If you don’t watch Riverdale and count down the minutes until delightfully bitchy but heartbreakingly tragic Cheryl Blossom swans onto your screen, do you even Riverdale? We chatted with Madelaine Petsch, the 23-year-old actress who crushes it as the fiery—and complicated and low-key hilarious and gorgeous and heartbreaking—redhead and got the scoop on her “best friends” Cole, Lili and Cami, whether Cheryl will find love in Season 2 (pssst: new episodes land on Netflix weekly on Thursdays starting October 12) and whether or not those locks are 100% God-given.
Cheryl Blossom is so much more than a villain. How do you navigate the complicated facets of her personality?
I don’t think about her as any archetype, she’s just a human being who’s gone through so much and it’s about building up those walls, building up the relationships, creating where the anger and hurt comes from, and where the scared little girl comes from. It’s never really about who I want her to be, it’s just about who she is intrinsically and what she’s going through in that moment.
Are there any ways that you feel like you’re like Cheryl in real life?
Aesthetically, I like the way she dresses, but our personalities are vastly different, which I think is what most actors want to do—it’s every actors dream to play a role that’s very different from themselves. And she is. She’s got some fun one-liners and she’s a little witty—not to toot my own horn, butI’m pretty witty (laughs)—but other than that, we’ve very different. Every human being goes through a period of time in their life where they feel like they’ve lost who they are, and they’re trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be. And that’s where she’s at. I went through that around 16, but instead of externally lashing out at people, I was figuring it out internally.
What can you share about Cheryl in Season 2?
Well, our show runner has likened her to Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max—she’s a lot colder, she’s a lot meaner and a lot more tragedy hits her in this season, and this time, she’s not going to be knocked down by her family. She’s taking the reigns from her mother and is going to at least try to take more control of her life. I don’t know if she will succeed, at the moment we’re still working through it. But in the first stage of Cheryl[‘s life this season,] she’s trying to take more control.
A lot of fans have been vocal about wanting Cheryl to have a love interest. Is she going to find love?
She is! It’s not necessarily that it really matters in the grand scheme of things, because of everything else she’s going through, but she will have [a love interest] for the fans.
I thought the little moment of maybe-romance between her and Archie in Season 1 was sweet. I want Cheryl to have that!
It was a wonderful moment for her that I think people really appreciated. Personally, she’s still going through so much that I think it’s better if she doesn’t, but the underlying current for Cheryl this season is that she wants so badly to be loved unconditionally and she’s never felt that other than from her brother. She will, at some point, get a love interest. Whether or not that works out for her, we’ll see.
The cast seems to have so much fun. Are you guys really friends IRL?
Yep! We hang out every day. I carpool with Cami to work most days. We’re all best friends.
How difficult is it to be mean to your besties when the cameras are rolling?
That’s my job. That’s what we do for a living. So it’s easy to turn it on. It’s not like I’m looking them at my friends anymore, I’m looking at them as Veronica and Betty and I’m Cheryl.
What do you do in your down time?
Cami and I always work out together, that’s our thing. We go get food, grab coffees or go shopping. Anything you’d do with like a regular friend, we do with each other.
How do you like filming in Vancouver? What are some of your fave spots?
I’m probably the worst person to ask that because I don’t go out ever, but I just think Vancouver is so beautiful. It feels quaint and small, but it’s so big, and there’s so much good food. And I like the Pacific Centre! Everyone is so nice here.
So it’s true what they say about Canadians?
It really is.
How have things changed for you now, going out in public, now that the show is so huge?
It definitely was zero to 100. I feel like we aired the first couple episodes and it wasn’t a huge overwhelming fan response. And then it started getting crazy around episode four. It’s wonderful, but I get startled really easily, which is something I need to work on. I was walking to my friend’s hotel the other day to go with her to a table read, and I got tapped on the shoulder a couple times and every single time, without fail, I had like a mini-panic attack. [Being recognized] is just not something I think about yet. But there are so many people who love the show and that’s what’s so cool—we’re meeting people who love what we love.
Off-screen, I know you have a history of doing dance.
Yeah! From the ages of 5 to 17, I was a competitive dancer. I even went to an arts high school and double-majored in dance and theatre.
Do you still dance for fun?
OMG, of course. It’s my escape from the real world.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming film, Polaroid (set for wide release December 1)?
It’s a horror film and I’m essentially the Drew Barrymore of Scream. It’s a very cool role, very different from Cheryl. I can’t wait to see it!
I need to ask you this: is your gorgeous hair natural and have you ever dyed it?
If I dyed my hair, my mother would actually disown me. My hair is very much real.
I’d love to end with a few lightening round questions about you and the cast, if that’s okay.
Great! Let’s do it.
Who is the biggest joker on set?
Who’s the biggest flirt?
Oh, none of us, we don’t flirt with each other.
Who takes care of everyone?
I think me and Lili probably.
Are you and Lili still roommates?
We’re not this season, we were last season.
Who’s the biggest home body?
Who’s the biggest night owl?