NOC Interview: Drew Ray Tanner Discusses The CW’s ‘Riverdale’

Drew Ray Tanner plays Fangs Fogarty in The CW’s hit series, Riverdale. The series is based on the characters from Archie Comics. New episodes of the fifth season will continue airing on Wednesdays at 8PM ET on The CW. Riverdale has already been renewed for a sixth season as well.

Nino Muñoz/The CW

Season five of RIVERDALE will begin with our characters’ final days as students at Riverdale High. From an epic Senior Prom to a bittersweet Graduation, there are a lot of emotional moments and goodbyes yet to come—with some couples breaking up, as everyone goes their separate ways to college—or elsewhere. Then, we will redock with our gang as young adults, all returning to Riverdale to escape their troubled pasts. And life—and romance—will only be more complicated now that they’re in their twenties…

I spoke with the actor about revisiting his character post time jump, Fangs and Toni creating their family, his backstory for Fangs, where Fangs would fit in the MCU, what he would want to take from set when the show wraps, and much more! Keep reading to find out everything he told me.

Bettina Strauss/The CW

So, how did it feel for you to get to revisit this character in a different point in his life for the time jump as well as get to play with that maturity and growth?
Drew Ray Tanner: Well, what I can say is never I have been sort of tasked with doing that before. So, as an actor, it’s very exciting. In acting school and things like that, you typically don’t– there’s not a section of like seven year time jump. There might be like material that can support that, but it was a great challenge for me to be able to do it on Riverdale and also one that is quite unique and rare. So, I found it to be challenging, but a lot of fun and it was great because we had this long stretch of time in between shooting with those seven months that we had a break. I got to grow my hair out, get some facial hair, and really grow as a person, which helps lend to these characters because they’re real people too. So, you have to bring that sort of level of realness as opposed to putting a wig on or something like that. It was great to kind of grow into it in my life and bring the growth that I had taken over the pandemic into the new season.

I was able to speak to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa recently and he teased some good stuff for Fangs and Toni. What can you tell me?
I can tell you that Vanessa and I have been such close friends since we started the show. Now, we’re best friends in real life, she’s one of my closest friends. So, I think the chemistry that you see on screen comes from just years of acting together and years of just being friends together as well. I think that’s why it works. In terms of what’s in store for Toni and Fangs, I think, in the wise words of Dom Toretto: family.

Yeah, I remember when the promo first came out for the second half of this season and my timeline was just covered in that shot of Toni and Fangs with the baby. That was my favorite part and I was so thrilled. I can’t wait to see you guys tackle that family aspect and really bring it to a new level because these two characters started off as family in terms of the Serpents and now you it’s being redefined in this whole new way for them.
Yeah! How exciting was that?! Exactly, and I think it’s just such a fun aspect to sort of have this new baby in the show, which mirrors Vanessa’s journey in real life. And, here we have this beautiful little Serpent family now to introduce the next generation of Serpents. It’ll be fun to see that play out and I can assure you that everyone’s gonna love the storyline. People will be very… what’s the right word for it? There’s gonna be some surprises, for sure.

The CW

In terms of that family dynamic, originally, that was also going to include the aspect of Kevin and Fangs, but now we’re really unsure of what’s happening with them. What can you tease there?
So, like any relationship in real life, fiction, and things like that, you have people that are in a relationship and then the relationship represents something, but they’re also individuals. So, Kevin is a complete individual, Fangs is a complete individual. Yes, there’s a relationship there between the two of them, but I think what is gonna be very important for Kevin and Fangs is to really be liberated by their individuality and there is a lot of things that makes them individuals. There’s a lot of journeys and places for Kevin to go that don’t exactly include Fangs, but we do find ourselves sharing a lot of screen time together too, so take that however you like.

As I’m sure you know, fans are very passionate about their ships when it comes to this show. Who do you ship? Do you have any favorites?
Yeah, that’s been interesting. I think that my favorite ship, if I had to really sit down and think about it because there are so many on the show, I think before was like Alice and FP. That was my favorite back before the time jump. Now, that we’re in the time jump, talking about them now… they seem to shift around a lot too so it’s hard to say. I remember from what I saw of Jughead and Tabitha, I like, but I don’t think it ended well for them. I think they’re still friends. I mean, Jessica and Jughead, his ex girlfriend from New York, that was a fun thing. The actress that portrays Jessica, her name is Phoebe Miu, she’s a good friend of mine, we went to acting school together. I’ve been so proud of her to have done such a good job on our show portraying that character. So, I’m always rooting for her and the hometown heroes. Yeah, maybe that’d be my answer. Maybe, there’s some legs there still, you know? The ghosts of girlfriends and exes past can always come back, you never know.

