It’s distinctly possible that nobody — fans included — thought The CW’s Riverdale would make it all the way to 100 episodes. The formerly teen show, now focusing on the classic Archie Comics characters as adults, has been a wild ride that frequently pushes the boundaries of the even tenuous reality of the Town With Pep.
But this week’s episode, the fifth part of a five episode event that found the cast trapped in a dark, alternate universe called Rivervale, was another thing entirely. Spoilers for “Chapter One Hundred: The Jughead Paradox” past this point, but in the hour Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) discovers that Rivervale and Riverdale are linked, parallel universes; and if he doesn’t come up with a solution, they’ll both be destroyed. At first, he thinks he needs to recreate the events of the Season 5 finale, where a bomb exploded under Archie’s (KJ Apa) bed while he was hooking up with Betty (Lili Reinhart). That leads to Betty and Jughead making out, while Betty is wearing a wedding dress meant for her wedding to Archie. Naturally, when the scene first aired in a promo, fans of the couple lost their minds.
“I know the fans are always, at least from what I hear, are always searching for tiny little crumbs to get whatever they can for how the characters interact,” Cole Sprouse told Decider. “So it’s nice to actually give them a tasty grilled chicken dinner every once in a while.”
That’s when a second Jughead interrupts the duo, explaining that the other way to save the universes is to lock Jughead in a bunker and make him write forever, a tidy metaphor for the ongoing nature of both Archie Comics, and the characters themselves. And that kicks us right back to that bomb exploding in Riverdale, with a twist that seemingly saves Betty and Archie, while leaving Jughead with hearing loss.
To find out more about that, Sprouse’s reflections on 100 episodes of the series, thoughts on Jughead’s relationship with Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) and much more, read on.
Decider: I was talking to Madelaine Petsch last week and she was reflecting on how crazy it is that you came from a pilot that might not have even been picked up, to the hundredth episode. So just broadly speaking, what has this experience been like for you?
Cole Sprouse: It’s lucky, man. I’m not going to lie. We’re actors, so especially when it comes to network television, you sort of sign the contract and you don’t really know how long it can run for, or how people are going to take to the program. But I feel blessed. I mean, I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I feel like we’ve gotten very lucky with this show, and people have stuck around, and it’s had some sort of cultural current that has stayed relatively consistent.
I think at least for hour long network programs, 100 episodes are just, in an industry sense, kind of a thing of the past. I don’t know how much longer, aside from sitcoms, you’re going to see programs within this streaming universe continue to exist up to a hundred episodes. Something like syndication is kind of an old model. It’s interesting from an industry perspective to say, “Wow, this could or could not be, within the next 10 years, something that is functionally extinct within the industry.” So it’s special.
When I was on Disney, we did a lot of episodes, but that was 30 minutes. So we were cranking those out a lot quicker, and this has been a long journey, but a beautiful journey, and we’ve all grown up alongside each other and really watched one another grow and creatively spread our wings. So it’s been a really beautiful and powerful experience through all of our twenties.
I love the fact that you don’t just get to play one Jughead though in the hundredth episode, you get to play a few different Jugheads.
Yeah, it’s very nice.
Did you have a favorite of them? I’m partial with the Narrator Jughead myself.
Me too. The Jughead that everyone knows now is obviously very moody and introspective, and when we were building Narrator Jughead, I asked production, and asked Roberto and them if it was all right that I play him kind of annoying, at least when he actually touches down in Rivervale; but funny, and after he goes through that death experience and goes to Pop’s, what are the actual stakes of the world for him? So I wanted it to be a fun little distinction between moody Jughead — and I haven’t seen the episode yet, admittedly — but I’m hoping that they kept a lot of the comedy with Narrator Jughead for the latter half of that episode.
Since Rivervale still exists at the end of the episode, is that a character you’d want to revisit at some point in future seasons?
Yeah! I mean, I’d love to. I thought that was really fun. I also think from a panned out perspective, Rivervale’s narrator was a really fun, tongue in cheek way for the writers to connect directly to the audience. Tonally, our show has shifted quite a bit throughout the seasons, but it’s always kept and maintained a semblance of its own insanity, and campiness, and soapy quality, and it was fun to play a character that acknowledged that in any great or small way. So yeah, I hope so. I like the talking directly to camera. I like the poking fun. I liked how tongue in cheek it was. It was just an enjoyable experience.
