Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes, the Betty and Veronica of the breakout CW show Riverdale, are still getting used to the spotlight, but so far, they’re taking it in stride. Unlike the characters of the Archie Comics, off which the series is loosely based, their Betty and Veronica are friends — no frenemy stuff — and it’s the same with Reinhart and Mendes in real life. They have the kind of easy relationship that lets tension out of a room, and on set at their photo shoot at a roller rink in Glendale, California, they’re laughing at inside jokes and naming each other’s childhood celebrity crush (Reinhart’s was Leonardo DiCaprio) as though they’ve been friends forever. It’s clear they love being a duo, partly because it makes the adjustment to being known, from having been complete unknowns just a few months ago, a little easier to bear.
Now 20, Reinhart started self-taping auditions when she was 12 and living in Cleveland, Ohio. At 18, she moved to Los Angeles but faced a setback after five months. “I fell very hard into a deep depression,” she says. “I went home and built up my strength. When I came back out here, I was 19 and booked Riverdale shortly after.” Mendes, meanwhile, went to a performing arts high school in Miami, then studied acting at New York University. She auditioned for a year after graduating but “didn’t really get any bites.” Her first callback, at 22, came when she tried out for Riverdale.
They’re learning to navigate fame as they go, and it helps that they have old hands like Cole Sprouse, Mädchen Amick, and Skeet Ulrich (Mendes’s on-set crush, who she calls “baddy daddy”) around to give them advice. They’re already pros at fielding questions about fan theories; asked whether they’d be down to play zombies, should the series go that route as speculated, they answer coyly, “If it was a sexy zombie, I guess…” They’re hoping for veteran status in the long-term but they gave a glimpse into what it’s like to be two of the coolest new breakout stars of the moment.
On getting typecast before Riverdale:
Camila Mendes (Veronica): A lot of the roles [I read for] were the urban, underprivileged kids that grew up in the Bronx, on shows that were about crime. I didn’t want to play a stereotype. I still find myself, even post-Riverdale, where I’m not Latina enough and I’m not white enough. I’m somewhere in between. I was born and raised in the U.S., but both my parents are full Brazilian. Also, Brazilian is different than Dominican; that’s different than Venezuelan. They’re all different types of Latinos. You can’t can’t categorize them as one big thing.
Lili Reinhart (Betty): I’m white and I’m blonde. Sometimes that can be a blank slate. It can go anywhere and be very malleable. But other times, you’re put into the girl-next-door corner, which is what Betty is — but Betty is so much more. With Betty, I look the part but there’s a darkness. That goes for me as well.
On terrible auditions:
Mendes: You see the same casting directors over and over, so you don’t want to mess up with one casting director for one role because then they’ll just think you’re bad, and then they won’t bring you back for something you might actually be right for. There’s so much pressure to be the best. In any job you do, you’re going to have off days.
Reinhart: In 2014 pilot season, I was auditioning for the role of a transgender boy. I went in there and I felt self-conscious because I had slicked my hair back as much as I could; I altered my appearance a little bit. To begin with, it was a vulnerable audition. I was putting myself in the shoes of someone who is transitioning. Second of all, there was an abnormal amount of people in the room. There were 10 people in there facing me. They don’t say hi to me. I read, I do my scenes, they’re quite emotional. I’m sitting there waiting for direction. And they start having a conversation about a movie that came out. One guy in the room goes, “Hey, did you see that one film, with that guy?” I’m still sitting in the room — “OK, guess I’m going to go.” They go, “Thanks, bye!” As I’m walking out the door, they’re like, “Where do you want to order lunch?” It was just terrible. It makes you feel like shit.
On Reinhart’s struggle with depression and anxiety:
Reinhart: There’s no pattern necessarily. It can come and go in waves, which makes it a little more difficult because you’re not really sure when one point ends and another point begins. It can be based off a certain situation, or it can be seasonal, or it can have no reason at all, because it doesn’t need a reason. It’s a chemical in [my] brain that I have to take medication for, so I don’t constantly feel doom and gloom and sadness.
[I’m speaking out about it because] I felt like the celebrities and people who did talk about it were commended for being so brave. It’s not something that you need to praise anyone for. It should be commonplace. It should be something that we talk about in school. The fact that it isn’t makes people ashamed of it. For teenage kids, they feel a pressure to sweep things under the rug because they feel like they’re not important enough to have problems. They aren’t being bullied so why are they upset? I dealt with that. I had friends at school. People were like, “You have no reason to be upset. Your feelings are illogical.” My message is that that’s not true. You don’t have to have a reason. Your feelings are validated by the fact that you’re feeling them.
On the biggest challenge of their new lifestyle:
Reinhart: Balancing time.
Mendes: For sure. Prioritizing.
Reinhart: When we’re filming, Cole [Sprouse, who plays Jughead] encourages us, “Go out and travel on the weekends when you’re not filming!” But I know what I need and I know that I need to sleep. Now that we’re on hiatus, I feel like we’ve had to remind ourselves that we worked for seven months straight. We’re allowed to go shopping and be leisurely with our time right now.
Mendes: We have a whole trajectory ahead of us and I don’t feel the need to get it all out of my system right now. It helps that we all have each other.
Reinhart: That we fuckin’ like each other.
Mendes: That we’re all new to this, besides Cole, is a very comforting idea.
On the advice they’ve gotten from Cole Sprouse:
Mendes: Cole gives us a lot of advice regarding everything, all the things that come with this life. He’s been through it all so we go to him very often—
Reinhart: No, we don’t go to him. He just tells us. He’s a wise old soul.
Mendes: I remember having this conversation with him before the show came out, and he was like, “Don’t read comments. Don’t read your Twitter feed. Stay away from it. It’s just going to get in your head.” I’m like, “Cole, I hear you, but at the same time, I need to experience it for myself because I need to know what it feels like to read something and be irked by it.” Then I’ll know why I don’t want to go back to it. Or maybe I’ll be like, “I can handle this,” and not let it faze me. That’s a bigger obstacle to conquer.
On crafting a celebrity image:
Reinhart: I never had to do anything specific to craft my “image.” I wanted people to know that I was a goofball, that I didn’t take myself too seriously, and that I love what I do. On my Twitter and Instagram, whenever I can, I try and show myself. I’m not trying to be an Instagram model.
Mendes: It’s not calculated. It’s not like, “People love that I say things like this, so I’m going to say things like this always!”
Reinhart: But you know what? I think a lot of people do that. People post things on Instagram that they know people are going to like. You can do that, but Cami and I are in the mind-set where we’re both very silly, we like to goof around, we like to have fun.
On how they’d categorize their co-stars by high-school stereotype:
Reinhart: KJ [Apa, who plays Archie] is the jock.
Mendes: Constantly working out. Twice a day.
Reinhart: Cole is the funny, sarcastic—
Mendes: Nerd? He’s so smart. Annoyingly. Don’t write that down. It’ll get to his head.
Reinhart: [To Camila] You’re like the cool girl to me. You have, like, your fuckin’ jeans on and your cool shoes and your sunglasses and your coffee, and you’re like, “Hey guys.”
Mendes: You make me sound so annoying!
Reinhart: No, you’re like the cool fuckin’ chick who doesn’t have to try. What am I?
Mendes: I don’t know what stereotype. She’s like the stoner girl, not because she smokes weed — because she rolls in with her sweatpants.
Reinhart: I like that! I’m the girl who doesn’t give a fuck.
Mendes: You’re chill AF.
© Helin Jung
– Original Source