NOC Interview: Ashleigh Murray Previews Josie and The Pussycats’ Big ‘Riverdale’ Episode

Ashleigh Murray is making her comeback as Josie McCoy in this week’s new Riverdale episode, “Chapter Ninety-One: The Return of the Pussycats.” The show is based on the characters from the Archie Comics and already on its fifth season. New episodes will continue airing on Wednesdays at 8PM ET and are available to stream next day on The CW. Murray also starred as Josie in Katy Keene.

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ROBIN GIVENS DIRECTS THE EPSIODE — After going MIA during the middle of her world tour, mega-star Josie McCoy (guest star Ashleigh Murray) returns to Riverdale unexpectedly. But it’s not until she reunites with her former bandmates Valerie (guest star Hayley Law) and Melody (guest star Asha Bromfield), that she opens up about the real reason why she’s back. Elsewhere, Veronica (Camila Mendes) gets creative after a surprise visit from her old friend Alexandra Cabot (guest star Camille Hyde). Finally, Toni (Vanessa Morgan) steps in to help Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) and Veronica land a deal.

I had the chance to speak with the actress about giving Josie the closure she deserved, bringing The Pussycats back, having Robin Givens by her side while filming, what she thinks is next for Josie, getting emotional content for the character, and much more! Keep reading to find out what she told me.

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First off, I want to ask you what it was like to see what Josie was up to at this point in her life?
Ashleigh Murray: Well, I suppose it wasn’t really that shocking because that’s how I always imagined her to be, you know? That was always the trajectory from the moment that I was cast as Josie and those were discussions that I often had with Roberto and Michael, and I got to feel some of that when we shot the season of Katy Keene. So, during this episode, it wasn’t foreign for me to step into Josie at that point in her career.

What was it like stepping back on the Riverdale set after going to Katy Keene and getting to reunite with everyone for this episode?
It was nice to be able to see my friends again, because I don’t get to see them ever. It was very empowering and it gave me like a bit of peace, honestly.

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For me, as a viewer who has been been watching since season one, I felt like the episode gave some long overdue, well deserved closure to these characters and was almost therapeutic in some of the scenes. Did you feel that way while filming the episode?
It’s tough, it’s a hard thing to talk about because the things that I am comfortable sharing– I have to keep a bit of my own peace. Some things are not meant for everyone and some things I don’t mind talking about. I think that being back there and having this moment for Josie, it was really hard, it paralleled so much of how I felt living in a place that really exacerbated my seasonal depression, you know? It was really, really, really difficult for me, walking back through those steps again, it was surreal. I think I just recently said to someone else that it kind of felt like walking around in my own deja vu, I couldn’t get out of it. I didn’t understand where I was or how I was feeling fully, I just had to get through it, but it definitely did bring me some peace once it was done. I felt really good, I was happy with the work that I did. I’m happy with the personal work that I’ve done with myself. I was happy at wrap and it was also really great to be able to go through that with the girls, who also had their own similar experiences of being on Riverdale, watching them get their moment of agency back and being able to walk through the emotional struggles of having to be in the scenes, the way that the script required with Robin by my side.

What was it like to reunite with Hayley Law and Asha Bromfield to bring The Pussycats back and really give them the ending they deserve?
It was good to see them again and what was wonderful is that a lot of the scene work that they did, I wasn’t even a part of, which is what I wanted, you know? I wanted them to be fully fleshed out characters, that they are not simply just an extension of Josie like they have names, but they don’t have lives, they don’t matter. So, I really enjoyed them having that chance to be able to live these characters fully as well.

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What was it like having Robin Givens back by your side as you mentioned before?
It was exactly what I needed, for as unexpectedly emotional as it was for me to be back, I was so thankful that I had Robin to lean on. We really truly leaned on each other the entire time, even before we got there, we had been talking because Robin and I have a personal relationship. It was a big deal for her as well, this was the second episode that she directed this season, I believe. So, her being able to come back, show her chops again, and be able to do it with me and for me was fantastic, and the fact that she’s an actress. She’s been an actress for many years, so she has an understanding of what that space is like for us in front of the camera. And so, when she’s behind it, she can coach me, help me, and encourage me to get to the place that she knows this character should be in a way that a director who hasn’t been an actor, can’t fully articulate.

I always really love when the show gives emotional content to the characters, so I was really excited and happy to see you had some in this episode. You did such a great job with it. What was it like for you to do those scenes?
It was scary, to be honest. It was very scary. I haven’t been allotted that opportunity on that show and that for me personally, was really difficult. So, to be given this opportunity to go there as an artist was hard because I wasn’t sure if I could and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, because I was protecting myself from a space that I didn’t feel valued in. And to have a script written that allows me to work properly as an artist, and to have the support and the encouragement of my fellow castmate, who was also my director, was really empowering. It made me feel trust that there was safety in this performance. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to watch the episode because I haven’t been given the opportunity to work in that capacity in a long time and I wasn’t sure if it was going to land. I actually ended up watching it and I was shocked myself. I was really pretty shocked.

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In your mind, what is next for Josie?
I don’t know, I really don’t know. It could be anything, you know? I feel like that’s the beauty of where the episode ended is that it could go anywhere. Whether it goes somewhere that viewers are able to see or just something we’re just left to imagine from now on, at least we have a fully embodied character to be able to make those decisions on our own like, “Oh, I could see her doing that. I bet she’d be doing that.”

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