(By the way... thank you Riverdale, for teaching viewers not to do shrooms while handcuffed to a desk in your former high school sex bunker. It clearly is not the best idea.)
To help make sense of everything that just happened and for a tease at all the drama still to come, ET called up creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for an exclusive breakdown of Betty's now-infamous voicemail from Jughead.
Plus, he shares what's next for Bughead, Choni, Barchie, Jabitha and Varchie in the rest of season 5, and what can fans expect from the upcoming musical episode, and the highly anticipated return of Josie and the Pussycats. Keep reading for all the inside scoop!
ET: This first episode back after the hiatus is wild, but my biggest takeaway was I need more Tabitha and Betty pretty please!
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I'm with you! That's so funny and the gift of this episode is getting to see Lili [Reinhart] and Erinn [Westbrook] in scenes together. It's funny because in the writers' room we went from, like, shipping Tabitha and Jughead to shipping Tabitha and Betty! [Laughs] They're so good together and I'm very happy to tell you that friendship continues through the rest of season five. What's great is the episode is sort of like the ghosts of girlfriends past, present and future with Jughead and I love that we're finally hearing the contents of the mysterious voicemail.
Yes, let's talk about that voicemail because that message was way more intense and damning than I thought it was going to be. However, I need to praise Cole [Sprouse] because he absolutely crushed it and his vocal performance was both so visceral and moving. Talk to me about how you created that moment.
Yeah, well first off, Cole did kill it on that voicemail and I will say he first recorded it when we shot that episode. But in an upcoming episode, we follow Jughead and everything that has happened in those seven years. We see how Betty and Jughead's relationship evolved over those seven years and we see the events that lead to that tragic night when he left that message -- and Cole's performance in that episode is so good.
And I've got to give him all the credit because he reached out to me and he said, "Hey, I want to go back and I want to re-record the message that I left Betty in 511." So even after we locked that episode, we went back and looped in Cole's [new] performance. And these poor actors, you know they sometimes have no idea why they're doing things, but then they find out three episodes later. So with Cole we initially talked a little bit about the voicemail and he totally dove in and went for it -- but then once he had more context, he went back and re-recorded it and it's a beautiful performance that Cole gives in that episode.
Do you feel like the additional context from this future episode which explores Jughead's past will help to change the audience's perspective of the voicemail?
Yeah I definitely think so, I love Jughead's arc and in a very real way this season is kind of about him unpacking his trauma. I think he's wrestling with some even more real demons, like I think we'll see him wrestling with some of the same problems his father had, like alcoholism for instance. And I think if not for Cole, I'm not sure that that storyline would land the way that it does, but again he's so good.
And listen, that's a pretty terrible message, but I think people will understand where Jughead's headspace was when we get to that [future] episode. And listen, I love Jughead and I root for him and I root for him and Betty so hopefully people will understand that that voicemail reflects a moment in time. But it is pretty intense though. I remember when I first was watching I was like, "Oh God!" but again, Cole killed it. And I think Betty, and subsequently Lili, I think she weirdly understands Jughead better than anyone and I think it's close to a dealbreaker, but hopefully not a dealbreaker.
Well, speaking of Betty and Jughead, should we dive into our traditional "Riverdale Romance Rundown" for what's next for all our potential ships in the rest of season 5?
Okay, perfect. Let's talk about Betty's romantic life: Have we reached the end of Barchie? We haven't seen Betty and Archie together in a minute and it seems like she's a bit preoccupied with finding Jug. What's their status?
I will say that when Betty and Archie had to table their relationship, we really liked them together -- even just as friends with benefits. It kind of reminded us that even as friends, it's great to see Betty and Archie. So I will say we do pick that up towards the end of the season and we do explore another facet of Betty and Archie being together that's different from just friends, that's different from being friends with benefits. I'll leave it to you to speculate on what that different facet is, but it is coming. It is coming.
I'm not sure how Betty and Jughead fans are going to feel after they hear the voicemail, but I'm sure they're still going to be diehard for Bughead. What can you tease about these two as they try to put pieces back together -- even though those pieces seem pretty smashed right now?
What's funny is that Betty and Jughead haven't really been in a storyline together [this season] and when we did the time jump we really wanted to make sure that when we returned to it, [Riverdale] didn't immediately fall into the same show. But I will say we love that Betty is worried about Jughead, we love that she's teaming up with Tabitha to try and find him. And there's one scene, I think it's maybe episode 516 that is almost like a standalone mini opera. It's just Betty and Jughead alone and it's so good to see Lili and Cole in scenes together and their chemistry is sort of undeniable. So we are going to see more of Betty and Jughead and even if it doesn't mean that they are immediately getting back together, they were an important part of each other's life and it's good that we're getting back to that.
