Riverdale has captivated audiences with its dark, sexy plot lines – from scenes so steamy that Refinery29 made a master list of its “hottest sex scenes ever” to the sheer number of murders. Seriously, Fandom clocked 68 deaths in the course of 73 episodes. Considering all that, does anyone really buy that the stars don’t have some real-life drama of their own? These actors need something to draw from, and whatever is at the root of it helped them net numerous MTV Movie + TV Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and Teen Choice Awards.
But let’s be real. For a series that pulled one of its leads straight from the Disney Channel, it’s safe to say that the secrets held by the cast aren’t that dark, especially compared to their on-screen counterparts. That doesn’t mean the Riverdale cast hasn’t been through the ringer though. Let’s explore the real-life angst of it all, unfortunately without the perfectly curated (read: horny) soundtrack.
Cole Sprouse slammed his Twitter allegations
Cole Sprouse has had his fair share of headlines in 2020, largely because of his split with co-star Lili Reinhart, but in June, things got a whole lot worse. The former Disney star found himself caught up in a social media sexual assault scandal when an anonymous Twitter account with the handle @Victori66680029 claimed Sprouse assaulted her after a party in 2013 while he was studying at NYU. According to the Twitter account, the pair had been drinking when they allegedly went back to Sprouse’s room, where he started “fondling” the Twitter user’s breasts against her will.
According to Buzzfeed News, the Riverdale fandom lept to Sprouse’s defense and pointed out similarities the story shared with allegations leveled against the actor’s other co-stars — all from anonymous Twitter accounts that had “a woman’s name followed by a bunch of numbers.” The account that accused Sprouse had no other posts, and the actor ultimately took to Twitter to vehemently deny the claims. “False accusations do tremendous damage to victims of actual assault,” he wrote, adding, “Furthermore, I would never seek to silence anybody. I encourage that people look into the accusations themselves, as the events detailed were factually untrue.”
At the time of this writing, no one else has come forward and the account that accused Sprouse appears to be dormant.
Lili Reinhart's false allegations were 'scary'
Cole Sprouse wasn’t the only cast member of Riverdale who had allegations thrown at him on Twitter. According to Page Six, Lili Reinhart, KJ Apa, and Vanessa Morgan were all accused of sexual harassment or assault by anonymous Twitter accounts. Specifically, an alleged female fan claimed she was groped by Reinhart when they posed for a photo op, but the accuser’s account was later “deactivated.”
Reinhart was vocal in her defense of both Sprouse and herself. The star revealed that she and her cast mates planned to take legal action. “I have always taken sexual assault allegations seriously. But it was proven that this account was created specifically to create false stories about me and my cast. I can’t think of something more twisted than lying about sexual assault,” she wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread, adding, “This was incredibly triggering for me and scary because I’ve always supported survivors and believed them.”
According to Us Weekly, one of the accounts eventually owned up to falsifying the story, posting in a since-deleted tweet: “Do you see how easy it is to lie and you guys will believe it? Vanessa Morgan and KJ Apa didn’t do jack s**t. You will believe anything.”
How KJ Apa really got that role in The Hate U Give
KJ Apa may best be known for his role on Riverdale, but the actor made his silver screen debut in 2017 with A Dog’s Purpose. A year later, he got the chance to follow that up with The Hate U Give, a story based on the eponymous bestselling novel that highlights police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. This role definitely put him on the path to becoming a serious movie star, but he only ended up landing the part in the 11th hour because the lead was fired.
According to Deadline, The Hate U Give had already wrapped filming with YouTube star Kian Lawley in the role of Chris, the lead character’s boyfriend. Not long after, old videos in which Lawley used “several racist slurs” surfaced on the internet. Lawley apologized, but the damage was already done. He was dropped by CAA and cut from the flick. Apa was hired to take his place and Fox 2000 scheduled a week or so of re-shoots.
The Hate U Give was ultimately a huge success, racking up a 97% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Cole Sprouse isn't sweating his arrest
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Cole Sprouse was one of the many celebrities who took to the streets during the nation’s sprawling Black Lives Matter protests. Though the Riverdale star claimed the protest he attended in Santa Monica, Calif. was “peaceful,” he was cuffed along with some fellow protesters.
In an Instagram post, Sprouse revealed that police told the group of protesters that they’d get arrested if they didn’t leave, but when they tried to disperse, they were cornered by a separate group of police who started “zip tying” people. “I was detained when standing in solidarity, as were many of the final vanguard within Santa Monica,” he wrote, adding, “It needs to be stated that as a straight white man, and a public figure, the institutional consequences of my detainment are nothing in comparison to others within the movement.”
