Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart on the ‘Perfect Storm’ of Betty Becoming a Cam Girl

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Viva la Dark Betty! One of the surprise delights of Riverdale’s two-season run has been the slow emergence of Betty Cooper’s ominously sexual side, which came to its apex in last week’s episode when she further explored this so-called “darkness” — by grabbing her favorite wig, purring her new ASMR voice, and partaking in some good old-fashioned webcamming with a lucky guy. (An activity that was encouraged by her long-lost brother, no less.) Betty’s cam girl days may already be over before things evolved into a full-blown internet empire, but at least it’ll be a good story to tell her freshman dorm, no? Eager to learn more about this narrative twist, Vulture recently called up Reinhart on a blustery Vancouver day to discuss camming, chic wigs, and why she has zero interest in any Riverdale High love triangles.

As an Archie Comics enthusiast when I was younger, if I told myself that the quintessential girl next door was going to be a cam girl in 2018, I would’ve lost my damn mind.
I don’t blame you. I would’ve been in the same boat if this childhood character that I grew up with was now doing these modern-day adult things. It’s funny, in a way. It makes sense that something that was once so innocent as the Archie Comics is now so sexualized in the modern world. I have a 14-year-old sister, and I see how fast she’s grown up and how quickly kids are growing up these days with the internet and social media. Ironically, it’s a perfect fit — to put that comic into the modern world because people are growing up so fast. Kids are becoming sexual at an early age, and I think that speaks to it well.

Why do you think this new internet persona is the natural progression for Betty’s dark side?
I don’t think it’s most natural progression, per se. It’s very much out there. It’s only influenced by Chic now being in her house and being this dark angel taking her under his wing. Like an angel of darkness to her. It’s horrifying, and she’s so drawn in by that because she hasn’t been exposed to, or let alone related to, someone who’s had that inner turmoil and darkness that she’s dealing with. I think she’s drawn to him like a moth to a flame, in the sense that he’s older and has been through a lot more than she has. He’s lived a rougher life, so she thinks she has a lot to learn about her own darkness through him. Webcamming wasn’t a natural progression of things, and not to say Betty continues webcamming in the future. She just lost her virginity to Jughead and they just got back together, so there’s not necessarily a reason for her to continue doing so. It was a way for her to express her budding sexuality, and now that she’s back with her boyfriend, that’s a lot healthier of an option in exploring her sexuality. One that’s not necessarily dangerous or taboo.

I’m not too well-versed in the art of camming, but did you want to explore that part of the internet as a means of better understanding this darker side of Betty? Or was it more important to you to go into those scenes with a learning curve?
I didn’t go out of my way to do research on it. It was pretty obvious to me why she did it — that influence by Chic, but a mask in a way. She’s not actually meeting people. She’s behind the camera. She had a wig on. It’s an internet persona, and it’s so easy to hide behind that and hide behind the mask of a fake name and a webcam. It was the perfect storm and the perfect opportunity for her to explore that darkness.

I’d seen that Netflix docuseries Hot Girls Wanted, though, which is along the lines of webcamming and such. So I didn’t go into this blindly. I knew what the world was, and I knew it existed. I’ve obviously never participated in it, but I knew enough about it.

Did you get to choose your fabulous wig? It’s very Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction!
No, I didn’t get to choose! I remember when I first wore it in season one, and when I read that script when I come out wearing a wig, I was like, Holy crap! I imagined it at first as a longer wig with some ’40s finger waves in it. Not sure why I pictured that, but I did. The day when we shot that hot-tub scene, there were two options and they both had the bang haircut, but had different qualities of hair — always that Velma Kelly flapper hair. I didn’t have any options, actually. I wish. That would’ve been fun. But I’m sure Betty didn’t have too many options, either. I’m sure she went into a costume store and bought it without too much thought. [Laughs.] Something to quickly conceal her identity.

I recently talked with your Riverdale mom, Mädchen Amick, and she thinks Alice is the best parent in the show. I’m curious if you agree with that, and where you would rank other parents on the totem pole of likability.
People have a very big love-hate relationship with Alice. Some say she’s evil, some say she’s crazy, and then they see her soft underbelly when it comes to her kids. Alice is a good parent, but she’s just overbearing and overcontrolling. She has a very “all or nothing” mind-set, and she definitely eases up on Betty, but she does it out of love, which is something to be appreciated. Fred is a great dad — you can see that warmth between Archie and Fred. I’m not a fan of the Lodge parents. Who is? [Laughs.] I don’t necessarily approve of taking their daughter into their shady underworld business, but hey, that’s just me.