One other aspect, which is always really fun for me to see as a viewer, is Fangs getting to interact with some other characters. Recently, we saw him helping Archie, Reggie, and Veronica to get the palladium for the hostage situation. I would love to see more of Fangs and Veronica or Fangs and Reggie.
I agree. I think that there’s something there that works because all three of them have just very different strengths. So, I agree with you. A nice little team up, a little Veggie/Fangs team up could be fun.

Bettina Strauss/The CW

I know filming for the show starts up again very soon. Do you know anything about season six?
No, I actually don’t know. I’ve heard a little bit from certain castmate, but I don’t know anything for what’s in store for season six. We’ll see. There’s a couple of cast members that they said goodbye last year and so those storylines, we’ll wrap up, I’m sure, but I have no idea what’s to come. So, that’s what keeps it all really exciting. I’m really excited and itching to get my hands on that first script.

What is that like when you do get your hands on that new script, especially after a break? How is it to jump back into that world?
The first thing I do is I download it to the PDF app, I go into the search bar, I type in Fangs, and I only look up the stuff that I’m involved in because I don’t care about anybody else. I’m totally joking! That’s a good way to quickly find to scene, but no. When I first get a script, it’s super exciting because it’s a new story. That feeling that you get when somebody’s reading you a story as a kid or when you sit down and you curl up with a great book, it’s that same sort of feeling. It’s such a universe that you’re so invested and involved in. So, yeah, it’s quite fun, I should say.

There’s always so many different plots when it comes to Riverdale, there’s never a dull moment. What is the plot you’re most invested in this season?
Totally, totally. There’s a lot of spread and I think there is a lot that I’m looking for in terms of storylines that I would like to see more explored. But the writers do a really good job of juggling all of these storylines that I don’t think I could even use my imagination, right now on the spot, to do the stuff that they do, week in and week out. So, yeah that’s my answer to that.

Bettina Strauss/The CW

We recently got to see a little more from Reggie in terms of content as well as Hiram’s origin story, but it also got me thinking about Fangs and what I want to see more of in terms of his character. Have you created your own origin story for him in the back of your mind or is there something that you want to see explored, if given the opportunity, in a future episode?
Yeah, I have a book on Fangs that I’ve been adding to over the years. For me, it was really important in the first few seasons, especially the first season in particular, that because when I came on as a day player and just sort of had a couple of lines here and there, it was a very great opportunity for me to sit there and create a backstory for all of this. Also, to help make sense of Roberto’s universe and the Archieverse that he has created. So, you have apply logical answers to these unique individuals that have unique lives. So, I look at a guy like Fangs, “Okay, why is his name Fangs? Why is he in a gang? Why is he from the South Side? Who are his parents? How was he raised? How did he get his nickname? Is that his nickname? Is that his real name?” So, I have a book that I’ve been writing on him throughout the years, and each season and each script, I add some sort of new backstory to him. For instance, I’ll give you one example, I told myself that– and this is all me, this isn’t canon, obviously– but my backstory for Fangs was that he was bullied in elementary school and he got beat up really badly, one day, living on the South Side. He lost all of his teeth and he only had two remaining. So, all the kids in school would make fun of him and they call him Fang Fang Fang. The only people that came to his aid after that, they picked him up as he was this sort of broken child, was the Serpents. They brought him into it and as a family, they paid for his new teeth, the name stuck, and nobody messed with him again. There’s something about gangs, predatory nature and seeking weak individuals, but also uplifting them and providing them with a family and things like that. So, I worked that into his backstory. That’s a slice of what I’ve been sort of creating in terms of backstory for Fangs to keep him real in the story, week in and week out, because I look at Fangs as sort of a swiss army knife, you can kind of use him for everything. He can be put in a lot of different situations and help out here and there. So, that’s how I sort of symbolically look at him. There’s many different tools on the swiss army knife that you need to sort of keep intact in terms of backstories and stuff like that.