I wanted to ask you about the Jughead and Tabitha relationship… In this episode, they team up in a really nice way and they’re very supportive of each other, but over the course of the Rivervale event, they’ve been really digging into these supernatural metaphors for moving in together. What was it like playing with all this, and what’s it been like working with Erinn Westbrook so closely over the past season and change?
Oh my God, Erinn is such a pro. She’s so awesome to work with. We’ve had such a great time. She’s so professional, so nice to everyone on set. When she and I work together in our scenes, the days just flies. It’s incredible, especially when you’ve been doing it for six years now, it’s also just refreshing to be acting with someone who came in on season five and is learning about the world at the same time, the world of Riverdale that is. Jughead and Tabitha’s relationship is really beautiful. As opposed to Betty and Jughead’s relationship, which was this really passionate and hot and cold and up and down throughout the seasons, Jughead and Tabitha are this really beautiful, tempered domesticity that you end up seeing from super healthy relationships as you age.
I know that that Erinn and I wanted to portray that. Someone like Tabitha who just really, really cares for Jughead in a tempered way and is passionate about making sure he’s okay, and Jughead, who is passionate about making sure Tabitha’s okay, and vice versa. So it’s really nice. It’s beautiful and real, and the way that we’ve been playing it has been really enjoyable, and working with Erinn is always my favorite day of the week.
I don’t track too much about the show generally online, but I hope that people are seeing that in the caring for each other, in a less wild way that perhaps the previous seasons did for Jughead. I love the supernatural quality to moving in together, too. That’s so Riverdale. I just think it’s so much fun.
Given that we’re getting back to Riverdale starting in episode six, are they going to be past these initial hiccups of moving in together? Or are we going to be revisiting them in some way?
We kept that to Rivervale. We had used the pallet of Rivervale to poke fun at the initial fear of moving in together. The way that Riverdale takes off is right where we left it after season five, and we’re all going through this explosion, or at least Archie, Betty and Jughead are in the consequences of that; and Jughead, obviously, now again without a suitable place to live, Tabatha extends her hands and offers him to move in with her. So it’s not the same joint move-in process that we have in Rivervale, but they do end up in the same place.
I know you just said you’re not really online, but fans have been going nuts over the clip of Betty and Jughead kissing and the wedding dress. Now, we know what that’s about, now that we’ve seen the episode — making out to save the multiverse — what was it like to revisit Bughead in this very different context?
Oh, I think it’s great. It’s something that the fans have obviously really loved over the seasons. There’s still a massive audience for Betty and Jughead. Something that we’re all very, very conscious of when we film the show, and I’m sure the creative team is as well. Episode 100 is really a love letter to the audience who have stuck with us throughout the years, and a love letter [to] where we came from, and something that does a great job building the world that we live in, of Riverdale and Rivervale. I think it’s fun. We’ve all, like I mentioned earlier, we’ve all grown so much on this show, but you can’t ignore where you came from, so to speak. I know the fans are always, at least from what I hear, are always searching for tiny little crumbs to get whatever they can for how the characters interact. So it’s nice to actually give them a tasty grilled chicken dinner every once in a while.
Let’s talk about the fight with Archie, which is brutal and fun to watch, but also comes from this really heartbreaking place grounded around the passing of Fred Andrews. What was it like to play both of those parts of the scene; the emotional and physical?
Yeah, it was interesting. A lot of, I’ll just say it, aside from Jughead’s feeling for his friend Archie and understanding why he’s taking the path that he’s taking, KJ obviously did a great job of putting a lot of the emotional turmoil into that scene when it was really his heartbreak that was being portrayed. And just as a general rule of thumb, I absolutely love working with KJ. He and I don’t get as many scenes together as I think we want, and that’s partly because we’re always making each other laugh so hard that production has to call, “cut.” But KJ always does a great job, and we always have so much fun together, and it’s nice that we get to beat the hell out of each other and then go the next day, have a nice coffee together at some place in Vancouver.
