub.” And you did, and I was like, Oh, God, now we have to see how we all get along…
Mendes: All of us in our bathing suits, checking each other out. Madelaine had that bathing suit that said “Birthday Suit” on it and that topknot, and I was like, “Damnnn.” But we got along pretty instantly.
Reinhart: I kind of, at first, felt like an outsider during the pilot.
Mendes: We all did.
Reinhart: I probably put it on myself because I was used to being an outsider, and everyone was a little bit older and I was just starting to get comfortable going out and living life on my own. I’ve definitely come out of my shell so much more since then, but I was shy and nervous—
Mendes: We were all so different. We still are, but something about that—
Reinhart: We fit so well together.
Mendes: Yeah, we all just completed each other, and the group dynamic just works.
Reinhart: I remember the first time I thought, This is the best time.
Mendes: The best.