Lili Reinhart | It’s Probably Never Going to Taste as Good as It Does Now
CW’s hit Archie comics-based series Riverdale may have returned from a brief season two hiatus on at the top of March, but all that’s on my mind while chatting with Lili Reinhart is one topic: the 2015 release of an ‘Archie vs. Predator’ comic.
It’s a strange cul-de-sac in the series’ long and convoluted reign, pitting our favorite sock hopping, romantically knotted squad against a problem every teen can relate to: a calculating ‘80s movie monster with thermal imaging and plasma weaponry. Despite the unusual premise, the idea of blowing up and reconstructing familiar Americana conventions is a sort of tradition in the Archie universe—both in the original print comic series and onscreen with Riverdale.
However, finding a tactful way to tell if Riverdale’s Betty Cooper has heard of the series is a test of nerve—imagine asking the popular girl at school about her favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! card. The two-second delay from the phone call to Vancouver seems to last for a decade, but as soon as a chuckle of recognition reaches the ears, I feel ridiculous for having ever doubted the intelligent, studied professional.
“I think it’s kind of amazing that ‘Archie vs. Predator’ exists!” she exclaims. “And it’s amazing that there are worlds where the Archie characters have superpowers, and worlds where Betty and Veronica have a wedding! There’s all these different realms, and I think it’s pretty incredible that Archie is such a cultural icon that it has made its way into other comic worlds.”
Betty Cooper, the quintessential “Girl Next Door” in the original comics, has evolved into a complex, nuanced character in more recent issues of the comics, and Riverdale brings her even further. The series is reconfiguring the familiar archetype of the “Girl Next Door” for a new age, and Reinhart is working to bring out the complications and quirks in this formerly buttoned-up character.
“I guess I really didn’t know the depth of this girl. The beautiful thing about playing a character on television is that it’s ever-evolving,” Reinhart says. “We’ve seen a lot of the edge that Betty has this past season—the sexuality within her. That is a beautiful thing to watch, and I think it’s kind of mesmerizing to see her discover the woman within herself.”
That may be a provocative new aspect of Betty to some, but to Reinhart it’s simply a matter of creating a more realistic, relatable character. With that, many have marveled at season one’s portrayal of Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge—historical frenemies who fight over Archie—as supportive friends. It’s another often-overlooked reality to Reinhart.
“They’re just two girls who genuinely care for each other. It’s kind of ridiculous that it’s so uncommon to see that because, like, this is a common thing. Powerful female friendships are not unusual. I have a couple of really close girl friends and there’s no drama—its just support and love, and so the fact that people were so like, ‘Oh my god, these girls are friends and they care about each other, on television?’ Like, yes. It happens in real life, believe it or not.”
Support and love. Not necessarily what comes to mind when one thinks of the new fantasy for television, but Reinhart’s approach is proof of the growing humanization of familiar archetypes. Just take her favorite film of the year—The Shape of Water—for example. The bold new take on romance offered by the film represents just what Reinhart is looking for as an actress.
“The dream is to have a role that is challenging and pushes your own boundaries of what love can look like,” she tells me. “I think that’s what that movie did, and why so many people fell in love with it. I cried at the end—it was kind of crazy how even though love can look so different to so many people, it’s still love at the end of the day. I’ve been in love, and felt heartbreak and yearning, and that movie felt very real and beautiful.”
When it comes to her own life, Reinhart is equally committed to offering an honest picture of her world rather than crafting a sanitized façade. She has spoken openly about her battles with anxiety and depression and the difficulties of making it in Hollywood. Before she landed the role in Riverdale, Reinhart was young, alone, and running out of money in LA, and an intense panic attack forced her to return home to Ohio for a time. Luckily, with therapy and the support of her family, she regained her confidence and returned, nailing the audition for Betty Cooper.
Even through the waning connection of an international phone call, Reinhart’s enthusiasm for new, diverse representation of women in Hollywood is palpable. Betty Cooper’s relationships with her mother and with her love interest in the show, Jughead (contrasting with her ongoing crush on Archie in the earlier comics), have also received a fresh treatment in Riverdale, diverging noticeably from the source material and offering a more nuanced view of the mother- daughter relationship.
“I think she has found a true companion in Jughead, and I just hope she continues to be at peace with her mom,” Reinhart reflects. “They cause each other so many problems, but in the latter half of season two their bond really grows stronger. Betty is learning more about her mom’s past, and they’re connecting as two women. It’s something I find really powerful, you know? When you grow and start to see your parents as real people instead of as just mom and dad.”
There are a lot of new takes on old concepts flying around these days. Between something as shocking as seeing gore, guns, and complex love triangles merged with classic Americana, to witnessing a quieter, more human layer added onto the “Girl Next Door,” it’s hard to say where our archetypes and cultural touchstones will end up in the future. Reinhart knows, though, not to sweat it too much. Just celebrate the best things about today.
“I remember the first time I had a conversation with my manager. I was, I think, 14. She said, ‘However you imagine your career right now, that’s not the way it’s going to be.’ And she was absolutely correct: you never know where you’re going to end up, and that’s kind of what makes the journey so interesting.”
Written by Alex Muñoz
Photographer: Clay Gardner.
Stylist: Santa Bevacqua.
Hair: Kristin Heitkotter using Oribe Hair Care and Laced extensions at TMG-LA.
Makeup: Katey Denno at The Wall Group.
Manicure: Stephanie Stone using MAC Cosmetics at Forward Artists.
Photography Assistant: Super Black.
Styling Assistant: Leonard Murray.