Riverdale, the CW series based on the Archie Comic, has been a huge success. Now in its second season, the show offers the drama, love triangles, and a dark high school ecosystem that young adults — and a faithful cluster of R29ers — crave every week. If it weren’t for the string of violence that has stripped the town of Riverdale of its innocence, one could call the community quaint. It’s home to a host of characters that fit neatly into the identifiable boxes that we’re used to in teenaged drama series.
However, no one embodies intersectionality quite like newcomer Toni Topaz, the biracial girl from the South Side who made her debut in season two. Played by Vanessa Morgan, Toni brings the feminine energy run amuck on Riverdale’s North Side to the other side of the tracks. Morgan put in time on MTV's the Shannara Chronicles and Finding Carter, but fans might also recognize her from a stint on Degrassi: The Next Generation.
In her time on Riverdale, has put her own ethical spin on being a girl from the “wrong” side of town and given voice to a fan favorite b-list character from the comics. I had the pleasure of speaking Morgan about bringing Toni to life every week for a group of fans who don’t miss a beat. Read on for her thoughts on playing a bisexual character, her Riverdale style, and aggro Bughead shippers.
Refinery29: How are you feeling about playing an openly bisexual character on the show?
Vanessa Morgan: “I'm super pumped about it. I'm all for ‘love is love.’ You fall in love with somebody's soul. Gender shouldn't be a factor. Getting to represent that on TV — especially being biracial and bisexual — I think it's groundbreaking and I'm really proud to be part of that.”
Will Toni get a female love interest now that we know she’s more interested in girls?
“I definitely think there will be. The script is on lockdown. But I'm excited for when that happens.”
So am I! I know you got hate mail from fans who thought you were a threat to Jughead and Betty's relationship. Do you think that people's opinion has changed now that Toni’s sexuality is out in the open?
“It's so crazy because people were hating, thinking I'm interfering in the relationship and now that Toni has told Jughead that she's more into girls, the hate just seemed to stop [laughs]. People are like "Oh, okay — she's not going to interfere anymore." I think it was one of those things where Jughead and Toni are friends and they connect. It was a heat of the passionate moment kiss. And then Toni was like, 'You're not over girlfriend and my preference is girls. Let's just move on from this.'”
What was it like joining the cast of a show with such diehard fans and a cult following?
“It's been crazy. I know what you mean. There's definitely a cult following. It's this crazy thing of a fandom on my social media that's arisen from it. It's so cool because I was a fan of the show and everybody welcomed me with open arms.”
Would you ever actually live in Riverdale?“I would love to live in Riverdale. Maybe not with the Black Hood on the loose, but regardless of that though, 100%. I love South Side. I'm a Serpent, so I'm protected.”
Toni Topaz is known for her pink hair. How do you pull off the look every week? Do you love it?
“I love the pink. I've been wanting to go more pink, and more pink, and more pink so that's great that they let me do it. I basically use a L'Oreal Colorista washout hair dye. It lasts five to eight hair washes and I usually do it every two weeks. I put it on, leave it on for 20 minutes and that nice rose gold pink lasts.”
Does that process happen on human hair extensions or is it a wig?
“Yes. I wear my own hair and clip in extensions.”
Do you hang out with any of the cast outside of the set?
“Yeah, definitely. Everybody has really busy schedules and they don't match up all the time. But for sure, if there's time to hang out off set, I'm really close with Madelaine [Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom]. She's one of my best friends. We hang out on our day off all the time.”
Are you working on any other projects or does Riverdale monopolize all of your time?
“Just Riverdale at the moment. In June I finished the other show I'm working on, the Shannara Chronicles.”