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Mark Consuelos on Playing Riverdale’s Resident Mobster: ‘He’s Not As Good As He Thinks He Is’

Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images

The town of Riverdale is morphing into a violent, voyeuristic pleasure dome reminiscent of Vice City — only here, with a bunch teens! — and we have no one to blame except the town’s zaddy mob boss. That’s because since his arrival last season, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) has slowly dismantled “the town with pep” layer by layer, including, in no particular order: opening prison fight clubs, expanding a candy-named drug empire, funding brothels, shutting down Riverdale by declaring it a quarantine zone, and harboring an unhealthy obsession with Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), which has culminated with a massive bounty on the redhead. Yeah, Hiram is pretty grumpy all the time and daughter hates him, but it’s all for something, right?

Ahead of Riverdale’s midseason finale, the affable Consuelos was nice enough to take a call from Vulture to discuss his evil mastermind character. Naturally, this meant bringing up Hiram’s infamous wrestling scene, his true motivations, what might be his ultimate downfall, and why he just can’t quit Archie.

Before I hound you with zaddy questions, I’d like to know how you personally characterize Hiram. Is he a mob boss? Criminal? Drug lord?
He definitely has ties to the underworld. He’s a mob boss, but he’s looking for a way to solidify his family’s place in Riverdale and hopefully in a legitimate way.

Wait, a legitimate way? This guy loves crime!
The most notable one — I guess that’s still a bit nefarious — is to build a prison on the Southside of Riverdale. In theory, that’s helping incarcerate criminals, even though it’s for-profit. He did have Pop’s and he traded that with Veronica. The local newspaper would also be part of his empire that’s for good — but the stories could be questionable if he’s in control of it. He supported his wife for mayor of Riverdale, which I think was nice of him. [Laughs.] The jingle jangle and the fizzle rocks of it all, though …

That’s not legit, sir.
That’s not legit. Well, he seems to be supporting the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. [Laughs.]

With a Soprano being the gold standard, how competent of a boss does Hiram strike you as? It’s interesting, because as expansive as his empire is becoming, I’m always like, How good can he be, really?, if his daughter always finds a way to thwart some of his plans.
He’s not as good as he thinks he is. You’re right, those pesky kids always get in the way. It’s a tug-of-war. Right when they thwart one of his moves, he hits them back with four other moves. He’s got so many more plans going on that nobody knows. It’s actually quite confusing.

Would you agree that Hiram currently holds the top spot for Worst Riverdale Parent?
You know, that’s a tough one. He’s definitely in line for it. You have Penelope Blossom, who’s a madame of her own little world. But she is providing a service, I guess. F.P. Jones has a lot to do with burying bodies, so he’s no Boy Scout. Alice Cooper, didn’t she kill somebody last year in her living room?

She did. But Hiram technically killed some people!
Not by his own hands. I’m sure that wouldn’t be held up in a court of law. But the one thing that redeems him — and it’s hilarious for me to say that — but he really, really cares about his daughter. At the end of the day, he’s putty in her hands. He just doesn’t want her to know that.  

There was an aside earlier this season between Veronica and Hermione, where Hermione implied Hiram would never harm their daughter, but she doesn’t have guaranteed protection. Do you think that’s true? And would he ever harm his wife if things went south?
I don’t think he would ever harm her. She’s done some of the worst stuff he knows about, and she’s still walking around. He knows that she had an affair while he was in prison, which is overlooked a little bit and brushed under the carpet. I think that quietly fuels a lot of his rage towards the Andrews family. You wonder why he has it out for Archie and Fred so much, but in black and white, [Fred] came between him and his wife, which most people would frown upon.

The affair reminded me: I’m so pumped to see your wife, Kelly Ripa, playing Hiram’s mistress later this season. The show has been kind to the Consuelos-Ripa clan.
I just love Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa]. I gotta tell you, he and the show have given me one of the greatest villains to play on television. I love playing this guy so much, but most importantly, to give my son the opportunity to play the younger version of me was … it’s a month later and I’m still pinching myself over this. My son goes to film school. He doesn’t act, but he’s a writer-director type, and for him to have that part was so special. And then to have my wife come on the show, it was magic. We got to have an adult weekend in Vancouver when she came to visit me. No kids allowed!

All right, let’s talk Archie. Please explain to me why Hiram is so obsessed with this teen. Is it really because Archie wasn’t loyal to the Lodges, or is there something deeper happening here?
In the end, I do think his disloyalty rubbed Hiram the wrong way. Also, he projects his feelings for Fred onto his son — the disloyalty Fred bestowed his family while he was in prison. And in his eyes, nobody will be good enough for his daughter. It’s super cliché, but Hiram takes it to a whole other level. [Laughs.]

But at the same time, Archie did threaten him in his office. Told him he was going to snitch on him, take him down, and bring out a knife. He crossed this invisible line and couldn’t come back from it. Hiram absolutely threw his own kind of justice at him. I love how far Hiram will go far to end this.

How would you define Hiram and Archie’s relationship at this point? If the opportunity came, I find myself doubting if Hiram would actually kill him.
You have to think if Veronica would ever, ever forgive her father for that. I don’t know if he would go that far, but who knows? There’s a book of laws and honor codes with Hiram, and Archie crossed all of those lines. I think that would be a really good scene, whenever we get there, that final standoff between the two. As we get deeper and deeper into the season, it just keeps getting dark. Every episode I read, I’m like, Oh man, how are we going to settle this? It feels like something really bad is going to have to happen.

In a non-dark moment: I loved the wrestling scene from last season, because Hiram always finds a way to stalk this kid! How long did you and K.J. Apa wrestle for? It looked simultaneously painful and fun.
It was so much fun. K.J. is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s so good at the physical stuff. He’s really, really good — like a movie star or an action star, he can do it all. It took all day to shoot that. We had a bunch of more physical scenes beyond that in the episode, but they were cut. We were at it from the morning to late, late, late at night. I was watching him from the sidelines and I was exhausted just doing that.

Hiram’s catchphrase since his arrival has been “make my bones,” a phrase that myself and other Vulture writers can’t seem to decipher. What does “make my bones” mean to you?
[Pauses.] Holy crap, you’re right. What does it mean? To make your bones … I guess there’s an insinuation of killing somebody. That’s what they’re insinuating — to prove your worth, blood in, blood out, to be part of the syndicate. That’s a great question. Why don’t I find out for you?

It definitely has some Mafioso undertones.
It absolutely does. I’m going to Google it and figure it out.

Editor’s note: Thanks, Mark!

At the end of this midseason finale, Hiram says that he’s wreaking havoc on Riverdale to solidify his legacy. What legacy does he want?
I often think about the motivating villainy and the treachery that goes through his head. Obviously, he’s trying to set up the legacy of power for him and his family. Maybe he’s foreshadowing that he doesn’t really know how long he’s gonna be there. There’s a chance he won’t be there, there’s a chance he’ll get killed, there’s a chance he’ll grow old and run Riverdale. He was ejected from New York City, so it would be tough for him to go back there after being humiliated and arrested for fraud. Riverdale is his little kingdom. He’s trying to prove he can rise from the ashes of prison and rule.

Well, I can’t wait to see what Hiram gets up to when the show returns.
Let me tell you, I’ve been home for the past couple of weeks and I’ve been to some holiday parties. All of the teens I’ve run into at these parties — and they’ve known me for awhile — they all come up to me screaming, We’re so angry at you! We haven’t been this upset over a fictional character in years! Will you please leave those kids alone?! Sorry, kids. I’m leaning into it.

Mark Consuelos on Playing Riverdale’s Resident Mobster