Another cast member on the CW’s “Riverdale” is speaking out about its portrayal of Black characters.
The teen drama was previously criticized by actress Vanessa Morgan, who is currently the only Black lead on the show. In a series of tweets in June, she called out not just the show’s portrayal of Black characters, but in media in general.
Now, in a new interview with Elle magazine, actress Bernadette Beck, who joined the cast in Season 3 as Peaches ‘N Cream, derided the show for portraying her as a one-dimensional antagonist designed to look “sassy” and stand in the background doing nothing.
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“I was made out to be a very unlikable character and therefore, an unlikable person in people’s eyes,” she told the outlet.
She went on to note that she was brought on as an antagonist to the other characters, but never received any kind of back story or characterization, relegating her part to just flashing dirty looks to her co-stars while they get all the lines and attention. She even went as far as to accuse the show of filling a “diversity quota.”
“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,” Beck explained. “I was, for no reason, depicted in a very negative, unattractive light. And I’m not the first Black actress to show up on set, stand there, chew gum, and look sassy and mean. I feel like I was just there to fulfill a diversity quota. It’s just to fulfill points.”
She also alleged that the kind of treatment she’s talking about was not relegated to her on-camera work, saying that Black cast members are often an afterthought on set.
“I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once,” Beck says. “The director [would] be walking off set and I’d have to chase them down because I had no idea where to stand, what to do — I just hadn’t been given any instruction. You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day.”
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Beck notes that the show isn’t necessarily about her character, but explains that negative portrayals can be damaging to Black actors. Because her character was not given any emotions or vulnerability, she became an easy target of vitriol for the show’s young fan base. While her co-stars get other roles and amass followings on social media, she deals with body shaming, death threats and anxiety from “Riverdale” fans.
“I didn’t understand when I first got on that show that it meant something for your character to be likable,” she concluded.
The actress’ comments echo those made by her co-star, Morgan, who plays Toni on “Riverdale.”
In June she tweeted that she was, “Tired of how black people are portrayed in Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show. It starts with the media. I’m not being [quiet] anymore.”
She added, “And I will no longer take roles that don’t properly represent us. PERIOD.”
Her viral thread prompted a response from “Riverdale” showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who vowed to do better on the show.
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“We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. 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,” he wrote.
“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 BLM, but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writers’ room,” Aguirre-Sacasa continued.