Any word of the supposed “comic book fatigue” growing among film and TV audiences obviously hasn't made it to the people at The CW. The upstart network has made its name over the last several seasons as the go-to source for comic book adaptations on TV. Between the shared universe of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, their lineup is becoming increasingly monopolized by blocks of high octane comic book action - that’s winning the network legions of loyal fans. Given their success with the genre, it also makes sense that they’d look to expand their comic book repertoire, which they’re doing this season with Riverdale.
Described as a non-traditional take on the classic Archie Comics, Riverdale is yet another collaboration between Arrow-verse producer Greg Berlanti and the network. The series is said to present a surreal vision of small-town life loosely based on the current All-New Archie Comics. Newcomers KJ Apa as Archie Andrews and Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, along with Cole Sprouse (Big Daddy) as Jughead, and Lily Reinhart (The Good Neighbor) as Betty Cooper. Joining that lineup are two new cast members which were announced today.
Earlier this morning, Deadline reported that Robin Givens (The Perfect Match) was cast as Riverdale mayor Sierra McCoy. Hours later, EW revealed that Shannon Purser (Stranger Things) has been cast as Ethel Muggs. Both characters are said to be only recurring for now, with only three episodes confirmed for Purser at this time.
Purser, of course, found herself the unlikely hit of the summer for her role as Barb in Netflix’s nostalgic homage to 80’s horror, Stranger Things. Fans immediately and inexplicably latched onto her good natured 'Barb' as an alternative to the 'popular girl' tropes of her friend Nancy. Over the past month, the Internet has exploded with various tributes to Barb, made even more impressive by the relatively minor role she occupied. Still, the Barb lovers of the world will no doubt be excited by her appearance in Riverdale... even if Ethel isn’t terribly dissimilar from her now beloved role.
While in the comics, Ethel is famously known for her crush on Jughead, it’s being said that the character’s romantic interests will be “very different” this time around. It’s also said that she gets drawn into a friendship with Betty and Veronica after the two girls hatch a plot against bully (and Archie rival) Reggie. Though the actress is only confirmed for three episodes, the possibility remains that she could return for a larger role as the series progresses.
Givens, meanwhile, will wear dual hats as both the town mayor and mother to Ashleigh Murray’s (The Following) Josie, of 'Josie and the Pussycats' fame. In the comics, the mayor of Riverdale has been portrayed as a larger than life former Texan named Mayor Glibb, whose aspirations for fame and prominence are far bigger than Riverdale might allow. Mayor McCoy, on the other hand, is said to be one of the guiding forces leading Riverdale out of a crisis following the death of an esteemed town member.
While that sounds like an odd choice of plotting for a series based on Archie, Riverdale’s unique take certainly allows for some interesting narrative choices. This won’t necessarily be the sweet, and wholesome world you might remember from the comics, and as the All-New Archie Comics have shown, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Though part of Archie’s original appeal was the sweet, saccharine portrayal of small town life and high school problems, there’s definitely room in the universe for some expansion into new territories.
It’ll be interesting to see how Berlanti updates the series for modern audiences, but, as he’s proven over and over, he’s certainly adept at guiding comics into live action form.
Riverdale premieres Monday, October 10 on The CW.