‘Riverdale’ star Bernadette Beck says the show fails its Black characters
Beck is one of the latest 'Riverdale' stars to speak out.July 29, 2020
Bernadette Beck is speaking out about Riverdale‘s portrayal of Black people and the development of its Black characters.
Beck follows other co-stars who have spoken out against Riverdale over the past few months.
However, Beck is the latest actress to come forward regarding the hit show’s portrayal of Black people over the years. Back in June, Vanessa Morgan criticized Riverdale‘s storylines for its Black characters. She stated that she’s tired of seeing Black characters being “used as sidekick non-dimensional characters to our white leads.”
Although Morgan is a series regular, her character of Toni Topaz tends to be involved in more side plots alongside her fellow castmates. More specifically, the majority of her scenes pertain to being the girlfriend of Cheryl Blossom (played by Madelaine Petsch).
Morgan’s statement led to other Riverdale actresses speaking up about their experiences on the show. Ashleigh Murray, who played Pussycats’ Josie McCoy on both Riverdale and Katy Keene, also spoke out about how she’s been treated. She hopes that as more actors speak out, equal treatment will begin to happen in Hollywood.
Asha Bromfield, who played Melody Jones, also brought up the issues regarding the Pussycats, the all-Black female musical group on the show. She believes that the Pussycats don’t get the credit or screentime they deserve and are only used as a way to add sassy characters to storylines.
Now, Beck is the latest Riverdale actress to speak up. In a new interview, Beck, who plays Peaches ‘n’ Cream, says she “was made out to be a very unlikable character and therefore, an unlikeable person in people’s eyes.”
“I get it, there’s always a protagonist and antagonist, but I never had much of a story plot or enough character development to even be considered an antagonist,” she says. “I was, for no reason, depicted in a very negative, unattractive light.”
Beck further shares that her character isn’t the only one to be portrayed in a “sassy,” “mean” and negative light.
“And I’m not the first Black actress to show up on set, stand there, chew gum, and look sassy and mean,” she continues. “I feel like I was just there to fulfill a diversity quota. It’s just to fulfill points.”
In the interview, Beck expresses that producers frequently ask her to act “sassy” and that her character is someone who “always speaks her mind.” This is despite the fact that Peaches ‘n’ Cream has very little dialogue in the series.
On numerous occasions, Beck says that she was “completely forgotten” about by the director. This led to her not having any direction regarding the scenes she was acting in.
“You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day,” she says.
Beck notes that Riverdale is just a TV show. However, given its large fanbase, she worries that the portrayal of Black characters will have lasting impacts on the industry and its viewers.
She also worries about she will face repercussions for playing an underdeveloped and rather unlikable character on TV.
“If we are depicted as unlikable or our characters are not developed or we’re looked at as the enemy all the time, that affects our public persona,” she continues. “What kind of opportunities are we losing out on even after Riverdale?”
She then compares her experience and her character to her white co-stars. Due to the show’s success, her other co-stars are growing their careers while developing their characters on-screen.
“Our white co-stars are getting all this screen time and character development,” she says. “They’re building up their following, generating more fans, selling out at conventions, and fans have more of an emotional connection with them. But if we don’t necessarily get that, and we’re looked at with disdain, what does that do to us and how does that stain our reputation moving forward?”
Following Morgan’s statement back in June, Lili Reinhart showed her support. As well, show creator Roberto Aguirre Sacasa addressed the issues brought up by Morgan. In his own statement, he promises that changes will be made to Riverdale’s future seasons.
“We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa,” he says. “She’s right. We’re sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her. We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color. CHANGE is happening and will continue to happen. Riverdale will get bigger, not smaller. Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside it. All of the Riverdale writers made a donation to @BLMLA, but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writers’ room.”
Riverdale is renewed for season 5 on The CW. At this time, no official release date for the season has been shared. Season 4 ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic which shut production down earlier than anticipated.
What are your thoughts on Riverdale‘s portrayal of Black characters? Let us know in the comments below.