So I loved it. Episode 100 does a really, really great job of discussing in a panned out way all the things the fans, the cast and the crew have been talking about for six seasons. KJ obviously kills it, and he got to punch me in the kidney… And see, this is actually funny, KJ’s a pro when it comes to the stunt stuff, the fake fighting. Jughead has not had as many physical brawls throughout the season, so admittedly, I am not as good. And when they call action, and we start fighting and I’m in it, I forget not to punch KJ in the kidney or to pull my punches. It’s a good thing he’s such a built dude, because I really socked him in the side of the body about four or five times. He pulled me aside at one point was like, “Hey, man, this is starting to hurt. Please stop.” That was totally my bad, but it was still funny. Yeah, it’s so much fun. I love working with KJ, and I’d do anything to just keep working with him.
At the end of the episode, it seems like Jughead potentially might be suffering some hearing loss because of the bomb. Was I reading that wrong, or is that how things are heading?
No, that’s definitely how things are heading. The three characters that are involved in that explosion are all sort of investigating the side effects of that explosion, arcane side effects, so to speak. We explore Jughead’s sensory loss within, I think, episode six, episode seven, and we dive into that quite a bit. Episode seven is when we really, really talk about it, and that was directed by a very close friend to everyone on set, somebody who’s been with us for very many seasons who decided to take up the directing mantle and she absolutely killed it. She did such a good job and I’m excited to see her episode.
[Note: Episode 7 is directed by longtime Riverdale script supervisor Tara Dafoe.]
We know a character from Rivervale is coming over to Riverdale. We get a little bit of a hint from the phone call at the end of the episode. What, if anything, can you tell us about that?
You know man, I am just as in the dark about that as possibly you are. So I couldn’t tell you. I’ve heard whispers on the grapevine, but I don’t actually know too much about it.
Talking broadly before I let you go, looking back over a hundred episodes, and I know these are probably hard to remember, but do you have a favorite underrated Jughead moment from the series? Something that you are very proud of, that maybe fans caught up on, or maybe they didn’t?
You know, they do seem to blend all into one after six seasons, but any one episode that stands out. I mean, when I was working with Skeet… And Skeet and I got to work together, it was always a lot of fun. I think the introduction of Gina Gershon, too, as Jughead’s mother stands out. The times when the writing gets pared down and it’s about human relations are always my favorite, and when we introduce family dynamics, it’s always my favorite. I still will always have a fondness for season one, if I’m being honest. There was this… the whole season was finished before the show came out, and so none of us really knew how people were going to receive it. We were just leaning in with no consciousness, just really leaning into what they were given.
It was a shorter season. So it was 13 episodes, and it was very linear, and I’ll always feel proud of that season. I love that season so much. There are periods there, at the end of, I guess, episode 11, but even episode one, even the pilot… It’s been a huge journey, and we’re all incredibly lucky to work on projects like this. I’ve only been on a couple that have made it to 100, and every single time you hit 100, there’s this bitter sweetness, so to speak, where you look back and you see all the work you’ve done and you feel a slight tinge of exhaustion, but there’s also this incredible fondness for all the memories that come alongside those however many hours and 100 episodes. It’ll be interesting. I don’t know how much of the show is left. We’re definitely on the home stretch in terms of, just speaking frankly, contractually, we’re all sort of walking towards the end of those seven years.
I have this funny feeling, like most cult programs, that the show in some years time, when people already know what it is and what it was, that I hope that it has this second life where people can watch it with a more passive perspective and go, “Wow, this was really a wild, wild ride.” Most of us have been through the majority of our twenties on this show now, and it’s been beautiful watching all of us grow even as professionals, and seeing where everyone’s career is headed is really beautiful. We did the same thing on The Suite Life, and I’m doing the same thing now.
I always get a little bit sappy when we get to this point, but in terms of favorites, when it comes to actual content, those aren’t really the things that I remember. It’s the moments that we all spent outside of the production, getting closer, or the get togethers that we all had in the earlier seasons when we were all still learning about each other, and learning about the city of Vancouver, and some of us working for the first time on a production of the scale that really stick out to me the most. It’s the people that we met, and the people who left us or continued with us. That’s the stuff that sticks through the most.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Riverdale will return to The CW on Sunday, March 6 at 8/7c.
Where to watch Riverdale