NOC Interview: KJ Apa on All Things ‘Riverdale’

KJ Apa brings the beloved character of Archie Andrews to life on The CW’s hit series Riverdale. The show is based on the characters from the Archie Comics. New episodes will continue airing on Wednesdays at 8PM ET and are available to stream next day on The CW. Riverdale has already been renewed for a sixth season as well.

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 Archie’s growth as a character, what he can tease about season six, his Samoan heritage, what item he wants to take when the show wraps, his message to fans, Veronica and Archie’s decision, Archie’s dynamic with Betty going forward, his relationship with Jughead, and so much more! Keep reading to find out all that he exclusively shared with me.

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To start off, I want to ask you what it was like to jump seven years in the future and get to play this character at a very different point in his life?
KJ Apa: It was different. It was definitely — the maturity in the characters is a nice thing to come back to, but that didn’t necessarily change a lot. A lot of the stuff in the storyline is still pretty crazy, which is awesome, but yeah, it was nice to come back and be a little more grounded.

Archie really grew in terms of maturity as well as how he handles his relationships and everything else going on. What has that been like for you see in the character? Were you surprised or were you expecting it?
No, I think the good thing about Archie is he’s lucky because he’s always had amazing role models. I think his father was an amazing role model, Uncle Frank and his mom, although a lot of these people make mistakes like everyone, I feel like it has always been a point from Archie to learn from everything. I don’t think he goes through anything without trying to pull some kind of lesson out of it.

When you heard about the time jump, did you ever consider that Archie would be in the Army for those missing years?
I didn’t even know there was a class in high school for that! It’s so weird. We don’t do that in New Zealand. It’s pretty buzzy, I don’t know. I mean, I guess it’s cool. Yeah, I thought it was cool. It’s a nice platform for him to talk about the stuff that he does and it gives us a way to kind of explore his past of being in the Army. There’s a lot of cool scenes like flashback scenes and stuff like that, which is kind of a nice platform to explore that, I guess.

In last week’s episode, we saw Archie finally asking for help for himself, which has never really happened before. Him realizing that he needed help and asking for it was such an important moment for his character. What can you tease about this storyline?
I think as soon as he realized that his behavior was starting to affect other people — I think when it’s only affecting you, I guess it’s easy to kind of get by and it’s okay, because he’s always putting himself last. He’s always putting people before him, even when it comes to real self help, and I feel like that was, you know, big props to him for doing that because it’s not easy. I hope people can — even if it’s just one person who can watch that and be like, “I can reach out for help,” and stuff like that. I think that’s awesome. I was really stoked with that storyline, but yeah, I think for sure, we’re going to be exploring I hope some more military stuff of when Archie was in the Army. I do like those scenes a lot, I like shooting them. It makes me feel I’m doing a big war film or something.

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What are those scenes like for you to film? Like wearing that costume, being in that setting, and getting into the mindset.
It’s pretty cool. I’ve always wanted to be in a kind of a period, war film. I just love watching movies like that. So, it is really fun to be in it, because you feel so into into the character and what you’re doing. Also, with those explosions and stuff going around, it’s no joke. They’re real explosions and they set off. The effects department is amazing.

There’s so much coming up, the Pussycats are returning, what was that like to film that episode and welcoming them back to set? One of the new promo pictures showed Archie and Josie, which also excited fans. What was that reunion like?
It’s awesome. I’ve always enjoyed working with Ashleigh and we haven’t seen each other in so long, so it was really nice. It really did feel like a reunion, because we miss her a lot. So yeah, it’s cool and there was some really awesome moments back in the day between Archie and the Pussycats too. So, he definitely was surprised to see her, for sure.

You’re, obviously, talented in the music department. I believe you’re release new music soon, right?
Yeah, I am. It’s gonna be sick. I’m excited about it.