Another thing I’ve heard from fans is how much Fangs means to them in terms of representation and how they feel seen with his character. What does it mean to you to bring this character to life and see those reactions?
Yeah, it means so much to me. One, to play a character that didn’t have a… I really commend Riverdale in a lot of ways for creating characters that aren’t necessarily tied to their outward identity in terms of skin color and things like that. So, to read for something that you feel like, “Oh, I’ve got just as good a chance as anyone else out there to get. It’s just going to be on my merit as an actor.” Then, the thing that sort of sweetens the deal is that you can look at yourself and go, “Well, there’s not actually a lot of people that look like me or have the same background as me.” So, it’s nice for anyone out there who’s a mixed kid like I am, you know, parents from all different parts of the world. So, even when you’re younger, you have a tough time really finding where you fit in and sort of who you look up to on the screen and in the stories that you listen to and watch. It’s been deeply humbling for me to explore that aspect of myself because as an actor, your job is really not to worry about all of that stuff. As an actor, you’re putting on masks constantly and you’re creating characters. It’s really when you start to get onto the other side of it and you start to see the impact that it has. I really thank my fans and I thank all my friends out there that through this experience I’ve been able to sort of realize my own agency in all of this, which is that these things do matter and they do have an effect on people. I look at so many people that are fans and viewers across the world, I look at them and I see myself in them. It’s my only hope that they look at me and see me as them. That would be such a great treat and to be able to do that is a great honor.

That was such a beautiful answer. As a viewer, I always search to feel seen on TV and it’s amazing when actors care so much about their characters the way that you do. It’s really wonderful and it matters.
There’s a part of the world where it’s becoming more common that you see a lot of mixed kids and I know that there’s a lot of similarities and shared experiences from people like yourself and people that don’t quite fit the mold properly. There’s so many stories for us to tell and for yourself as a writer, that’s really fantastic and I’m sure you’re going to keep that as a heartbeat in all the stuff that you write and I hope that you do.

The CW

If you could play Fangs in any other universe, whether that’s a big movie franchise or another TV show that you’re personally a fan of, which would you pick?
Wow, I’ve never heard that before. That’s such a unique question. I would plop him down in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m gonna go a step further and get a little specific. I would plop him down in the Blade series, the story of Blade and the Vampire Killer, the half vampire half man killer, who is going to be played by Mahershala Ali coming out soon, which is very exciting. And I’m putting him in that world because I have a theory that Fangs secretly is a vampire and cannot die, because he was shot in season two and he lived. There wasn’t a lot of explanation as to that and he had a lot of other times where he could have died and he hasn’t. Some eagle-eyed viewers have also noticed that his bullet wound scar is gone. So, I think that Fangs would be great in a vampiresque superhero type project. That would be fun.

Obviously, I am attached to Riverdale as much as every other fan and do not want to say goodbye to it anytime soon, but I am curious, is there something of either Fangs’ or just from the set that when the show ends and you wrap that you hope to be able to take with you?
I think that all the Serpents have our eyes on the jackets because they’re one of a kind and we’ve been wearing them for the entire time. I had like a bunch of different jackets in the beginning, but then we finally landed on one in season two. So, that jacket was fitted for me, sewn in for me, so it’s such a unique thing. So, we’ll see. It’s like Superman’s cape when you put it on. So, who knows if I’ll be graciously allowed to have that. But I have a matchbook from La Bonne Nuit. I have like a couple of flyers and posters that are nice. I think other than the jacket, Fangs also wears a lot of jewelry and stuff like that, so maybe something like that, maybe a nice specific piece, because those pieces that you put on each time help you put the character in. I always call it the character secret, like you’ve got this little totem that there needs to be no explanation other than to himself for what it means, but once you endow that object with meaning, then it really helps the character. So, I guess if I can once and a while pick up one of those things when the show is over and have all of the memories come back, that would be very nice.

You have definitely earned your Serpent jacket. If you do get to keep it, you have to post it on socials after and let us know.
I’ll just go walking around outside with it. I think I’ll just do that until like I’m well into my 40s when I’m irrelevant and nobody knows who I am, you’ll find me stumbling around Los Angeles with a Serpents jacket on, begging for people to ask me who I am, and then let them tell me it was no big deal, like “What was Riverdale?”