Your character Chic in Riverdale was so hard to stomach. How did you feel about that being your first role on television? I’m very appreciative that was my first role. I portrayed someone completely opposite of who I am. Some actors have to work for years until they are given the opportunity to play something sinister. It was quite therapeutic to become something I’m not… to escape reality even just for a moment.
How do you prep for such a role, and what did you learn from playing him? I spent days on end researching people all over the world who shared the same profession as Chic did. Studying them, pulling pieces from multiple people, gave me the base of the character. I learned that some paychecks come from pleasure, but more come from a way to make ends meet. It was enlightening to discover why these people chose to do what they do.
What are interactions with fans like given that your character is so polarizing? Do you have any interesting stories? Ha. Most people have been extremely sweet and can separate me from the character. But every once in awhile, someone can’t seem to understand that I’m not actually terrifying and the look on their face is priceless. Several people have come up to me and just said “you give me nightmares” and it always makes me laugh.
Riverdale is such a huge show with an incredibly passionate fanbase. Do you feel pressure being thrust into spotlight so quickly like that? If you mean pressure in terms of population judgement, no, not at all. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve very content with who I am and the morals I have. The spotlight can scare someone when they have something to hide, but I don’t. I’m not perfect by any means, but I take responsibility for my mistakes and I never hide. Ask and I’ll answer.
Your Instagram is full of backstage photos from set, and they really capture what a fun and loving environment it seems to be out there. Can you talk about photography and the role it plays in your everyday life? Those moments are very dear to me. I’m so happy I was able to capture them and stamp them into existence digitally and physically. We all love each other so much on that cast. They are some of the best people I know.
You also just designed your first fashion line for /Nyden, congratulations! How does it feel to know people will be out there wearing clothes you designed? I’m very excited for it to be out in the world. A piece of my story, living in existence with someone’s wardrobe, is such a lovely feeling. The line means so much to me and was inspired by me being broke and only able to afford thrift shop clothes.
How does fashion compare to acting in terms of your own creative expression? Do you find that they complement each other or do you draw from different inspirations and instincts for each? I view them separately. At least at this point, I do. Maybe someday a role will come into my life that inspires a clothing line but that hasn’t happened yet. Same goes for the inspiration aspect of it.
You also love music – can we expect a release from you soon? Yes. Very soon. I promise.
Who are your three favorite actors and musicians? Actors: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix
Musicians: Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Kendrick Lamar
You were recently part of the Model Citizens Vote campaign that encouraged people to vote on the past midterm elections. You have a huge platform and it’s great that you recognize your influence and use it for the better. How important is it for you to speak out on political issues like this and have your voice be heard? People should be the change they wish to see. If you’re not happy, do something about it. Use your voice. Be independent. Do your research. Make change. No matter the size of your platform, changing even one life matters.
What’s the most urgent change you think we need to make as a society? TO LOVE AND HAVE MERCY. Give people the benefit of the doubt and tell yourself “they didn’t mean to be hateful or hurtful.” Even when it sounds very much like their intentions were cruel. We are all on this planet together, hurling through space, and this existence is so confusing and strange. So let’s band together and be more patient with one another. And workout! It helps so much with anxiety and anger.
You’ve been very open about how much you were struggling before you got the call for Riverdale and your life changed. In case someone who’s now fighting to make their dreams a reality and is having a rough time is reading this, what would you like to say to them? Back down from no one. Push through the struggle. Pave the path yourself and show others how unstoppable you are. Believe in yourself. Truly. Believe in yourself. And work hard. Nothing will be given to you, I promise.
Article initially published in print, December 2018