Tag Archives: Ross Butler

What’s in the cards for Riverdale’s Reggie, Josie and The Pussycats?

(From left) Ross Butler, Ashleigh Murray as Josie. (Ross Butler Twitter, CW)

If there are a couple of characters I’m super intrigued about (aside from my fav Jughead), it’s Reggie, Josie and her band The Pussycats. I feel there’s a lot of potential with these characters; the only question is if that potential will be mined to its fullest extent.

You might be asking, in the words of 1970s-era Violet Beauregarde, “What’s so fab about it?” What’s so great about Reggie and the Pussycats? A lot of stuff is great about them! Let’s look at the characters separately.

Reggie

Reggie and the crew (including Chuck Clayton) are chillaxing while being douches. Except for Veronica. (Screencap/Ross Butler Twitter)

Reggie, played by Ross Butler, is one of the game-changing characters on the show, or, potentially game-changing characters on the show if Reggie ever gets fleshed out.

What makes him so game-changing is that he’s been cast as an actor with Asian heritage. In one of the few times in television, there’s been an active instance of going against the Asian male stereotype.

Butler talked a lot about his groundbreaking role in Riverdale and several other roles on his resume that have defied stereotypes in an interview with Refinery 29. Some key points of the interview:

There’s a lack of Asian representation on TV, which is slowly changing. As an Asian-American actor, have you faced any particular challenges?

“This is something that has been a core [part] of me as an actor, ever since I [became one]. We’re a very underrepresented population in Hollywood, but we are the majority population of the world. It’s a weird dichotomy that we have here. It’s starting to get better and we are starting to see more Asians in roles, but we’re not seeing a lot of Asians playing roles [that are] not specifically written for Asians. So when I first started out, I was being sent on auditions for “the geek,” “the techie.” Let’s be honest guys, I don’t look like a techie [laughs].

“I told my agents, ‘Don’t send me out for [roles written for Asian actors].’ For a while, I didn’t get any auditions, or I’d get very few… But then I started to pick up momentum and started booking roles that weren’t [necessarily written for] Asian actors. For K.C. Undercover, my role wasn’t written for an Asian actor, and I was the only Asian in the audition room. That’s a trend I see today, when I go out for non-Asian roles: I’ll be one of the only Asian people in the room, if not the only one.”

Now you play a football player!
“When I was a kid, there wasn’t an Asian-American Ryan Gosling, or an Asian-American Robert Downey Jr. that you would look up to… Now, [on Riverdale] I play kind of a jerky football player, and on Thirteen Reasons Why I play a nice basketball player who does a bad thing, and on Teen Wolf I played a lacrosse player. Asians can be athletic, we don’t have to fit into this image that [the media] has for [us]. Booking these roles that aren’t necessarily [for Asian actors] is something I’m proud of and, hopefully, will keep doing.”

Can you tease a little bit about your character in Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why?
“I play Zach Dempsey, who is a basketball player, one of the jocks… He’s a guy’s guy, he fits in with all the guys, he’s one of the bros. What I’ll say about him is that he isn’t what you expect him to be. He is a jock, but he has a depth to him that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a jock that hangs out in the popular group. He isn’t as smart as the other kids, but he has a sensitive side to him. How that ties in… you guys will have to see.”

In short, Reggie is very much needed on TV. However, when will Reggie be fleshed out from just being what he is now, which is a cardboard cutout of a jock? Coming back to this later.

Josie and The Pussycats

Ashleigh Murray as Josie in the pilot episode of “Riverdale.” (Katie Yu/The CW)

Again, Josie and the Pussycats represent a conscious effort to diversify the world of Riverdale. In the show, Josie and the Pussycats are a group made up of three black girls instead of the original version, which only features Valerie as the only person of color in the group.

The decision to make Josie and the Pussycats all black wasn’t just to give the cast more diversity for diversity’s sake; racial privilege (or lack thereof) is addressed in the third episode of Riverdale, when Josie schools Archie on how her and her Pussycats have to “claw their way” to the top of the charts while Archie could waltz into any recording studio and get catered to (being forced to work twice as hard and “claw” their own path to the top is why they’ve called themselves “Pussycats,” after all).