I’d say Luke Perry is the best of the bunch. Cheryl really nailed it with the “looking very DILF-y today” remark from last season.
Speaking of Cheryl, Penelope Blossom is the absolute worst human being on the show.

And she’s a courtesan! Who knew such a small town needed one on tap!
Me either! A booming industry!

Are you hoping the show leans more into the love triangle aspect of Betty, Veronica, and Archie? Or even a love rectangle with Jughead? Up until recently, things had been pretty straightforward with the pairings.
I don’t think it’s necessary. Fans are interested and fans want to see a little jealousy in relationships and drama, but I don’t feel there’s any room for a triangle right now. These characters have so much going on and so much other deep-rooted and serious issues that relationship drama would detract from that. Especially in the last episode, Betty walking in on a man bleeding out of his head on the floor, there are bigger fish to fry. She’s definitely going to lean on Jughead in the coming episodes to deal with that, and if there was relationship drama it would be too much.

Speaking of fans, have your opinions about fan culture — especially for a show that’s hit such a strong nerve with younger viewers — changed as the show has progressed in popularity? I imagine it’s a difficult transition to suddenly deal with legions of fan accounts and pages dedicated to you and the show.
It’s something you get used to after a while. This kind of interaction feels like it’s in the social-media world that doesn’t necessarily bleed out into my real world, and I’m glad it doesn’t. That would be strange. As far as the massive fandom that’s been created, it’s on my phone. It’s not in my real world in my day-to-day life. It’s something that exists when I go on Instagram, and something that exists when I go on Twitter. It’s not something that I take with me throughout the day or worry about or lose sleep over. Our fandom is passionate, as most are, and we’re lucky to have people who are so invested in the show and the characters. I love reading the theories and seeing comments on trailers for the next episode; seeing how people are excited about what’s going to happen and predicting things. It’s very nice to see the engagement of fans, but I don’t get sucked into it. It’s dangerous. So I try not to pay too much attention to what fan accounts are saying, because sometimes they’re really negative and are threatening when they want a certain plotline to happen. We didn’t make the show to people-please fans. We made it to make the show we want to make, and not to cater to the most popular wants or needs.

I never understood the rationale of enraged social-media fans who harass everyone on the show if they don’t get their way.
Totally. You’re not going to bully the writers or a network into doing a story line just because you’re on Twitter and upset that something does or doesn’t exist. You can totally exert your opinion to everyone and anyone, but at the end of the day, we’re just going to make the show we want to make.

It’s great you can effortlessly separate your virtual and private lives. Others aren’t as lucky.
I realize that, it’s true. I make a conscious effort to make sure that they’re separate, and they do feel very separate.

Roberto has been vocal about how much of an influence Twin Peaks has been with Riverdale, and you were recently bestowed with the most Peaks-ian moment when the Black Hood crawled over a couch. Have you watched the show? Or if not, been motivated to watch it?
There are so, so many cultural influences woven into the show. I can’t say I’ve watched Twin Peaks. I feel like I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so until after I’m done with Riverdale. It’s kind of like a subconscious comparison, and I don’t want to do that. I want to feel like our show is an entity of itself and it’s not thrown together by a bunch of random projects, if that makes sense. I want it to feel like its own entity and stands alone, and I feel like if I watch Twin Peaks, it may subconsciously affect what I think of the show and the plotlines.

I’m thrilled that this “dark” Sabrina the Teenage Witch series is coming to television, but a little salty it’s on Netflix and not the CW anymore. If given the opportunity, would you want to swing by for a guest appearance as Betty to dabble in some magic?
I think Betty’s solely in the Riverdale world and it doesn’t make sense for a crossover. That’s why the decision was ultimately made to move to Netflix — to make these Riverdale and Sabrina shows completely separate universes. I don’t really know what Roberto’s plan is for Sabrina or what aspect of the supernatural or magic will be used. I know that doesn’t exist in Riverdale. At least right now. So it wouldn’t make sense for those two worlds to collide. So, I’d say don’t expect Betty to be in that world. And that’s totally okay, because she’s got her own shit going on in Riverdale. [Laughs.]

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart on Betty Becoming a Cam Girl