Though Sprouse has been vocal about Black Lives Matter, his co-star KJ Apa was criticized for his silence, which was only emphasized by his role in The Hate U Give. According to Us Weekly, the actor hit back at social media critics who accused him of posting a black square on Instagram, but little else. “I don’t need to post about my opinions and beliefs in order for them to be real to me,” he tweeted, adding, “I support black lives — but I don’t feel it’s necessary to prove to people I do by posting my attendance at these protests.”
Cole Sprouse didn't quit Disney on good terms
Cole Sprouse is one of the few actors who managed to transition from Disney Channel fame to more serious adult roles, but it doesn’t seem like the Suite Life of Zack & Cody star ended things on good terms with the network. In a YouTube video that later “made private,” Cole’s twin brother, Dylan Sprouse, got candid about the real reason the twins parted ways with the Mouse.
Per Dylan’s account (via US Weekly), “Disney tried to steal” the brothers’ idea for a spin-off of The Suite Life. Their version of the series would see the twins return to the Tipton Hotel, where they’d mentor what’s essentially a younger version of themselves. Disney allegedly shot them down, and even “almost laughed in [their] faces.” A year later, Disney reportedly pitched them the same idea, but set in Miami. They were also denied producer’s credits and decided to walk. “Cole and I turned to each other and we basically laughed in their faces and walked out,” Dylan said, adding, “And that was the last meeting we had with Disney.”
KJ Apa's car crash triggered a SAG-AFTRA investigation
In 2017, KJ Apa was involved in a car crash serious enough to trigger a SAG-AFTRA investigation. According to The Wrap, the crash happened after Apa left the Riverdale set in Vancouver following a long day of filming. The details are a little unclear. Some outlets have reported that it happened after a 16-hour shoot. Warner Bros. told The Wrap that he was only on-set for “14.2 hours.” Production claimed they even offered him “a ride or a hotel room,” so he wouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes back home, but he didn’t take them up on it.
In a statement published by The Wrap, Warner Bros. said, “We have a large cast of series regulars, and our actors do not work every day. On the day of the accident, KJ worked 14.2 hours. The previous day he worked 2.5 hours, and the day before that he worked 7.7 hours. KJ has repeatedly been informed about making production aware if he is tired or feels unsafe, and if so, either a ride or hotel room will be provided for him.”
After the crash, SAG-AFTRA investigated the working conditions on the CW’s set. Thankfully, Apa wasn’t majorly injured, his car was the only vehicle involved, and he did return to set the next day for work.
Riverdale saved Lili Reinhart
Lili Reinhart has been open about her struggle with depression and anxiety, but the worst bout of mental illness happened right before she was cast in the hit CW series. “And in the end [the show] completely saved me,” she tweeted in 2017.
Growing up, Reinhart didn’t have an easy run in school. In an interview with Self, the actress admitted that she felt “very out place” and “didn’t have a lot of friends because [she] had social anxiety.” She “begged her parents to let her try homeschooling” — which they allowed for part of seventh grade — but it actually made her symptoms worse. The following year, she decided to go back to regular school but “had her first panic attack” on the first day. This soon became a regular thing, and that’s when she started seeing a therapist and taking medicine.
“Even though normally everything is so perfect for me on the outside — I have a job, I have friends, I have a roof over my head, which I’m so grateful for — I still can struggle mentally with anxiety and depression,” she told Self, adding, “And I’m not ashamed of my depression — I never have been.”
Ashleigh Murray had $12 to her name before Riverdale
Before taking on Rachael Leigh Cook’s iconic character of Josie McCoy, Ashleigh Murray almost quit acting — at least temporarily. In an interview with Collider, Murray revealed that Riverdale was her final audition before she was set to take six months off from the industry in order to get “back on [her] feet financially.” At the time, she lived in New York City, owed $4,700 in back rent, and had just $12 to her name. The day after her audition, she didn’t even have enough money to get home from the grocery store and had to call her mom for help. That day, she found out she was going to Los Angeles.
“This was my first big audition for pilot season, and I was so broke,” she said, adding, “I didn’t have money to do my laundry, so I was washing my clothes in my bathroom sink. And then, I ran up the street and begged the guy at the laundry mat [sic] that I go to, all the time, to please let me dry my clothes there because I had a big audition the next morning.”
