In addition to starring as Cheryl Blossom, Madelaine Petsch brought to life two different characters and stories in episode 6×04, “Chapter Ninety-Nine: The Witching Hour(s).” The show is based on the characters from the Archie Comics. New episodes of Riverdale’s five part event, titled Rivervale, will air Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
The sixth season of Riverdale begins with a special five-episode event arc entitled “Rivervale.” Picking up where season five ended, with Archie (KJ Apa) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) deciding to give their romantic relationship another shot, just as a bomb planted by Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) under Archie’s bed was about to go off. Strangely, that bomb seemingly doesn’t explode, and when Archie and Betty wake up the next morning, they’re living in the town of Rivervale, their lives in Riverdale but a distant dream. It’s hard to believe, but things in Rivervale are much darker and creepier than in Riverdale. There are ghosts, curses, witches, demons, human sacrifices, and special guest stars galore — including a visit from everybody’s favorite twenty-something witch, Sabrina Spellman (guest star Kiernan Shipka)! How did our characters come to be in Rivervale? And what, exactly, is Rivervale? An alternate universe? A dream dimension? Limbo? Archie’s coma fantasy? The mystery will be revealed in Riverdale’s hundredth episode, “The Jughead Paradox.”
I spoke with the actress about Cheryl’s evolution, Choni’s relationship, the representation her character provides for the LGBTQ+ community, the 100th episode, creating Abigail and Thomasina’s love story with Vanessa, and much more. Keep reading to find out everything she shared with me!
Well first off, the episode is great and you did such a phenomenal job with all three roles, but I do have to ask you about that ending scene. Can you tell me what it was like filming it with Vanessa and reuniting Abigail with her love?
Madelaine Petsch: Oh my god. Well, it was so cute and I’m so happy that it ended like that but actually filming it was such a shit show. It was so muddy and we both had these Uggs on that were really slippery, so her and I were like falling, and there was this one take where they were like, “Do whatever you want while you’re running through the grave.” So she stopped to grab me and I kept going, then she tried to kiss me, and we both slipped and fell into the mud and both of our dresses got completely wet and dirty.
Oh my gosh, someone should have been recording that.
I know right? Well, whenever Vanessa and I work together it’s always kind of like your last two brain cells.
That’s adorable. You guys have the best friendship, I absolutely adore it and the chemistry always comes across. You had such a fun scene this episode because you were casting spells with Sabrina Spellman! That was iconic. What was your reaction when you found out?
Iconic! I was stoked. Actually, I hadn’t really gotten to spend much time with Kiernan and the rest of the cast had, and I heard how lovely she was. The minute that they were talking about a Sabrina crossover, I was stoked. So, we had the best time, she’s fantastic. Obviously, if this is coming out after the episode airs, I wish she would have been with me more in the episode like I would have loved to see more of her, but I hope this means that we have more room for her moving forward.
Obviously, there was a big final revolution about Abigail and Cheryl, what does this mean for the character of Cheryl going forward in Riverdale? Did you speak to Roberto about it? What can fans sort of expect with this twist?
Oh, so we actually are like already into shooting season six of Riverdale, so I already know what’s happening and I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’ll tell you there are definitely some things that carry over into Riverdale and there are some things that stay in Rivervale. It’s just about figuring out what, it’s like kind of mystery and I think it’ll be very clear once episode seven or eight starts airing. Then we’ll figure out what sort of leads back and what they bring with them. Cheryl is still the girl you love and know. [Good, because we can’t lose Cheryl.] We’re not, her integrity and all the things that you know about her, she is still those things.
And huge congrats are in order because next week is the 100th episode! I’ve been watching since the beginning and I really do love the show. What can you tease for me about the episode without giving too much away? I know it’s gonna be special.
Thank you. It’s been a wild ride. I know a lot of shows don’t make it to this milestone. We’re all really thankful and grateful that our show did, and that we’ve got the fan base that we have. It’s huge, I feel so lucky to be a part of it. When it comes to the episode itself, I think it’s fantastic. I think it was the perfect cherry on top of the Rivervale episodes and for our 100th episode. I think the way that they kind of bring the two worlds together is really interesting and smart. I think when you figure out what you figure out in the episode, a lot of what’s happened in past seasons will make sense more. That’s all I’ll say.
I’m excited, and I cannot go another second without asking you about Cheryl and Toni as a Choni shipper myself. What’s next for them?
As am I! Well, you definitely have a lot of Madelaine and Vanessa scenes coming up but they’re not with characters you’d expect. If that makes sense — that doesn’t make sense. You see us on screen together. We are on the same screen at the same time.
The representation that Cheryl provides for the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the lesbian community, is just the most beautiful thing. I love seeing how passionate the fans are about her. What does it mean to you that she is so loved by the fans and that so many feel seen by her character?
Thank you. I mean, I think it’s every actor’s dream to have a character that people resonate with on screen. The whole reason why Cheryl became a lesbian is because I knew that she was one, if that makes sense. I told Roberto and he was like, “Great, let’s do it.” But I think it was really important to bring lesbian representation to teen television because prior to that, I haven’t seen a whole heck of a lot of it. And now, it’s becoming a little bit more normalized, which is fantastic, but it means a lot to me to see people feel seen and heard by watching television and entertainment in the media. That’s the whole point, right? Is to see people on screen that you can relate to and for you feel like you’re not the only one.
That’s the power of television. It’s such a crucial thing. I feel like it helped me growing up and I know so many others probably feel that way about Cheryl, so I’m so thankful for you and your role in that because you are changing lives with it.