I just love Tabitha so much and I think the actress who plays her, Erinn Westbrook, is doing such a great job with the role. And I'm loving the dynamic between Tabitha and Jughead because they definitely have chemistry. What can you tease about this potential ship?
Erinn is an amazing actor and what's so hard is she joined us during a pandemic when we couldn't even have a "Welcome to Riverdale!" party for Erinn, but she has slipped in effortlessly. And what's funny is that she and Cole have amazing chemistry together, but I remember when we started this season, Cole was like, "Oh my God, Roberto, please let Jughead be single for a little bit." And I was like, "I hear you Cole, but let's just see what happens." [Laughs] But I love them together and I think the fact that they haven't gotten together is a good thing because I think Jughead is not in a place to rush into anything. I'm happy that their friendship is developing first and foremost so that if they do explore something romantic, that it will hopefully be a more solid base and Jughead will kind of have his head on a little bit straighter. But there's definitely more coming with Tabitha and Jughead, they have a really great storyline in our musical episode later this season.
And you know what's funny is that Cole is singing in the musical, which is great! He may not like it, but he's so good at it and he's so swoon-worthy. Normally I will reach out to Cole, but genuinely it got away from me this year, so Cole reached out and he's like, "Oh my God, Roberto another musical? And I'm singing?" And I was like, "Please Cole, you have to do it, you're so swoon-worthy when you sing!" So [Tabitha and Jughead] have a really nice story in that musical episode. And Cole, if he wants to be a musical leading man, that's one of the things that he can and should do because he's great.
Let's talk about Veronica and Archie. I feel like it's the same dance, different day, we just have to get Chad out of the way. What's next for these two?
Well it's interesting because in this first episode back, one thing that's very significant -- and I have to tell people to keep an eye on it -- is that Archie says to Veronica, "Hey, until you're fully divorced from Chad, I think we should slow down." And that is a decision that is going to have huge repercussions in subsequent episodes, so keep a very close eye on that pact that Archie and Veronica make. And I love that scene towards the end of the episode when they're in the diner and you can tell that both of them want to immediately embrace and get back together and that they're trying to be responsible and clear their debts. But yeah that conversation seems like a little thing, but it resonates very deeply in the rest of the season.
What can you tease about the return of the one-and-only Toni Topaz and could we see the rise of Choni in subsequent episodes?
Yes, Vanessa [Morgan] is coming back and we're going to be with Toni for the birth of the baby! And you do get to see more of Toni and Cheryl, but even more importantly, you see more of Toni. And one of the things that was really important to us coming back this year was making sure that Toni and Cheryl had good separate storyline and that we weren't just focusing on Toni as part of Choni.
So when Vanessa came back from her leave, we once again wanted to make sure that we were honoring that character, so you will see more of Toni and Cheryl. But you're also going to see more of Toni and Fangs, which is great. You're going to see more of Toni and Archie, so it's been really great. And I have been teasing that in the Josie and the Pussycats episode, as a bonus we get great music that has Tabitha, Toni and Alexander Cabot from Katy Keene and it's honestly just pure joy.
I'm so excited! You know how much I've always loved the Pussycats and seeing Ashleigh Murray as Josie, so I can't wait to see them again! Break it down for me: Is it a one episode extravaganza? What can you tell me?
You know what, this is what I'll say: Once we get a little bit closer let's have another talk about the Pussycats and I will spill all the tea.
Deal! Until then, give me a little tease. What was it like having Ashleigh back on set?
It was amazing and when I talked to Ashleigh and the girls about bringing them back they were like, "Okay, what's the story?" And I'm proud to say I think this is our best Josie and the Pussycats story. They're such stars and we're doing something with Josie that we've never done before. We didn't do it on Riverdale, we didn't do it on Katy Keene. We'll talk about it when we get a little bit closer but I've got to tell you, Hayley [Law] and Asha [Bromfield] they're so good and they're such stars and I think people's minds are going to be blown by it because this is one of the best episodes we've done this season.
And this episode with Josie and the Pussycats is separate from the next Riverdale musical episode?
Yes! And you know that's funny is we had to shoot the pussycats episode out of order, so the pussycats episode was actually the last episode we shot this season. It was one of our biggest episodes and it was at the end of the year so everyone was exhausted, but everyone gave it their all and it's a real thing of beauty. I think people will be blown away by it and I will definitely be talking to you when we get a little bit closer because it's pretty special.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.