Before Riverdale went off the air for the Winter Olympics, the show delivered a big surprise: Hermione Lodge, not her husband Hiram, is “the boss” behind the tiny town’s big crime syndicate. Does this entirely make sense? Like everything else on Riverdale, we’re not sure. Hermione spent most of the show’s first season protecting her daughter Veronica from Hiram’s shady dealings, so why has she now decided to reveal herself to Archie? And why in such a dramatic fashion, by standing near a cliff in a fabulous coat? (Okay, the answer to the second question is because it’s cool.)
To better understand Hermione’s new identity as a criminal mastermind, we got in touch with Marisol Nichols, who plays the villainous Lodge matriarch. As Nichols told Vulture ahead of Thursday night’s episode, she isn’t quite sure what to make of the twist either, but she had plenty to say about shooting the dramatic cliffside scene, picking Hermione’s outfits, and the Lodge family’s use of Spanglish.
At the end of the last Riverdale episode, there’s this big reveal that Hermione is the mysterious “boss.”
Isn’t that crazy?
What was your reaction when you first find out?
Honestly, confusion was the first reaction. I found out the week before when we got that script. There’s so many twists and turns that you’re like, Okay, does that track? Does that work? I guess it works. Alright, I’ll go for it. I honestly don’t know where it’s gonna lead. I have no idea. I’ve called the writers and go, and been like, “How much does this change?” They tend to keep everything a secret from us. I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but I’m enjoying the ride.
Do you talk with the other cast members about these twists?
We always do. At least the adults do, because our story lines are spread out more and more and more. Luke is always talking about his story line. Mädchen always knew that she was gonna do a [Southside] Serpent thing and I love that backstory to her character. But with me everything is new. I thought in the first season that I’m this amazing mom, and then the end of the season came and it was like, Oh, okay, maybe she’s got her own demons. I was going to say she’s good and that she’s just being evil for good reasons, but maybe we’ll find out she’s a murderer or something. I have no idea.
It creates interesting tension with Hiram Lodge. You think that he has the upper hand in the relationship, and then you discover that she has it.
One thing that I have noticed that’s somewhat consistent — I’m just being a fan at this point because I have no idea — but when Hiram takes the reins and is doling out plans, we’re always doing it in front of Veronica. I wonder if he’s just doing that for show for Veronica and that’s like the agreement that we’ve made. But then, I don’t know why Hermione would reveal that to Archie.
In the scene where Hermione reveals herself to Archie, you’re on a cliffside and you do this very dramatic turn to the camera. What was it like to shoot that?
Oh my God! With the wind, it just timed out perfectly. I was like, Oh great! A superhero moment. I thought it was very a badass, Godfather Mafia moment, and very happy that I got to do it. It was raining, you couldn’t tell. It was just very, very cool, very cinematic.
You’re also in one of Hermione’s trademark sleek coats.
I’m very much involved with Hermione’s wardrobe. I was like, “I need a long, black coat and I want it to look like a trench. And I need leather gloves.” Rebekka Sorensen, who does our wardrobe, also has her own ideas and then she runs with whatever tweaks or whatever I want to make. There’s more of a twist with Hermione coming up that requires an alteration to the looks that you normally see her in, which is always in black, and navy blue, and dark, dark colors.
Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], our creator, is more involved in the looks of the characters than any other creator I’ve ever worked with. He will approve every single outfit that goes on every single character. When we’re posing for our pictures to send to Roberto, I’ll be selling my favorite looks. Like, Come on, give me that pantsuit.
Unlike in the comics, the Lodge family are Latino and they pepper their conversations with Spanish phrases. Have you talked with Roberto about their cultural identity?
That’s a good question, we haven’t. I’ve assumed that they’re Mexican-American, but we don’t know. It hasn’t been specified. I pitched that maybe Hermione could also be half-Italian, because I speak Italian and I think it’d be a fun story line to do some stuff in Italian.
But I love that [the Lodge family] is how how my cousins were, speaking half-Spanish, half-English, all over the board. Some things I pitched. There’s a particular story line where Roberto had peppered in — and it helps when your creator is Latino — phrases like arroz con pollo and I’m like, “Can we do carne asada tampiqueña?” Something that seems more specific.
You want it to be more particular to their family?
Yeah. I mean, rice and chicken? Come on, that’s every Latino family. It’s always peppered into scripts. Then Roberto will throw in like — God what was it? Some other dish that I had never heard of — so I think it’s essentially based on his background and what he knows. As far as I remember, he’s the only Latino writer that we have. To his credit, he was the one who first threw in a mija, in episode four or five of the first season. I was like, “Oh wow, we’re going there! Okay!” What I was surprised about the most was the fan reaction. They went nuts! Just for a mija! I had no idea and I was so happy about that.
It’s changed so much, just in the last five years, where you see so many Latinos on TV and you never did before. As far as I can tell now, that’s what they’re actually looking for because the powers that be realized that white people aren’t the only people who watch TV. Like, yay, finally, thank you!
Since you’re playing a parent, do you ever offer advice to the younger members of the cast?
Cami [Mendes, who plays Veronica] obviously I’m the closest with, and so sometimes I’ll be like, “Hey, listen, you are flying out of town every single weekend, you’re shooting 60-hour weeks, and trying to coordinate all of this, you might want to think about getting some help, see if you can work an assistant into the budget,” because she’s overwhelmed. Things that someone told me when I was first starting out. I just don’t offer it unless I’m asked. Or at least I try not to offer it unless I’m asked.
The show incorporates so many musical performances. Do you want to sing?
I so want to sing! I want to do like a crazy cool rendition of “Fever” or something like that. So far it hasn’t come up, but they do know that I want to do it. We’ll just see how it works organically. How can we get Hermione up there grabbing the microphone? Maybe she has a couple too many glasses of wine.
This interview has been edited and condensed.