Glamour: Let’s jump right in to Riverdale. In episode two, Betty tells Cheryl, “Get out of my house before I kill you.” Then, in episode four, we find out she has Ms. Grundy’s gun in her dresser drawer. My initial thought was that Betty killed Jason or maybe Betty’s dad did it and is covering up for her?
Lili: When I got episode two, I was like, “Whoa, this is a side of Betty we haven’t seen before!” It was used as a good foreshadowing of Betty’s explosion in episode three. I think it was a nod to Betty’s dark side. It comes out when Betty’s buttons are pushed, especially when it comes to Polly.
Glamour: Did the cast come up with their own theories about who killed Jason Blossom?
Lili: We all definitely had our own theories. Cole [Sprouse] has an extremely elaborate one about how he thought Jughead was the killer. Madeleine [Petsch] thought it was her at one point. We were all just tossing around ideas. But once we all started talking about it, we nipped each other’s ideas in the bud. We’d say, “No, that can’t work because of this,” or “No, that can’t work because of that.” I feel like no matter who we thought who was the killer, there was also a reason why they couldn’t have been. Eventually I just gave up! [Laughs] I was like, “I’ll just find out when I find out” instead of torturing myself to figure out who the killer was. [Now that I know], I’ve literally told no one. I haven’t told my mom. No one knows except for the cast and the people working on the show, which is wonderful. We’ve all been really good at keeping it a secret.
Glamour: Last week’s episode was a big one: Polly is pregnant with Jason Blossom’s baby. Was that a shock to you?
Lili: That was something that [executive producer] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] was talking about when we were filming the pilot. I’m really happy that our fans weren’t exposed to that secret and everything was very under wraps. Any time Tiera [Skovbye], who plays Polly, was on set, we’d have to hide the belly because sometimes there’d be paparazzi or fans nearby. If someone got a picture, it’s ruined.
Glamour: We find out Polly had been kept against her will and had no idea that Jason is dead. And it looks as though Polly’s parents are brainwashing her—but still, you’d like to believe the parents are good-intentioned. Who should we trust?
Lili: As an audience member, you’re struggling with whether to believe Polly or Polly’s parents. You’re going on that journey with Betty because Betty doesn’t know either. She questions whether Polly is crazy, her parents are crazy, or even if she’s crazy. She’s questioning herself, her sister’s mental health, and her own mental health. It’s her parents that are telling her this! As much as she doesn’t want to believe them, it’s like, “Why would her parents lie to her?” As an audience member, I’m a big advocate for mental health awareness, and I would say you don’t take those things lightly. We know at this point that Betty’s parents are pretty manipulative and willing to twist the truth in order to keep their daughters safe—or what they think is safe. Don’t trust any of the parents in Riverdale. That’s maybe a solid underlying piece of advice. Or don’t trust anyone! You don’t know who’s lying.
Lili Reinhart moved to Los Angeles on Jan. 8, 2016; exactly one year later, she found herself shaking hands with Viola Davis and gawking at Ryan Reynolds at the Golden Globes after parties. “I was completely overwhelmed, but in an otherworldly kind of way, in a great way,” she says, over the phone from on set in Vancouver. “It’s so weird to me because our show hasn’t aired yet, so part of me feels like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be, you know? Because no one knows who I am. But it was incredible. I walked by Natalie Portman and she is one of my idols. And I was just like ‘holy s–t, she’s even tinier in person!’”
The 20-year-old is understandably still pinching herself. After attempting a solo move to Los Angeles at age 18, she retreated back home to Cleveland after five months of no success. “That was July 2015,” she says. “And I sat around for six months and thought about whether I wanted to try again, and if I should go back out there. I did a self tape at home with my mom, and we sent in the tape and it didn’t go anywhere. But then I moved to L.A., and a couple days after I moved my manager was, like, ‘so they still haven’t found that girl for Betty. I want you to go in again and try.’”
In “Riverdale,” she is Betty Cooper, but her version is a modernized take on the good-girl-next-door narrative, breaking away from the “plucky, happy-go-lucky light of the Fifties” and showing her as a “dark real teenager in today’s world, dealing with social media.” Reinhart wasn’t previously familiar with the Archie empire, which meant she was able to craft a Betty from scratch.
“Our Betty Cooper is still the girl next door — she literally lives next to Archie. And she’s the blonde all-American girl, she’s so sweet and forgiving, gives people the benefit of the doubt and second chances, wears her heart on her sleeve,” Reinhart says. “But she’s also incredibly broken on the inside, for many different reasons. For one thing, she suffers from mental health issues, and that’s something that I resonate with — I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’m very open about that. So I can very much relate to Betty in that way, and that there’s a vulnerability inside.”
Making her mark on such a storied character, with a 75-year history a large swath of Americans know lovingly, is certainly a prime way to launch into an acting career. As Reinhart puts it, “what a difference a year makes.”