Excited for that. You always do a great job in the musical episodes. It is confirmed we have one for this season, so how is it shooting those and what can you tease about it?
It’s fun. Those episodes are really fun. They’re a lot of work, we’re all burnt out after doing them, but they’re really fun. I like being as quirky as possible as much as I can. When I get something weird, which I don’t get, Archie doesn’t really get weird stuff, he’s a pretty straight line, you know? So, when I get it, I really lean into it and usually the directors are like, “Okay, KJ, you need to chill out. You can’t do that.” I get a hard time from everyone for making people laugh and stuff like that, and I’m being trying to be serious, a lot of the time, you know? So, yeah musical episode, I’m looking forward to that because it’s gonna be fun. But I really have no — we only just have our one script for our first episode, so I’m not too sure what’s planned for. It’s gonna be freaky, I bet it’s gonna be freaky though. For fans who are reading this, you want to be looking for me in the background of scenes in the musical stuff like in the background, watch it for me. I’ll be doing some weird stuff.

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Of course, I also have to ask you about the ships. So first, Archie and Veronica have decided to hold off on a relationship until Veronica’s divorce is finalized. What was your reaction to that decision, especially with it being Archie’s idea? It was a very mature decision.
Yeah, I was pretty impressed. Also, just because it’s a mature thing to do in that situation. It also comes to a point where you’re dealing with someone, whether it’s your ex girlfriend or girlfriend, where their business is none of your business, you know? It’s for them to take care of and then, the open discussion is ready to be had once that business is dealt with. I feel like him kind of taking a step back and doing that is really mature. Her relationship with him is really none of his business. So, yeah, I’m into that call that he made. It was good.

What’s ahead for Varchie? Hopefully, Veronica gets out of that marriage soon, regardless of her relationship with Archie, she needs to get out of that.
It ends with her being happy, and I can’t tell you if that’s with me or with him — or maybe neither.

Then, Betty and Archie had a thing in the beginning of the season and they had a really beautiful scene ending things. What were your feeling on that?
I think that their relationship is just so different, you know? It’s on kind of another level to anyone else, I think, just because it’s the friendship that they’ve had from such a young age. It’s almost knowing someone so well that they feel like they could be your family member, but they’re not, and that’s how a lot of people get married when they’re friends from a long time ago. So, I feel like those kind of conversations between Archie and Betty are pretty easy. They’re pretty easy, because at the end of the day, no matter what happens, they’re always going to be there for each other and love each other.

What’s they’re dynamic going to be like going forward now?
We’re definitely gonna see them interact. There’s definitely still a huge flame in there, definitely.

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Do enjoy the love triangle as much as the fans? Are you are you a fan of that?
Yeah, I mean — listen, I just show up to work, stand on the mark, and I get the job done. I think I’m pretty lucky compared to a lot of other people in the world.

Now, I have to ask you about the friendships because I’m a huge fan of those as well. What’s going on with Jughead and Archie?
We don’t get to see any Jughead and Archie. It’s like me and Cole are always like, “Give us more scenes, give us more scenes, give us more scenes,” because it’s just fun to be able to work with one of my best mates and also, when I come to work and I have a scene with Cole, it feels like a little bit of a break from from work, because I’m hanging out with my mate, you know? Not that the girls aren’t my mates, but it’s just a different thing, it’s one of my boys that I’ve been friends with for a while, but yeah, I also love their relationship. Archie and Jughead’s relationship is so sick, I love — especially in the first three seasons when we really got to see them hang out and stuff — I loved it so hopefully they’ll bring some stuff back, we’ll see.

We’re all rooting for that. I see that constantly on Twitter. Everyone is looking for Jarchie.
Me too, I’m looking for it too.

Another dynamic that I think is so fun is Archie and Reggie’s friendship. Now that Reggie is officially done with Hiram, are we going to see a little more from them going forward?
I think so, I think Reggie — because of the history that Archie and Reggie share and that Reggie and Veronica share, there’s gonna be some stuff there. Reggie’s always got something wrong, he’s always angry about something, I’m like, “Bro, you need to chill.” He’s always losing to me in every contest too and he hates it, which I love that. We go to work and Charles is reading the script and he’s like, “Yeah, I guess you beat me again,” meaning any competition things and there’s gonna be some this year, especially in the first couple of episodes. There’s gonna be some stuff where there’s a few of us competing for stuff and they don’t call me Archie Andrews for no reason, you know what I mean?

