When The CW first announced it was going to make a live-action Archie show, the long journey to finding the perfect Archie Andrews began. But the network wasn’t looking for the Archie Andrews straight from the pages of the iconic comic booksâ€”his version had to beÂ different. Instead, Greg Berlanti’s vision ofÂ RiverdaleÂ was one ofÂ a strange-yet-addictive mix between the eerie and dark murder mystery Twin Peaks, the high school and relationship drama of Gossip Girl with Archie comics characters at the center of it all.After a painstaking search, Riverdale finally found its Archie Andrews in up-and-coming New Zealand actor KJ Apa. No, he’s not a natural redhead but he wears the shade just fine now thanks to the modern wonders of hair dye, which he rigorously applied first on a weekly basis and then every two weeksâ€””It’s pretty gnarly, I don’t know how some girls get their hair dyed all the time,” he told Nerdist on set in Vancouver. The 19-year-old brings the classic character to life for a new generation, as the girl-obsessed teen becomes a hot football star with a secret desire to trade in his jersey for a guitar. And while Apa may not be a ginger in real life, he’s pretty much the perfect Archie in every other way.“Reading the pilot, when I was just about to start shooting, something that stood out to me was we bothâ€”me and Archieâ€”are struggling between music and [sports],” Apa said. “When I was in school, I had to decide if I was going to do music, because I was on a half scholarship at school, and rugby. Rugby was a big part of my life for a while, and I had to stop because of acting. So I had three things that I was just like, what’s going to happen? I had to stop playing rugby because you can’t play rugby and act as well, so I was forced to stop doing that. My dad loves rugby, and he was gutted to have me not play anymore, after playing my whole life. That was something that I could easily relate to with that.”That connection to the character helped Apa when it came time to audition for The CW’s newest drama. While auditioning for pilots can be a daunting experience for any aspiring actor, Apa was coming from New Zealand to a whole new country, making it that much more difficult.”I had just arrived in LA, on the [audition] weekend in January,” Apa said. “I got an email for this audition [during pilot season] and I went in [for it]. I [auditioned for] David Rapaport, he’s the casting director. Then they called me back two weeks later. At that point I’d forgotten about the audition, and I went into the room and did it [again], and he kind of looked at me, and was like, ‘Have you been in here before?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I came in two weeks ago.’ And he just left the room.”He paused to laugh, then continued, “I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ He had gone into the room to speak to someone, then he came in and he was like, ‘Can you come back in like two hours?’ Then I left kind of stoked. I knew it was a good thing. I went to a cafÃ©, got a coffee, came back after about two hours, and then read it again with him in front of [executive producers] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], Sarah Schechter, and a couple other guys. The screen test was two days after that.”Since music is such a big part of Archie’s life on Riverdale, Apa also had to prove he had the musical chops to bring him to life.”I took my guitar in and sang them a song,” Apa said. “I played ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan, in front of this whole studio of people. I was so nervous. Then John Goldwater, he owns the whole Archie franchise, he told me after that screen test, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll see you soon.’ They called me the day after and said that I’d gotten it.”Apa remembered how great it was getting that fateful call while he was in the car and his manager was calling him at the same time, but he wasn’t surprised by the news at all. “I kind of had already knew after John spoke to me,” Apa said. “But I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to get my hopes up for nothing.”Now that he’s deep into filming the first season of Riverdale, Apa has enjoyed seeing all the ways in which The CW series is differing from the comics, making a whole new Archie for the world to meet. When it comes to what viewers will be most surprised by, Apa thinks “100 percent, itâ€™s how dark it is.””[You’ll see] how subversive and how moody everything is,” Apa said. “Our director Lee [Toland] Krieger played a massive part in that. All the different shots, all the effects … our effects guys are so amazing with all the mist and stuff, all the time. The Vancouver weather is also great for it, it’s always raining here. That is probably the biggest element, because the old comics are really happy, everything is great, this perfect world, but this is really dark and subversive.”What are you most excited to see from Riverdale? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!
Images: The CW
Riverdale premieres Thursday, January 26 at 9 p.m. on The CW.