Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on Embracing the 1950s with Season 7 of ‘Riverdale’

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the creator of Riverdale, which is based on characters from the Archie Comics. New episodes of the seventh and final season will continue to air Wednesdays at 9 PM ET on The CW. This interview will include spoilers for the season premiere, episode 7×01, “Chapter One Hundred Eighteen: Don’t Worry Darling.”

The seventh season of RIVERDALE goes where no season of RIVERDALE has dared to go before — the 1950s! Picking up where last season ended, Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) finds himself trapped in the 1950s. He has no idea how he got there, nor how to get back to the present. His friends are no help, as they are living seemingly authentic lives, similar to their classic Archie Comics counterparts, unaware that they’ve ever been anywhere but the 1950’s. It isn’t until Jughead is visited by Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) — Riverdale’s Guardian Angel — that he learns the cosmic truth about their predicament. Will Jughead and the gang be able to return to the present? Or will our characters be trapped in the 1950’s forever? And, if so… is that such a bad thing?

I asked the showrunner about Tabitha’s plan to return Riverdale back to the present day, how long we’re going to stay in the 1950s, and more. Keep reading for everything he shared and stay tuned for the second part of my interview, which will be released after 7×03!

Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

To start off, which comic dynamic you were most excited to bring to life on screen? Seeing the characters embrace that version of themselves was so much fun.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I think the biggest gift of the 1950s has been, for me, seeing KJ Apa as the Archie from the comic books, the Richie Cunningham version of Archie. Archie has been over the years, such a tortured, angry young man character, like joining a fight club, starting the very fascist Red Circle police force, and wanting to kill Hiram Lodge that I think one of the things about going to the 1950s is allowing Archie to be more innocent, kind of lean into the comedy a little bit more, and really be sort of like a Richie Cunningham character from Happy Days.

Then the other thing is, it’s funny, after the first kind of week of shooting or the first couple of days of shooting, Cole called me and I thought, “Oh, I wonder what Cole thinks about the 1950s.” We’d spoken a little bit about it, and he called me and he’s like, “Oh my god, I love the 1950s. I think this is what it should have been all along. Please put in more 1950s jargon in my dialogue. I love it.” So I think those two guys have been waiting for the 1950s for six years, so that’s been the most fun kind of gift that the decision to go to that back to the 1950s has given us.

Photo: The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What can you tease for me about Tabitha’s journey as Riverdale’s guardian angel and trying to take everyone back home? Which version of Riverdale are we trying to get back to exactly? Are we trying to get back to where we were in the season six finale or a different timeline?
We’re still in the writers’ room breaking the last sort of back half and back third of the season, and we’ve talked a lot about this. I think what angel Tabitha says to Jughead and what the kids are trying to do in their own personal struggles, in their own ways, and all of them sort of facing their challenges and enemies is they’re trying to “fix Riverdale,” and make Riverdale in the 1950s a place where they can live their most authentic, open, truest selves so that when we get back to 2023 or whenever the present is, it’s not a Riverdale that is a cauldron of darkness and strife that will allow a malevolent force like Percival Pickens to arrive, get hold of Riverdale, and set it on a collision course with a comet. The idea is to make Riverdale shore it up in the past so that when we get to the present, the circumstances aren’t aligned so that a Percival Pickens does not destroy it with a comet, if that makes sense.

How long are we actually staying in the past? Have you decided that in the writers’ room yet or is it still up in the air?
It is still up in the air. I think everyone working on the show from the writers to the actors to the crew, we started in the 1950s and I mean, to say it was sort of a breath of fresh air is such an understatement. Everyone was so energized and jazzed by this, and once we sort of got our footing and figured out a way that this season would be in continuity with the first six seasons so that it wasn’t just sort of its own mini-series, I think we’re having a really good time and telling really resonant stories that we wouldn’t have been able to tell in the present day, certainly not with the kids in their mid to late 20s in Riverdale as adults.

The core of Archie Comics is the kids in high school, that is so the DNA of Archie Comics, and for good or ill, the decade everyone associates with Archie Comics is the 1950s, the squeaky, clean, innocent, wholesome 1950s. So it felt like going back to that time would allow us to sort of go back to our thesis of our show, which is unpacking the darkness and the shadows, and the passions and the tensions beneath that facade.

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