*“Riverdale” is The CW’s take on Archie Comics… only darker, full of mystery and dripping with horny teenagers. It was adapted for television by Archie Comics’ chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and executive produced by Greg Berlanti. Earlier this month, The CW renewed the series for a second season.
The show features an ensemble cast based on the classic comics characters, including Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy, the lead singer of the Pussycats. Iconic TV actress Robin Givens plays Josie’s mom and the town’s mayor, Sierra McCoy.
EUR chatted with Ashleigh and Robin about their mother/daughter dynamic on the series, as well as Murray’s approach to recreating this classic character for a new generation.
“They’re very close,” Givens said of Mayor McCoy and her daughter Josie. “I think it’s very interesting that Mayor McCoy is married but she still feels like she’s on her own. She and the daughter are really trying to figure out where Josie’s father fits in their lives. I know I feel, for black women, I feel like I have a lot of friends like this: we’re kind of on our own. We would love to have a man with us and some of my friends are like Josie’s mom, where the man’s there but not completely there.”
Givens’ career spans over two decades, and Gen X viewers love that “Riverdale” brought her together with pop culture darlings Luke Perry and Molly Ringwald.
“I play women so far from myself,” Givens said, when asked if there’s certain qualities in women that she enjoys exploring through her work these days.”
“I always wished I could be as strong as Jacqueline in “Boomerang.” I think Mayor McCoy does have a certain poise and she’s put together and she can take care of the town and business and all that, so what’s nice about her, and the part that I’m interested in, is the mother aspect,” Givens explained. “She’s very committed to being a mother and she’s a different person when she’s with Josie. She’s ambitious for her daughter. I’m very interested at this point in my career, and my journey, in doing different things than I’ve done before, especially with women. I love 20th century women. I love that we can carry the load and try to keep the balls in the air and balance things. I’d be very interested in playing women that are closer to my own life and all the quirkiness that comes with that.”
Ashleigh told EUR that she was “too broke to be nervous” going into her audition for this role. “I’m actually a huge-huge fan of Archie Comics, and I was more excited about the fact that there’s still a comic book character that hasn’t been done yet on television and this is it — this is me! That is what drove me more than anything.”
Check out the rest of our conversation with Ashleigh below, in which she also shares her AMAZING audition story.
Describe your approach to recreating this classic character for a new generation.
AM: Honestly, my approach was very simple. I broke it down into who I believe Josie would be in this day and age. She’s confident, she’s driven, she’s very sassy in a way that’s not like head shaking, finger wagging sassy. It’s sassy because she has a very strong sense of self. She knows what she needs and what she doesn’t need and she’ll only give a particular situation as much attention as it requires. She’s not going to overindulge because she has things to do. She always has her lip gloss poppin’, she’s very stylish, a little edgy. These are all the things that I imagined a 16-year-old who has a girl band has to be. The confidence was definitely key.
How would you describe the dynamic between Josie and her mayor mom?
AM: It’s a very strong mother/daughter kind of sister relationship. It’s kinda like the ideal relationship that you’d wanna have with your mother. Somebody that you can always go to and talk to about anything that’s going on in your life. There’s a lot of trust between her and her mom. They’re all they have because the dad is a traveling musician.
You released a cover of the classic song “Sugar, Sugar” and “I feel love.” Is the goal to use this show to launch a singing career?
AM: I’ve actually gotten this question quite a lot, and maybe it’ll change down the line, but I’ve never had that passion. I’ve never had the passion of wanting to be the next Monica or Beyonce or anything like that. I’m very hard on myself as an artist to begin with, so I personally don’t even think I have the proper chops to sell a record, but people think differently. That’s not really my groove. I’m happy to share this talent that I have in the right medium when necessary but I’m more about the Academy one day for talking rather than a Grammy for singing.
Speaking of signing, what song best describes your work ethic?
AM: “Formation” — hands down. Because I am Josie now in my everyday life. I wasn’t at her age, but I’m all about that confidence, that drive, that need to succeed, and only the best can roll with me.
Archie wants to be a musician, how does Josie feel about that?
AM: Josie is on that Drake tip. She’s like, hashtag: no new friends. She’s not about it at all. She doesn’t need somebody coming in a stepping on her limelight, especially somebody who, in her eyes, just woke up one day and decided he wanted to play a guitar.
Who is Josie’s crush on the show?
AM: She does not have a crush on the show. I’m looking for him all the time, (laughs). She might make eyes at Reggie because, if we’re just talking about elite couples here, you have to pick the top of the top.
Is it all peaches and cream between Josie and the Pussycats? How does she really feel about her bandmates?
AM: She loves her fellow Pussycats. It is a ride or die situation, and I think that’s really important just because we need to be our best allies. We already have so much out there that’s against us as women, especially young women and on top of that, women of color. Everybody wants a seat at the table but nobody wants to give up space. So I think it’s really important that Josie keeps that idea in mind that she knows first and foremost that my girls are #1 priority. But with that love and strength that she has for her girls, it can be very overbearing and sometimes she can stop over her line and not understand that not everybody lives with the same ideals and life regiment as Josie does, and that causes issues and friction. But the good thing about Josie is that she understands and knows when she’s messed up and knows the importance of teaching her members and why she needs to make sure that sometimes you have to give a little to keep this going.
Tell us your audition story. There are many aspiring performers reading this who would like to know how you landed this amazing gig.
AM: I made the decision that this was going to be my last audition for the next six months because I was going to go back to working full-time. I was behind in rent four months, so I owed $4700 dollars. And I was just for robbed at my restaurant job that I quit the week before, and all I had was $186 at that point. So I went into this audition after having booked an appointment for a receptionist job the next day. After I did it I went home and the next day I get a call from my manager saying “They’re paying you for the role.” It was a really good sign, and it was my first big pilot season audition and it was for a series regular role.
And then twenty minutes later it was, “Okay make sure your passport’s current cause they might be flying you to L.A. to test tomorrow.” And then twenty minutes after that it was, “Okay, you’re flying to L.A. tomorrow. Make sure you have twenty headshots and resumes.” I didn’t have any. So I maxed out my Best Buy credit card, got all that stuff printed out, stapled it together — hand washed a bunch of outfits in my sink cause I didn’t have money to pay for the laundromat, and then begged the guy at the laundromat to dry it for me for free because I had this big audition the next morning. Almost missed my flight, made it to the wrong studio location in L.A. — walked to right one. Met with Roberto and David Rapaport. I was the last person seen that day and halfway through my song, cause I had to sing in my audition, I forgot the words. I managed to find them after ten seconds of silence.
I went home that evening, told my rep that I forgot the lyrics to my auction song and they freaked out — then called me back and told me I advanced from my studio test to network. I mediated the next morning and I went in and I did it. That evening I got the call that said they wanted to offer me the role, and it’s just been great ever since.
Catch Ashleigh Murray and Robin Given when new episodes of
#Riverdale return March 30th at 9:00 pm on The CW. Catch up on the season so far: http://on.cwtv.com/Riverdaletw