Fans were also really excited about Toni and Archie’s new friendship, because we never really got to see them interact too much before season five. What was it like getting to build that?
It was awesome. I love Vanessa, especially later in her pregnancy, we got to work with each other, it was awesome. Those scenes were cool. I love working with people — Vanessa’s always the kind of person I walked by on set, we’d say hi, we hang out and stuff with everyone, but we never get to actually have that time, you know? When you do a scene with someone, you’re spending like three hours minimum with them during the day consecutively. So, it’s awesome, I love getting to know people a little better.

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I know last season, you filmed during the pandemic and now, you’re still filming the new with all of those COVID safety precautions. What is that like on set?
It’s not ideal. I love to be able to mingle around with the crew, go see the lighting department, go see different departments, but we can’t do that anymore. It’s a little more segregated, which is for everyone’s safety, but huge props to our production team here in Vancouver. The Canadians know how to get shit done over here in terms of like getting things going and making things happen, so props to them. Also, it’s just like perspective, you can come back and be like, “This is gonna be shit, because it’s COVID and we have to follow all these guidelines,” but at the end of the day, it’s good. Everything we’re doing is good, we’re taking good precautions, and if we just smash it out and get it going, then maybe in a year it’ll be done and we can put it behind us.

Have you gotten any scripts for season six yet? We do.

What is your reaction to them?
Shocked. Honestly, this one’s crazy because I’ll say that the first episode, we see a lot of the cast all together in a lot of scenes. So, clearly there’s something going on, because whenever everyone is all together in a lot of scenes, some shit is about to go down. So, yeah, and the end of it is a little bit — I mean, I had me questioning Archie’s whole existence, that’s all I’m gonna say. I was questioning everything.

Those scenes with everyone together must be the most fun to film.
They’re fun, they’re hard to finish because they’re so good and weird, the mix of the weird and good is hard to get done because we’re all adults trying to get this shit. It could be hard to get done because everyone is laughing sometimes, but it turns out amazing.

Since, you’re back in Vancouver now getting ready to film, are you looking forward to getting back in that makeup trailer? I know you’ve said what a process it is for them to have to cover your tattoos. Maybe Archie can get a few besides the Serpent one.
I don’t think he’s a tattoo guy, but yeah I’m looking forward to it. I’m lucky that our makeup team are all such legends. Thanks for reminding me about that. Maybe I’ll just ask not to be shirtless anymore.

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What is it like for you connecting with your Samoan culture and heritage?
It’s amazing, it’s everything to me. I grew up surrounded by my Samoan family on my dad’s side. Although, I haven’t been able to get home in such a long time, it really sucks because you feel so detached and you wonder — even not just seeing my family, I’m like, “Do they exist or are they just like a figment of my imagination?” Cause traveling has been hard with COVID and stuff, but yeah, I’m really grateful for my Samoan side. It truly is one of the most amazing parts of my life.

If you could bring any of your past roles/characters to Riverdale for an episode, which would you pick?
Interesting… probably, there’s a movie I did called Songbird, I feel like that character could be cool. I feel like he’s the only one I could kind of see maybe existing in that world being able to, because you got to be a certain kind of person to be in Riverdale, if you know what I mean. Something’s gotta be a little bit off.

I’m also gonna reverse the question, if you could take Archie and put him in any other universe, whether that’s a movie franchise or TV series that you’re a fan on, what would you pick?
I’d put him in Ted Lasso. I think because he would work pretty well in that environment, I feel like. I think it’d be good. Love that show too.