Actress Ashleigh Murray has complete faith in the show’s creative team when it comes to Josie’s storyline as she told ComicBook.com:

“I’m a huge admirer of them,” Murray said of the current creative team on the comics. “I read their interviews about the launch of the comic and it really put me at ease. Everything that they believe and see Josie to be is exactly what I’ve been saying about her myself. It gives me peace of mind that how I view her and how I believe her to be and the role model that I think she is and can continue to be for a lot of young people is represented right on the money.”

And she sees a lot of herself in Josie, as she told Yahoo.com:

I have a lot of similarities to Josie, which is why I enjoy playing her. She’s who I wish I was in high school. I was perseverant and headstrong, but I didn’t think I was quite as brave as Josie is. I have this image of her in my mind, and it’s adjectives about who she is rather than who she sounds like. It’s about who she wants to be and how she wants people to see her.

Also, even though she told Yahoo.com that a “duet” is in the future for Archie and Josie, she’s not keen on Josie becoming romantically interested in Archie. Instead, she’s got another person in mind.

[On if she’d want the writers to hook Josie and Archie up] Oh my god, no! [Laughs] I would be so shocked. People ask me if it’s going to be Archie and Josie together, and I go, “Ewww.” But just watch, by the fifth episode of Season 2, Archie’s going to be flirting with Josie, she’s going to be about it, and I’m going to be like, “What the hell is going on?”

Could she be talking about Reggie? Murray’s tweet seems to suggest that she’d like for her character and Butler’s character to hook up.

If so, that would be killer. It’d be yet another great moment for diversity; we rarely see black women/Asian men pairings on television, and if Josie and Reggie get together, then it’ll be something fantastic to see.

 

Worries

Now for my worries. All of which can be condensed to one sentence:

Will Reggie and Josie and her girls be fleshed out???

Look, I know we’re just in the beginning stages of this season, but I’d like to know if these characters are going to become actual characters instead of background. For instance, will Josie and the Pussycats become less of a Greek Chorus-type situation and become more integrated characters? In the Yahoo interview above, Murray revealed that Josie won’t be involved in the mystery surrounding Jason, but she’s still got to be involved in some of the other storylines, right? And by “involved,” I mean in a much more well-rounded way than just in relation to her music. And as I said in my Chuck Clayton article, there are more black girls in Riverdale, right?

Also, I’m well aware that Butler s currently filming another show, Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, so he probably didn’t have a lot of time to be on set, much less become fully integrated as a character until filming Thirteen Reasons Why is over. However, if he was promised to have a bigger role towards the end of Season 1 and/or Season 2 (if we get a second season, that is), then will he finally become part of the mystery? I’m just anxious to see more of Reggie since Reggie actually is part of the main cast.

What do you think about Reggie and Josie and the Pussycats? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

CW’s “Riverdale” Takes Archie Comics Out of the 1940s

As you will see in a few days on JUST ADD COLOR, I am a huge Archie Comics aficionado. Back in the mid ’90s, when I was still in middle school, I happened to pick up an Archie Comics digest from the grocery store, and fell in love with these kids’ hijinks and the art style. The more into Archie Comics I became, the more I loved it. The more I loved it, the more I started to dissect and analyze, and the more I hoped the company would grow into something beyond just reliving its glory days of the ’60s.

Since then, Archie Comics has really come into not just the 21st century, but into its own new identity as the comic book for humorous, slice-of-life teenage comedy. In many ways, the company went back to its core tenet of being about teens, for teens by becoming what it was when it first debuted in the 1940s—fresh and relevant. Archie Comics has exploded now with the new Archie and Jughead series, both of which are amazing in terms of writing and illustration, and the upcoming CW teen drama, Riverdale.

