A Weekend in “Riverdale:" Inside the Official Fan Convention

Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe was nowhere in sight, but that didn’t deter avid fans from reveling at the recent Riverdale Official Convention in Whippany, New Jersey. The event—specially curated for the most passionate aficionados of the CW series—featured Q&A’s, photo ops, autographs, and events with cast members Camila Mendes (Veronica), Charles Melton (Reggie), Casey Cott (Kevin), Chad Michael Murray (Edgar Evernever), Jordan Connor (Sweet Pea), Hart Denton (Chic), Lochlyn Munro (Hal Cooper), Zoé De Grand Maison (Evelyn Evernever), Rob Raco (Joaquin), and Martin Cummins (Sheriff Tom Keller). 

The weekend kicked off with a panel exclusive to gold ticket holders, lead by on-screen couple Camila Mendes and Charles Melton (aka “Veggie”). The two first dove into one of their favorite elements of the show: the food. After explaining how she spilled avocado toast on her pants this morning, Mendes revealed how the show’s iconic milkshakes are not necessarily what they seem: “The prop team always asks us, ‘What do you guys want in your milkshake today?’ Sometimes people really just want a milkshake. But sometimes you're like, okay, if I actually drink this every take, I’m going to feel sick from drinking so much dairy. I always ask for some almond milk and sugar-free chocolate powder so I don't feel totally sick by the end. Lili [Reinhart] always asks straight up for a milkshake or a sundae because she loves that.“ Then, on a more serious note, they described their favorite parts of their characters, as well as which one they would be if they weren’t cast in the role they currently hold (Mendes answered “FP Jones—I’d look cute in a sheriff’s hat” without hesitation). The quality Mendes admires most about Veronica is her “quick-witted [nature]...she always knows the right thing to say,” while Melton loves Reggie’s car as well as how he can “express emotions in a big way.” As for what they’d like to see more of in the coming season, Melton is looking forward to fans finally meeting Reggie’s parents. Mendes, on the other hand, admitted her desire for there to be “a lot more interaction between the core four [Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Jughead], where they're all detectives solving crimes together...a little bit more of the Scooby-Doo element from season one instead of [the characters simply] with flashlights searching the school at night [engaged in] their own individual storylines.”

In between meet and greets and panels, the host—Lochlyn Monro—entertained the audience with behind-the-scenes secrets regarding the set. “We film right outside of a town in British Columbia, Canada,” he explained. “The diner from the pilot of the show was a real diner called Rocko’s or something from that town. But they eventually decided to build the diner on the lot right beside our trailers so we could use it any time we wanted to. It was built in the corner of the lot, and they strategically put it so that if they shot angled upwards, there would be a mountain in the background that made it look like small-town America.” The Cooper house had a similar transformation: “It was originally a house that we had to rent, but in the second season, they built it,” said Monro. “Now, all the houses and their interiors are built inside sound stages so we don’t have to worry about phoning up people and [asking to borrow them].”

I had a chance to chat in private with Martin Cummins about why his role as Sheriff Tom Keller means so much to him. “My favorite part of playing my character is my relationship with Casey [Cott],” he asserted without hesitation. “I don't think there's any question about that. I'm a parent—I have four kids—and Casey is like my eldest. I have a parental feeling towards him, and I love the relationship. My character is a Republican sheriff who just loves his kid, regardless of who or what he is.“ Another plus? Spending time with castmate KJ Apa. “I enjoy working with him because he's such a laugh, and he's so loose and relaxed,” Cummins said. “We’ll send each other photos a lot!” As for the most challenging part of being on Riverdale, Cummins feels responsible for delivering the emotional content of the series in the best way possible. “I try to be delicate with it and not too heavy-handed,” he explained. “You want to do service to something like that because [there aren’t many] teen or kid programs points toward [that kind of emotion].”

In the early afternoon, Casey Cott took the stage for his panel; naturally, as he comes from a musical theater background, he discussed how that comes into play in his Riverdale experience. “[Musical episodes] are not really like doing a musical,” he began. “They’re really fun, but they’re kind of their own new form that I've had to learn how to do, especially because it’s acting for the camera. It's so easy for me to do too much and the [director says], ‘You've got to calm down.’ There's just so much happening, whereas when you're doing theater, you can just let all that go and do whatever. You don't really have to think too much without the camera and everything.” Although Riverdale featured two musical episodes—Carrie and Heathers—Cott did not have a personal preference: “There were parts of both that I really liked. I think the Heathers episode was a little more fun because we had done [a musical episode] before, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and I think it came together better than I anticipated. But Carrie was really fun, too. I'll never forget being in the auditorium, looking up, and seeing Midge nailed to the backdrop while Mädchen [Amick, who plays Alice Cooper] screeched. That's just not something I thought I'd ever see in my life. We also got to do the big, fun number in that weird dungeon, which was pretty cool.“ Additionally, in the midst of Pride Weekend, Cott couldn’t help but express what playing a character of the LGBTQ community means to him: “I have a lot of pride in playing Kevin. I think the reason I love playing him is because of the way the writers have created his character. He’s extremely strong, and he’s very truthful in that he makes mistakes and does a lot of crazy things, just like we all do. But in the end, he's very loyal and grounded in who he is. Those are the attributes that we should be projecting, as actors playing high schoolers, that high schoolers should be grounded, loyal, kind, and family-oriented.”

As Season 4 of Riverdale remains highly anticipated (and top secret, except the first episode as tribute to Luke Perry), this year’s NJ Official Convention served as an effective placeholder that allowed attendees to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of the show. The future plotline of the series is unclear for now, but one thing’s for sure: fans will forever maintain their fervor for the characters they have come to know and love.