the industry

Riverdale Actress Vanessa Morgan Criticizes the Show’s Depiction of Black People

Photo: The CW

With protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death continuing into their second week, Riverdale star Vanessa Morgan is using this time to educate her followers about Hollywood’s institutional racism and the lack of fulfilling roles that actors of color are offered. In a note posted to her social-media accounts on May 31, Morgan took aim at the television industry and strongly hinted at her own show on the CW, which she’s been starring on for four seasons as reformed bad girl Toni Topaz. “Tired of how black people are portrayed in media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people,” she wrote in the note. “Tired of us also being used as sidekick non dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show.” While Morgan’s character was bumped up from recurring to regular beginning with Riverdale’s third season, she’s indeed often regulated to side plots with other leads — often with Madelaine Petsch’s Cheryl Blossom, as their characters have a fiery off-and-on romance.

“Lmao too bad I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least,” Morgan added in a separate message to a fan on June 2. “Girl I could go on for days.” She also clarified that her ire toward her Riverdale role has “nothing to do with my fellow castmates and friends,” as they have no input writing the show and don’t “call the shots.” This drew a response from Lili Reinhart, who told Morgan that “we love you” and “support you.”

Update, June 5: Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa responded to Morgan’s criticisms on Instagram on June 4, writing, “She’s right.” “We’re sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her,” he wrote, with the hashtag #hearvanessamorgan. “We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color.” As the show moves into season five, Aguirre-Sacasa writes that it will “be part of the movement, not outside it.” He concluded, “All of the Riverdale writers made a donation to @BLMLA [Black Lives Matter Los Angeles], but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writers’ room.”

Riverdale’s Vanessa Morgan Criticizes TV’s Use of Black Cast