Riverdale continues Archie Comics’ obsession with relevance by rejiggering the concepts of the “America’s Favorite Teenager” and what life in the picturesque Riverdale is really about. To quote Archie Comics:

The live-action series offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade. The show will focus on the eternal love triangle of Archie Andrews, girl-next-door Betty Cooper, and rich socialite Veronica Lodge, and will include the entire cast of characters from the comic books–including Archie’s rival, Reggie Mantle, and his slacker best friend, Jughead Jones.

Popular gay character Kevin Keller will also play a pivotal role. In addition to the core cast, “Riverdale” will introduce other characters from Archie Comics’ expansive library, including Josie and the Pussycats.

Let’s take a look at our group of Riverdalians (with character descriptions quoted from Archie Comics’ Riverdale posts):

Archie Andrews (played by K.J. Apa)

In an exclusive announcement, Deadline described Apa’s Archie as “an intense, conflicted teen, a boyish high school sophomore who got pumped up over the summer working construction and is now juggling the interest of several girls, as well as trying to balance his passion for writing and performing music–against the wishes of his father and his football coach.”

Josie McCoy (played by Ashleigh Murray)

Murray’s Josie is described as “a gorgeous, snooty and ambitious girl who is the lead singer for popular band Josie and the Pussycats. She has zero interest in recording any songs written by fellow teen Archie.”

Jughead Jones (played by Cole Sprouse)

Sprouse’s Jughead is described as “a heartthrob with a philosophical bent and former best friend of Archie Andrews.”

Veronica (played by Camilla Mendes)

In the exclusive announcement, Deadline described Mendes’s Vernoica as a silver-tongued high school sophomore who returns to Riverdale from New York, eager to reinvent herself after a scandal involving her father.

Betty (played by Lili Reinhart)

In an exclusive announcement, Deadline described Reinhart’s Betty as “sweet, studious, eager-to-please and wholesome, with a huge crush on her longtime best friend, Archie.”

Cheryl Blossom (played by Madelaine Petsch)

In the exclusive announcement, Deadline described Petsch’s Cheryl as rich, entitled, and never accountable. A manipulative mean girl who kills with kindness, she recently lost her twin brother in a mysterious accident.

Reggie Mantle (played by Ross Butler)

No official Archie Comics/Deadline character description, but we know already from the comics that Reggie is Archie’s rival in all things, including the dating department.

Dilton (played by Daniel Yang)

Again,  no official description for Dilton, but in the comics, he’s the nerdy, brilliant friend to the core Riverdale gang. He also dated Cheryl Blossom at one point in time, so don’t sleep on Dilton’s hidden mack game.

Moose Mason (played by Cody Kearsley)

Once again, no official description, but Moose is Midge Klump’s long-time boyfriend. Moose is also on the school’s wrestling team, and is often depicted as being, to use one of Wendy Williams’ favorite phrases, “less than smart.” It was only relatively recently that Moose’s depiction was scaled back and taken a bit more sensitively; he was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explains why the character often has trouble with schoolwork. Maybe his dyslexia will become a feature of his characterization in Riverdale.

Tina Patel (Olivia Ryan Stern)

No official description, but Tina is from the later wave of old-style Archie comics. Tina was introduced as the younger sister of Raj Patel, the town’s resident aspiring filmmaker. Unlike Raj, Tina was following in her parents’ footsteps of becoming a doctor, making Raj the black sheep of the family. If memory serves, she also was bumped up a grade, so she’s actually in the same grade as Raj despite being younger than him.

The adults cast so far include:

Yes, ’90s friends; that’s Mr. 90210 himself! With him as a part of the cast, this already feels like the baton of stellar teen dramas has been handed down to the next generation. Riverdale has the Luke Perry Seal of Approval.

What can we expect?: Already, we can see some ways in which Riverdale is distancing itself from the Archie stories of old while bringing the Archie Comics company further into the now. We have a multiracial, multicultural cast, with several characters cast as non-white actors, including Apa, who is Samoan-Kiwi.