Yeah. Oh my god, thank you. It means the world to me truly hearing things like that and doing it. It truly is career making to me.
You and Vanessa have spoken about how much you both fight to ensure that this show has LGBTQ+ content and that you get good content for Choni as well as the characters. Why is that so important to you, and what message do you want Cheryl and Toni’s relationship to give to the fans who feel seen by it?
Well, I think historically, television and especially — I don’t want to say teen television but for lack of a better term, we’ll call it young adult television, you know, historically, they’ll show heterosexual couples doing kind of almost the dirty but not quite dirty, right? Like they’ll show them almost having sex and I feel like with female/female relationships and male/male relationships, it’s a little bit more like here’s a kiss and fade to black. By season three, Vanessa and I were like, “No, we get the same thing that Betty and Jughead get. There’s nothing different about us.” And that’s kind of where — I mean, obviously, everyone supported it because it ended up going on screen but it’s about fighting for what is right and it’s about equality. That’s literally all it is. You want people to walk away and feel like they got what they needed just the same way that a heterosexual couple would. And I mean, we’re also fighting for our characters, right? Like we want them to get the justice that they deserve . They’re in love, or they were in love, and that sex scene meant so much to so many people. I think if you avoid it, it can feel like they’re trying to make it a taboo but it shouldn’t be.
What has it been like seeing how Cheryl has grown and evolved? With the 100th episode coming up, there’s so much to look back on and it’s amazing to see how far she’s come.
I’m really proud of her, which I think is maybe a strange answer, but I’m really proud of Cheryl because if you watch from the beginning how this facade of confidence, being a bad bitch, and not actually being that, and being really scared and not authentically yourself, then over the course of five years — well actually, I guess in twelve in the show, in the season five — she’s grown up into a woman who is mature, confident in her own skin, comfortable with who she is. She still has all of her trauma and instead of hiding it, she kind of wears it on her sleeve a little bit more and she’s a lot more in touch with her emotions. I’m really proud of her.
We’re proud of her too. Trust me, I see that all the time on my timeline. The fans adore Cheryl. I do teasers weekly for the new episodes and the amount of questions I get about Cheryl — she is a top priority.
That makes me so happy. That means a lot to me, thank you.
What was it like to play three distinctly different characters, but then also be able to tie them all into one core story like you did?
It was an acting challenge, a fun one, and something that I was really looking forward to because if you’re on a show for six years, you can either feel like your characters become complacent and the same or ever-changing, and I feel lucky that I’m on a show where my character is ever-changing and never really is the same thing. I worked with a dialect coach for Abigail and we worked on her voice a lot make sure that it felt as authentic as possible for the 1800s and then built some from there. So kind of starting with Abigail being this more innocent, naive character, who sees the world through rose colored glasses a little bit and is very open hearted, then Poppy taking on Abigail’s experiences. By the end, Poppy is now cold, a little bit cold shouldered, a little bit more of a chip on her shoulder, a little bit more of an edge to her. And I feel like it’s sweet too because you see her taking up Thomasina’s principles because Poppy is trying to teach women how to take care of themselves against men thinking that they own them. Then you look at Cheryl now and she had both sides to her and that’s kind of how I built them is that there’s Abigail on one side of the spectrum, Poppy’s on the other, and then Cheryl has kind of right in the middle of those two worlds.
I want to highlight what you said because Poppy is just amazing in terms of uplifting the other females in her time period and like you said Cheryl is great representation of a strong female, which is so crucial in television. What is it like knowing that you are kind of playing a role model character for young women watching the show?
I mean, man, I don’t really think about that to be perfectly honest too often, because I feel like that’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody. [You do an amazing job.] Oh, thank you. I mean, I’m very thankful to do it and I think Cheryl’s a badass and she inspires me as well. But I was really happy to see Poppy trying to help these women think outside of the box in the 50s. The thing that I think disappointed me, and it shouldn’t have, is that those woman didn’t really have Poppy’s back in the same way that she had theirs. So that was kind of where I was like that’s such a sad, sad storyline. And that’s kind of why it makes sense in Rivervale why Cheryl would be a little bit more cold because of all of her experiences. Now, in Riverdale, we’ll have to see if this all carries over or not, but it kind of explained a lot for me.
Abigail and Thomasina’s storyline was so beautiful. What was it like creating that dynamic? You’re also bringing a whole new LGBTQ+ couple that fans are going to feel represented with and love. What was it like getting to introduce the audience to their story from their first meeting to them ending up together?
Yeah, thank you. I mean, it’s always a blast working with Vanessa, regardless of what the storyline is. This was a really special one because I think Abigail has never really been seen and for the first time in her life, she felt seen by Thomasina, and I would venture that Thomasina felt the same way. And it was really beautiful to do that and then to watch it.
I have to mention those hilarious behind the scene photos you posted of you and KJ Apa from the season six premiere sacrifice scene. Those were amazing.
And that outfit you wore was so stunning!
Our costume designer is so cool, smart, and talented. I’m always perplexed by how she puts these things together, she’s gets like 12 hours to do it sometimes, and there’s never a detail missed. The gown itself was gorgeous, comfortable, and great. It was a little cold but like life goes on. It was that headpiece that was hard for me, it kept falling off my head in the middle of my giant monologue. It would pop off my head and I’m like, “No!”
It looked great and you did the sacrifice. You took Archie out of Riverdale — something no one else has been able to do!
I did the first of many.