You’re talking to The Nerds of Color, so I want to ask you a little bit of a nerdy question here. Do you have favorite out of the Archie Comics that you read either before or after you got the role?
You know what, I didn’t read any of the comics before, so I didn’t know anything really about it, which kind of gave me a fresh perspective on the whole thing. [Honestly, that might have been better since it’s so different from the comics.] So different, yeah.

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Did you originally audition for just Archie or were there any other characters you were interested in playing?
No, I didn’t audition for anyone else, it was just Archie. I was pretty fresh in the states too, from New Zealand. After finishing another job and there was a bunch of things that I had to go through, screen tests and stuff like that, but so grateful. Yeah, but if I was to play anyone else, I don’t know, I’ve always loved Casey’s character Kevin. I love that character, I don’t know what it is, but he’s my favorite character. I don’t know if it’s just because Casey is so fucking talented at playing that character, but I think he’s my favorite character. If I was to play anyone else, I like Kevin the most, so I would go with that, but I don’t think I’d be able to get even close to how good Casey plays that character. He’s so good.

So, there was a purpose for asking you that question; when you got the part and started the show, did you ever think it was gonna blow up the way it did?
No, not when I got it, but then after shooting the pilot, we all knew we had something pretty special.

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 Archie’s or just from the set that when the show ends and you wrap that you hope to be able to take with you?
Definitely the letterman jacket. That thing has been through some crazy times. It’s the same jacket that I wore on the first day. So, definitely, the letterman jacket. Even when I broke my hand on set, I had to wear a cast and they restructured the jacket so it had a zip and I could get my hand through it with the cast on. So yeah, that thing would be the prized possession for sure.

I also want to ask you about one specific scene that I really loved at the beginning of this season. It was the scene where Veronica, Betty, and Jughead stop Archie’s bus to say goodbye before he goes to the Army. What was it like filming that?
I remember that day, it was a beautiful day. Gabriel Correa, I love him so much, he’s part of our family and he killed that. Yeah, it was pretty sad. It felt a little bit sad, for sure. Until I’m looking at Cole through the window and it completely gets me out of character– no, I’m kidding. Yeah, I mean, those scenes are great. I love them and how that came together was amazing. It was really sad, there were moments of like sadness of shooting it, but I think we’ve got a long time. So, I don’t think anyone should worry about that.

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This season has some crazy storylines going on. When you read the scripts, were you drawn to a certain one that you really wanted to find out how they’re gonna pull it off?
Again, it’s always Casey’s character, it’s always Kevin. I think it’s because I imagine Casey’s facial expressions of when he’s doing these scenes and like how he’s reacting to stuff, which is why I love his character. Maybe I just love Casey, I don’t know. I think it would be his storylines. They always make me laugh the most. I feel like Kevin really just gets thrown into the gnarliest situations.

Lastly, what do you want to say to your fans who have been supporting you since Riverdale started and are following your journey?
It’s amazing, Riverdale has given us all so much. I mean, really without the fans — I was thinking about this today before I had this interview– without the fans, we would have no trajectory and no purpose on this show. So really, everything we write, everything we are doing, we’re eternally grateful for the fans. I love how passionate the Riverdale fans are; brutal sometimes, like I’ll watch someone get just scolded if someone is saying the wrong thing. Sometimes, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s right. Don’t mess with us because I have my little troopers out there, they’ll come and get you.” So, I love the passion, I think it’s probably one of the most passionate fanbases out there like seriously, I would not want to mess with any of them. That’s why I deleted my Twitter, because I just can’t do it because at the same time it flips the other way, when I do something that someone doesn’t like, it’s the flipped around way. But at the end of the day, I just focus on the positive and there’s so many amazing positive fans out there, the majority are awesome. I wish there was a way in life where you could meet all these people, you know? Hopefully, Comic Cons will come back because that was one of my favorite things to do is like actually get to talk to people about the show, what they love about it, and that face to face interaction, nothing beats it. So, God willing, we can kiss COVID goodbye and do some Comic Cons again, I love those things.