But a Rainbow Coalition cast isn’t the only reason this show has my radar. As I wrote above, the show is setting up a subversive take on the Riverdale we’ve come to know and love, and if Season Zero is to be believed, the Riverdale pilot is something that must be seen to be believed. There’s murder, sleeping with a teacher, intrigue, and all sorts of soapy turns. Also, Jughead’s the narrator, which seems like a cool, Jughead-ish thing to do (he is, after all, divorced from all the drama of his friends and acts as the observer of their lives).

As much as Riverdale promises, there’s still some more that it could have done. At one point, Jughead was supposed to be played by a deaf actor. TV Line (as reported by The Mary Sue) had the official casting calls, which asked for a “hearing-impaired” actor. As far as I know, Sprouse isn’t hearing-impaired, so I wonder why the change in Jughead’s character was made. If it was made—maybe the narration we hear are Jughead’s thoughts, and perhaps Sprouse signs on screen. But still, it could have been a great opportunity for a hearing-impaired actor to get his moment. I’m not poo-pooing Sprouse’s acting ability before we’ve even seen him in the role; I wish him goodwill. I’m just sayin’, from an observer’s perspective, some could find an issue with a non-deaf person playing a deaf role, especially since there are deaf actors and actresses out there (such as Freeform’s Switched at Birth stars Marlee Matlin (also an Oscar winner), Katie Leclerc, and Sean Berdy, late night host Stephen Colbert, There Will Be Blood‘s Russell Harvard, and many others in stage theater).

Other observations: Jughead is canonically asexual in the new Jughead books. In the show, Jughead is described as a heartthrob, and that’s actually in keeping with his character, since Jughead gained a kinda heartthrob status through later runs of the old Archie books. Part of Jughead becoming attractive to girls was because he never wanted a relationship anyways, and some girl characters took at as a challenge (like Ethel, who hasn’t been cast as of yet). But parts of the fandom had also decided that Jughead was gay, which may or may not have led to issues featuring Jughead in an ill-fated love triangle of his own. Stories of Jughead in one-off relationships would then become peppered throughout the old Archie canon for whatever reason there was at the time, but Jughead had already been linked to someone in the old ’40s comics—Betty. Back then, it seemed like there was less of a love triangle between Betty, Archie, and Veronica, and more of Betty trying to disrupt Veronica and Archie’s relationship and, being desperate for any male attention, would try to seduce Jughead, who just went along with it because of his friendship with Betty.

However, with all of that said, will Jughead actively engage in relationships on Riverdale because he is a heartthrob? Or is he a heartthrob because he’s unattainable? Will Jughead become the second out asexual character on television (the first being Voodoo from USA’s Sirens)? Or, if Jughead’s asexuality doesn’t extend to the show’s canon (which it might not, since the show’s not adhering to old or new Archie stories, anyways), then will Jughead’s sexuality once again become the hot button issue of the day? One of the enduring parts of Jughead’s character is that, because he’s removes himself from the heteronormative discussion, everyone can see some element of themselves in him. You can believe he’s straight, gay, asexual, aromantic, bisexual, and any other type of sexuality, and you’d be justified in your theory. Jughead is one of those characters in entertainment who become a sexuality litmus test, and it’s fascinating to see just how everyone interprets him differently and why.

Last, Riverdale is breaking new ground by casting two actors from the AAPI spectrum as part of “the beautiful people.” Like I’ve written several times before, Asian men rarely get the heartthrob treatment, and to have Archie and Reggie played by Apa and Butler is awesome. Of course, we’ve got some caveats to discuss. Apa can easily code as “white,” which will surely help him land more leading roles than someone like Butler, who might still have to work against racist casting calls. But both Apa and Butler might face less discrimination than Yang, who is playing a character that now has a very complicated situation. Dilton is white in the comics, so having someone else represent Dilton plays into the movement to have more inclusion on screen. But, Dilton is also a nerd, so what does it mean that an Asian guy was cast as the nerd? Again, like with Sprouse, I’m not ragging on Yang getting a job, but I am an entertainment/cultural critic. I wonder what Yang will do to take the character out of the easy stereotype and into a nuanced, layered performance.

With all of that said, I’m excited to see what Riverdale holds for us. What do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!