Kiernan Shipka on Bringing Sabrina Spellman to ‘Riverdale’

Kiernan Shipka and Sabrina Spellman have made their way to Riverdale — or technically, Rivervale. The actress played the beloved character in all four parts of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In episode 6×04, “Chapter Ninety-Nine: The Witching Hour(s),” the Riverdale and CAOS crossover is finally happening! New episodes of Riverdale’s five part event, titled Rivervale, will air Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.

SABRINA SPELLMAN (GUEST STAR KIERNAN SHIPKA) COMES TO RIVERVALE — As Bailey’s Comet passes over Rivervale, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Nana Rose (guest star Barbara Wallace) revisit the tragic stories of the Blossom women through the years. Meanwhile, the once-in-a-lifetime celestial event prompts Cheryl to summon a familiar face to Rivervale — Sabrina Spellman (guest star Kiernan Shipka).

I had the pleasure of chatting with the actress about how it felt to finally get to do a crossover with Riverdale, what she’d want Sabrina to do during her next visit and who she’d want to bring with her, the fan response to her character, building Sabrina and Cheryl’s dynamic with Madelaine, and more! Keep reading for all the details.

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

I was thrilled when I found out that you were coming to Riverdale. What was your reaction when you found out about this crossover and the plot of the episode? Because as someone who isn’t actually on Riverdale, I can only imagine your reaction to reading the script.
Kiernan Shipka: Yeah, I read the script and I was like, “Roberto, what’s going on? What is happening?” But no, I was so excited. It’s funny, we’ve been talking about a crossover for what felt like ages. I feel like people were talking about a crossover during the first season of Sabrina. There was never not a crossover conversation. It was just kind of a matter of when and how. Obviously, the world has changed a lot and Sabrina ended sort of suddenly, if you will. I don’t think that anyone really knew that it was going to end, I think everyone kind of had an idea but it wasn’t certain, so it kind of just never shook out timing wise. Then all of a sudden, Roberto started texting me and saying, “Oh my god, I think it could actually happen. I think it’s cleared, I think we’re in the clear and ready to go.” And it almost felt like before I knew it, I got sent a script, I was on the first flight up to Vancouver, and we were knocking it out. It was like we talked about it forever and then, seemingly overnight, it happened.

How was it keeping that secret? It must have been so exciting and you probably wanted to tell everyone. Did you tell any of your former CAOS co-stars?
It was like the fun kind of secret, where you kind of want to tell people and you kind of want to give people hints, but you don’t fully want to tell people. What was kind of amazing about it, was we announced it while I was up there filming so I didn’t have to keep it secret for that long. I had to hold it in for like two days, which was fine, I can do that, but if it was months, I would have been struggling. If it was months, that would have been rough. But since it was only a few days, it was kind of like I knew something that no one else did and it was kind of great. I sort of teased a little bit, I teased people a little bit, and it was only because I knew that they would know so shortly thereafter that I could kind of dangle it a little bit like I’d send someone like a photo of just the headband. I don’t know, I kind of enjoyed it. Honestly, I took it in stride for a few days.

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

I remember that I was at New York Comic Con when I saw the news, and I literally stopped everything I was doing to write up write up the announcement because I was so excited.
That’s amazing. It’s so funny, I remember the photo that we posted to announce it, they took it up in Vancouver. I had just been working, and then I went up to do Riverdale so I was pretty tired. So basically, as a result, I had been sleeping in a lot and they told me I should post it at like 10 am, and then I don’t wake up until like 11 am. I was in a string of sleepiness and was like, “Okay, great! I’ll wake up at 10. I’ll be up by 10 anyway, that’s totally fine.” And then I remember someone I was living with shaking me awake and being like, “They actually want you to post it at 9 am now.” I woke up, rolled over, took out my phone, posted it, and then went back to sleep for two hours. Then when I woke up, it was like waking up to insanity on my phone. It was kind of the most exciting thing instead of watching it roll in, I’m letting it just explode for a minute and then popping in. So, it’s been surreal to see people’s reactions. That really made it — not that it would have not been worth it otherwise, because I would have done anything for Sabrina just because I love her so much personally, but what really is the cherry on top is just these fans and the excitement is so palpable.

So, technically, this episode is Rivervale and not Riverdale. Would you want to visit Riverdale? What sort of plot would you want? Who would you want Sabrina to meet? And if you could bring any CAOS characters with you, who would you want to join Sabrina?
Yeah, I mean, so much. I think that — yeah, going to Rivervale just made me want to go to Riverdale even more. I love Sabrina and the fact that she’s always using powers and will always be a witch, but there’s a part of me that just wants to see like a scene of her talking to someone in sort of a more grounded setting. There’s something so appealing about the idea of sitting at Pop’s with Jughead. I don’t even know what the scene would be but I think sort of that world of Sabrina having like personal relationships with the characters we know and love on Riverdale is really fascinating and appealing to me. And I mean, if Sabrina is back then Nick’s back, right? That’s sort of what, at least, my logic would tell me is that if Sabrina was brought back from the dead, that probably means that Nick is somewhere around as well. That’s obviously a dynamic that I think everyone is curious to hear more about and see more of. So I love all the characters but if I had to see one extra CAOS character in the Riverdale universe, I think it would be Nick Scratch.

Oh, you just made me and all the Nabrina shippers everywhere so happy right now.
I mean, they’re definitely endgame. [They are, I was rooting for them since day one.] I mean, come on.

You’re gonna drive everyone crazy, I’m so excited to share that quote especially.
I knew as I was saying it. I was like, “Here come the Nabrina shippers!”

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

I really have to say your fans and the fans of Sabrina are so beyond passionate, it’s so beautiful to see. I was a fan of the show first before I ever got to cover it and it made me so happy to see everyone’s excitement for this episode. Some haven’t even watched Riverdale and they’re just are watching because you’re coming on, then I saw Riverdale fans be like, “Oh my god, Sabrina is coming!” So it was really beautiful seeing that union with the fans. What does it mean to you that they are still so passionate about this character and see how much they still love her?
They’re the best. I mean, I love her so much and I feel so close to her. She changed my life in so many ways, personally and on sort of a bigger, more public scale. So to have other people resonate with her and to have someone like Sabrina mean something to others is really just thrilling. I feel like I won the lottery with playing that character because the amount of joy that she’s brought me has been just incredible and so many different levels, outwardly, inwardly, it’s incredible.

I love that. It’s really beautiful seeing the power of TV and these characters. It’s really amazing seeing how many fans really love Sabrina.
I think so too. I think it really brings people together a wonderful way.

I got to see the episode and you’re fantastic as always, but I was so excited to see Sabrina and Cheryl together. What was it like getting to build that relationship and dynamic between the characters, considering you and Madelaine had not done these characters together before?
Yeah, it was amazing. I mean, it was so fun. I think Cheryl and Sabrina are obviously characters that really makes sense together, and Madelaine is such a cool person and such an incredible actress. The way that she has sort of established herself as Cheryl is just so genius and the way that she sort of mirrors her character once the camera is rolling is so infectious. And I like to think that I’m quite confident in my version of Sabrina as well, so I think that we were playing off of each other in this way where we both truly understood our characters, and it helps us understand each other and creates this instantaneous, electric chemistry. I think that Cheryl’s personality and Sabrina’s personality kind of lend itself to a real vibrant duo.

It definitely did. I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to them. Thank you so much, it was really such a pleasure speaking to you. I hope we get to see Sabrina again soon! It was amazing seeing her again.
Thank you. Fingers crossed — with Nick! [Yes, with Nick! Always with Nick.] Always.