When Murray finally flew to LA, she nailed the audition, but it was a grueling process. She had been up for a total of 36 hours by the time she finally got back to her hotel room to crash. Thankfully, she never had to look back.
Madelaine Petsch's first Riverdale scene forced her to face her biggest fear
Madelaine Petsch’s role as Cheryl Blossom should’ve gone off without a hitch, but the writers wove a plot line that forced the actress to face one of her biggest fears head-on in the very first episode. As fans know, Cheryl first appears in a boat, but in an interview with Glamour, Petsch revealed that she’s absolutely terrified “of open bodies of water.”
“I was in a glass-bottomed boat that broke a long time ago, so I’ve always been kind of freaked out,” she told the mag, adding, “I took a 16-hour trip to Norway on a boat that freaked me out, all of that. When I read the script for that scene in Riverdale, I assumed they’d use a stunt double in the boat. When I got to set they were like, ‘So, we’re gonna put you in a wetsuit.’ And I was like, ‘Excuse me? A what?'”
To make matters worse, the person rowing her boat was Trevor Stines, her on-screen brother who’d never rowed a boat in his life. Petsch tried to talk herself through it, but admitted she was “having a panic attack.” Luckily, she hid it from producers (perks of being a great actress) and her nerves eased up once they started shooting. “But getting into it, I was terrified. You can ask Trevor. I thought I was going to die,” she said.
Vanessa Morgan spoke up about racial inequality on the Riverdale set
Vanessa Morgan was a little late to the Riverdale game — but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be fairly compensated. The star, who plays Toni Topaz, joined the series in Season 2 and became a series regular in Season 3, according to TVLine. She also happened to be the only black series regular — and allegedly the lowest paid.
In a May 2020 tweet, Morgan railed against the inequalities in Hollywood. “Tired of how black people are portrayed in the Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as sidekick non dimensional characters to our white leads,” she wrote. Though Morgan’s tweet spoke to the industry as a whole, she made it very clear that Riverdale was not an exception. In a reply, she admitted she was the “only black series regular but also paid the least.”
Though Morgan’s tweet was indeed a bombshell that rightly angered fans, she did urge viewers not to harass her castmates because “they don’t write the show” and “they don’t call the shots.” Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ultimately apologized. “We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She’s right. We’re sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her. We will do better to honor her and the character she plays,” he tweeted.
Charles Melton's fat-shaming scandal
Charles Melton, who plays Reggie Mantle on Riverdale, was met with scandal in 2018 when his series of fat-shaming tweets from years prior surfaced on the internet — and if we’re already talking about beauty standards, they’re what’s not pretty. The arguable worst of the bunch allegedly read, “Fat chicks need to understand that wearing yoga pants is a privilege, not a right,” but in truth, all of the supposed tweets were very harsh. Even Melton couldn’t defend them.
In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, the actor admitted he was “truly sorry” for the “inconsiderate comments.” He added, “What I posted and said was immature, offensive and inappropriate. I am ashamed of how I acted and there is no excuse for that behavior. I’m striving to do better and will use this experience to grow, helping others to understand how these types of statements are completely unacceptable.”
Melton didn’t just publicly apologize. He personally called his castmate Camila Mendes to express his regret. Mendes has been vocal about her struggle with body image, and opened up to Marie Claire Malaysia (via Just Jared) that she suffered from an eating disorder. The actress told Access that she knew Melton wasn’t “actually a bad person” and “he was devastated” about the comments.
Don't Photoshop these Riverdale babes
After spending years struggling with an eating disorder, Camila Mendes was not going to let mainstream magazines body shame her via Photoshop. Lili Reinhart was right there behind her. The pair slammed Cosmopolitan Philippines for digitally altering their covers to make their figures look slimmer.
According to Buzzfeed, Reinhart clapped back on her Instagram Stories. The actress admitted that both her and her castmate had struggled to feel confident in their own skin, and Photoshopped covers are part of that “everyday battle.” She added, “It’s sad that you felt our bodies needed to be slimmed down. But Camila and I are f***ing beautiful. As is. And you can’t ‘fix’ us.”
Similarly, Mendes wrote in her own Instagram Stories that the pair felt “disrespected & disturbed” by the edit. “We want readers to know that those bodies are not ours; they have been distorted from their natural beauty,” she wrote, adding, “We prefer to see our bodies the way they actually are. I’m not interested in having a slimmer waist, I’m more than satisfied with the one that I already have.”
According to Refinery29, the magazine later deleted the altered images from their Instagram account.
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