Drew Ray Tanner Talks the Final Season of ‘Riverdale’

Drew Ray Tanner plays Fangs Fogarty on The CW’s 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. This interview will include spoilers for episode 7×02, “Chapter One Hundred Nineteen: Skip, Hop and Thump!

RIVERDALE SOCK HOP — Riverdale High’s sock hop is around the corner and Archie (KJ Apa) has his sights set on taking Veronica (Camila Mendes) to the dance.  Betty (Lili Reinhart) is confused when Kevin (Casey Cott) appears uninterested in taking things to the next level with her.  Elsewhere, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) takes aim at Pep Comics, and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) attempts to convince Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) to let Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner) perform at the sock hop. 

We discussed what fans can expect from the 1950s, creating the sock hop sequence, Fangs’ new relationship, watching the first two episodes in a movie theater, living in the moment while wrapping up this chapter, and more. Keep reading for all of the details!

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Considering everything we’ve seen on Riverdale, it was obvious that the final season would have to be unique and that’s exactly what it is. Season seven picks up in the 1950s and so far, our characters don’t have any memory of what happened previously. It’s a twist that will keep audiences on their toes until the very end.

“What a time in American culture, so much to speak on, so many stories to draw from,” Drew Ray Tanner commented about the era. “It was definitely interesting and enlightening to wrap your brain sort of around that time period.”

The actor joined the series back in 2017 during season two. While he had been aware of the Archie Comics, the role of Fangs is what inspired him to finally read one.

“Very beginning, my experience with Archie Comics was every time going to the grocery store with my mom and checking out of the grocery line, and just seeing Archie kind of right there on the left-hand side and never picking one up until getting this part in this wonderful show,” he voiced. “I did some research on Fangs because he appeared in some issues of Little Archie and he was just a completely different-looking type of character. And so, I did some research when that kind of came around but the show this year, this different 1950s vibe that we’re going through is definitely more in line with the Archie Comics that people remember and definitely like what I remember as a kid every time I’d see them at the grocery store.”

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One of the more difficult realities of traveling back to 1955 is that characters such as Cheryl and Kevin are forced to hide their sexuality. However, Tanner revealed that Fangs is more like Toni when it comes to understanding his identity:

“Fangs is aware of how he feels and his sexuality.”

Naturally, wrapping a show that has been on for so many seasons is hard for everyone involved, so I asked the actor about closing that chapter in his life and career.

“Somebody actually from the cast the other day, ’cause we’re still filming it, said, ‘How do you feel about this thing coming to an end?’ And I said, ‘I don’t want it to end,’” he expressed. “I’m sad. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Of course, we live in the age of revivals and reboots so is something ever truly gone?

“You know, it’s always possible but you’ll never get back what you once had with the relationship. It’s like once you sever the umbilical cord, you can never go back. So, you’re right, you can always revisit it. But being in this moment right now and having been in that moment for me, for six years, has been something that I’ll just never forget.”

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After portraying the Serpent for six seasons, Drew shared that he and Fangs both resonate with a specific quality:

“I think adaptability is a good one. I think that goes for the character and that goes for me as a person, me as an actor, the ability to sort of blend in and you would find your purpose in any sort of scenario. I think when I first started acting, there were a lot of times where I didn’t know my own worth and I think it took an opportunity like Riverdale to sort of break me out of my shell a bit and actually test those waters. I think of Fangs in a similar way, he came from the wrong side of town, he gets introduced into this new school, he has to really find his footing, and he slowly builds his confidence and I the actor built my confidence over the years and harbored really wonderful friendships and relationships with the cast and crew, and that only bolstered my willingness to show my abilities through my craft and having a safe place to do that, which in turn was really what was for Fangs too, finding a home in the group of people that he can feel comfortable with being himself and not being judged.”

This method of starting over until the characters get their memories back or return to the present means getting to see a bunch of old and new dynamics in a new light. So what’s ahead for Fangs in terms of a relationship?

“There’s something alluded to in sort of episode two, I believe. Fangs is gonna face a very kind of life-changing relationship, I would say,” he answered, continuing to mention that things will “never really be the same after this one.”

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In tonight’s new episode, the actor had the opportunity to perform at the sock hop, which he looks back on in awe.

“I’m actually, as we’re talking, looking at some of the film photos I developed from that night because I wanted to remember it and I just wanted to have that top of mind for this conversation. Yeah, the sock hop, I will never forget that. I can’t believe the amount of effort that went into this sequence and the amount of care that went into it as well in terms of recreating the gymnasium. It is just unbelievable the detail that went into this space. Then coming in and seeing Fangs Fogarty in glittery, big letters and we rehearsed with my band who became friends of mine,” Tanner reflected.

“Heather, our choreographer, and her assistant were so fantastic in making me feel comfortable in doing the moves that were required for this type of performance, which was very in line with the time. It was one of those things where I wasn’t ready until the very moment that they yelled action. I had prepared as much as I could, but once you fill that space with a hundred extras and once you get the band going, the music going, and all the actors are filling in, and you don’t even know where the camera is, you just feel the moment and really, truly giving a performance to a hundred people. It was an out-of-body experience for me. I have to look at these photos to kind of remind myself of what went on that night because yeah, it was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.”

He then added, “It was quite the effort. A lot of care went into that and our director, Ron, did such a wonderful job.”

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

The actor admits that right now, he has “zero idea” of how the series ends. Instead, he is focused on trying to live in the moment and enjoying each script.

“We did a premiere of the first two episodes at this wonderful theater in Vancouver here, all the cast and crew were able to show up and watch it together and sort of celebrate the first two episodes and the six seasons prior to that,” he told me when I asked about his favorite memory of filming this current season. “So to sit there and watch it with the crew and cast was very special. That was really cool to sit in a movie theater and watch it.”

Lastly, Tanner previewed what fans can expect before we say goodbye:

“What I can say is that everyone is really bringing their A-game when it comes to the tone of the time period and it really influences everyone’s trajectory with it,” he explained. “It’s very innocent. It’s very wholesome. Yeah, it’s 1950 before everything else happened in history, so you have to kind of come at it with that perspective. You can’t really come at it with a modern sort of frame of mind. So in terms of what that does for everyone’s character and where that goes, there’s definitely some history, there’s definitely something afoot going on in the background, but for the most part, we’re sort of focusing on these kids being kids and what kids go through. Also, there’s some very real elements involved in terms of the time period itself and for somebody like myself, who is of color, I think that the reality is very much touched on in our show for the people that are of color. There are some storylines that speak on that in terms of the racism in America at the time and I think that’s really beautiful.”