The season 4 premiere and Luke Perry tribute episode of Riverdale has a Shannen Doherty cameo that won't leave a dry eye in the house. It's a way to nod to Perry's time on the hit '90s show Beverly Hills, 90210, on which Doherty and Perry starred together. But there's also a heartbreaking reason the Riverdale showrunners decided to include it. Apparently, it was more than just a nod to Perry's past.
Following Perry's death in March 2019, the Riverdale team contacted his good friend Doherty to appear in the season 4 Perry tribute episode because Perry had been pulling for her to make a cameo since season 1. Her character likely won't return after that, but her brief role in the premiere is a significant one.
Entertainment Weekly reported that Doherty is playing the person who relays the news of Fred's death. “She was there and she's an unexpected source of comfort to Archie," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "A big piece of what happened to Fred comes to Archie through Shannen's character. The scene is so heartbreaking because you really feel Shannen’s love for Luke."
Doherty jumped at the chance to pay homage to her friend on The CW show. "I am deeply honored to pay tribute to Luke on Riverdale. The care in which this show takes in honoring his memory is beautiful. He is missed. Today. Tomorrow. Forever," Doherty wrote on Instagram after she accepted the cameo role.
As one of Perry's longtime friends and colleagues, Doherty was devastated to hear of Perry's sudden passing. "I'm struggling with this loss and am having a hard time with my thoughts. But, my heart goes out to his family and friends who were blessed by his light in their (and mine) lives. Processing this is impossible right now," she wrote on Instagram at the time.
Perry, who played Archie's dad Fred on Riverdale, died while season 3 was still airing. However, the team decided to take their time addressing his character's death in order to give it the attention it deserved.
"We really wanted to honor Luke, to honor Fred and we wanted it to be a standalone, really emotional, really focused on what this character meant to this group of people," creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said at San Diego Comic-Con of the season 4 tribute episode, according to Variety. He added that Perry had always wanted Doherty to cameo on the show since back in season 1. "They were such good friends, and when we were putting together this tribute episode, we wanted to make it as special as possible, and so we asked Shannen to do a pivotal, super-emotional role … It's very impactful." said Aguirre-Sacasa.
Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead on Riverdale, added during that panel that it was really special to have Doherty there on set as they mourned Perry. "It was cathartic for all of us, it put the cherry on top of that episode and made a nice tribute," Sprouse said. "She was overjoyed to have the ability to share some of the burden of Luke's passing that she had gone through in a cathartic setting with the rest of us."
E! reported that Doherty described her Riverdale cameo in a similar fashion at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "It was extremely hard in the sense of the emotions, but I feel really proud and honored, and extremely humbled, that they asked me and that I got to be a part of it," Doherty said. "It was a show that he had been trying to get me on since day one … So, it sort of was like this really beautiful moment and that cast loves him — loves, loves, loves him. It was cathartic in a lot of ways and very, very hard and emotional."
This junction of Perry's old and new co-stars will undoubtedly be emotional for fans to watch as well. Riverdale is not just saying goodbye to a character, but to the man the cast and crew cared for so dearly, with the help of Doherty, one of Perry's dearest friends and colleagues. It's a reminder that, while we loved him as Fred Andrews, Perry was much more than a single character and that his legacy runs much deeper.