Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Explains the Various Pairings in ‘Riverdale’ Season 7

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 episode 7×03, “Chapter One Hundred Twenty: Sex Education.”

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES — After a lesson in sex education leaves the gang more confused than ever, Veronica (Camila Mendes) decides to organize a make-out party at the Pembrooke.  Elsewhere, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) attempts to help Ethel (guest star Shannon Purser) out of some trouble only to find himself in hot water as well.

We discussed Cheryl and Kevin’s sexuality, his reassurance for Choni fans, what to expect from the classic Varchie/Barchie love triangle, and pairing Veronica with Jughead! Keep reading for all of the details.

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

I want to speak with you about Cheryl’s sexuality. A lot of fans are concerned about her being paired with Archie. Can you tell me how you and the other writers handled this very sensitive storyline with care? How will this affect the character going forward? Do you have sort of reassurance for the fans who feel seen and represented by her?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the biggest conversations we had when we decided on setting the season in the 1950s — I think the first conversation that we had in the writers’ room and that we had with the actors is, “What version of the 1950s are we going to depict? Is it going to be some utopia, where everyone’s accepted and everyone is open-minded about everything?” And it felt like that would have been wrong for us to sort of erase or pretend that the very real struggles our queer characters and our characters of color would have been going through the 1950s — to pretend that those wouldn’t have existed or didn’t exist, felt like it would have been disingenuous and wrong. That said, we didn’t want to do a season that was all strife and turmoil for our characters. So we started a conversation that we’re still having in the writers’ room: “How do we thread the needle of these characters?”

I would say that in episode four, to reassure fans, it is a big Cheryl and Archie episode, but it is an even bigger Cheryl and Toni episode. Just to reassure fans, and ditto, Betty and Kevin. Toni’s a bit more confident in her sexuality and she’s a bit more secure in her sexuality, but the reality is that Cheryl and Kevin, in the 50s, would have been closeted and would not have been open about who they are. And I think for us, it was we wanted to sort of locate our characters on the cusp of these giant movements that were about to start and erupt kind of full force: the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement, the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the modern feminist movement, the Vietnam War. All these things were about to start exploding and we kind of wanted to find our characters on the cusp of that and be part of those movements, and because they’re our characters, sort of be instigators of those movements, if that makes sense.

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

So, in episode three, Veronica is trying to start over with Archie, but he mentioned them not being a good match. Can you tell me what that means for their story in the future? Is it the end? Also, Betty is clearly starting to feel something for Archie. How is she going to approach that going forward? I know it all probably ties into the classic love triangle.
When we kind of reset to the 1950s and we made that decision to go back to the OG comics, it was like that sort of informed what our storytelling would be and our storytelling really would be much more about dating, relationships, going steady, holding hands, and things like that, as opposed to the crazy Riverdale “oh my god, we’re in the shower” and all of that crazy stuff. It was a more innocent relationship type but we did kind of want to go back and think, before anyone is hot and heavy and ride or die — I don’t think anyone’s mentioned the word endgame yet in the 1950s because mercifully, it didn’t exist. One of the fun things about the 1950s is being able to see various pairings and various characters go on a date and casually date and not so casually date, and I can safely say that if you’ve only seen episode three, there is a lot more story between Archie and Betty and Veronica, specifically those three, and other characters that haven’t historically been matched with Veronica or Betty. So, there’s a lot more teen high jinks and romance to play before we lock into any endgames.

Lastly, you finally gave me what I’ve been asking you about forever: Jughead and Veronica having scenes together! I was living for them in episode three. What was the push for that? Was it because fans kept mentioning that they wanted to see them or were they just thrown together naturally since they didn’t get much time before?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I mean, when we kind of did this soft reset, we sort of were like, “Okay, who haven’t we seen together?” We always love our typical sort of references and we started thinking of like, oh — and we love saying this in the Riverdale writers’ room and on the show, things like, “Oh my gosh, Jughead and Veronica are like the Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe of Riverdale High, the tortured writer and then the beautiful starlet.” And in the past, the little Veronica and Jughead content that we’ve had has always played great. We’ve just never gotten a chance to dig into that. So I can tell you that we are leaning into that and that that bubbles up in various times throughout the season, in a really fun way. It’s a fun pairing, those characters definitely have a spark.