KJ Apa Is Ready For Single Archie, More Shirtless Fighting And Life Beyond ‘Riverdale’

The actor revealed the titular town in the CW series becomes a "shitshow" in the back half of Season 3.
"I was pushing to make the character more edgy and serious," KJ Apa said of Archie on "Riverdale."
"I was pushing to make the character more edgy and serious," KJ Apa said of Archie on "Riverdale."

Remember when all Archie Andrews had to care about was essentially being the red-headed Troy Bolton of “Riverdale?”

Maybe the writers of the hit CW series have been microdosing on Jingle Jangle, or maybe they’d just had enough of Sensitive Athlete Struggles™, but Archie found his edge and then some as the show leaned into crazy in the best way, abandoning typical high-school plotting for serial killers, secret siblings and teen vigilante groups.

Cut to Season 3, which finds the boy wonder played by KJ Apa toiling away in juvenile detention for a murder he didn’t commit and forced to battle other well-muscled youths in an underground fight club. You know, typical kids’ stuff!

In the mid-season finale, Archie is finally on the run thanks to his ever-reliable pals, having barely escaped with his life. That leaves him without a town to call home. It could be the murder charge or the fact that Riverdale has been placed under a quarantine orchestrated by the big bad himself, Hiram Lodge, father to Archie’s now ex-girlfriend Veronica, after mass seizures started sweeping the town.

And then there’s Gryphons and Gargoyles, a deadly game modeled after Dungeons and Dragons, that’s placed the majority of the teen population under the control of the yet to be unmasked and seriously terrifying Gargoyle King.

Ahead of the series’ return in January, HuffPost spoke with Apa, who’s partnered with Bumble to give back to the ASPCA, the first animal welfare organization in North America, about what fans can expect from the back half of the season, how Archie has been changed for good, and why he can never put on a damn shirt.

“Riverdale” is giving me everything I want this season from speakeasies run by teenagers, farm cults, mass cheerleader seizures. Everything!

Really? I’m glad you like it because some of the fans are hating it.

I’ve really enjoyed Archie’s quasi-Odyssean journey in the first half of the season. He’s left his friends and family behind after being framed and landing in juvie. Was it refreshing to dive into who Archie is sans the gang?

I think Archie alone is something we haven’t seen before. It allows us to dig deeper into him as a character and gives us a lot of material for storylines. We really see him transition from a boy into a man and how that changes the relationships he has around him, like with his father. It’s something I really enjoy playing, so I was pushing to make the character more edgy and serious, and not as naive.

Well, an underground teen prison fight club certainly did the trick, I imagine!

I think he needed a little slap around a bit, if you know what I mean?

In the mid-season finale, Archie has been stripped of everything he knows and loves, venturing out into the unknown all by his lonesome. What will happen upon his return and how will he have changed?

This story of Archie heading out into the wilderness is kind of a lesson in how you can learn a lot by being alone. I can kind of relate to that in certain parts of my life, too. When he comes back, there’s definitely a change in attitude. Eventually, when he returns to Riverdale, he’s dealing with high school issues that kind of compared to what he was dealing with previously, aren’t really that important or serious when put in context.

And well he’s also been literally stripped. Was it just me, or have you been shirtless for like 75 percent of the scenes this season? No, I am not counting.

[Laughs] Yeah, there’s definitely been lot more shirtless scenes. I’ve upped my game a bit in the gym, so I told [series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa] at the start of the season that I’m going to be ready. I knew I was going to be fighting and I knew there were going to be a lot of shirtless scenes. I take that stuff really seriously and I want to look good. That’s all part of the job — probably the hardest part of the job, to be honest.

OK, back to Archie’s journey. You mentioned finding resonance with his story in your own life. Has filming “Riverdale” in Vancouver, away from your own family, mirrored the character’s experience?

Absolutely. I only moved away from home three years ago, when I was 18. I can definitely relate to that. Everything that I ever knew I had to leave behind, and I had to adapt to a whole new American culture. It wasn’t that it was so hard, it was just different. It was unknown to me.

Well, at least you are back to your original hair color by the end of the episode, right?

That’s not how it works! My hair Is permanently orange now because it’s been bleached. The only way for me to go back to brunette is if I grow my hair out, so they had to put a temporary mouse in it for the scene. Mate, the amount of shit that has been put in my hair is unbelievable. I wouldn’t be surprised if I go bald in a couple years. They used to do my eyebrows, but I told them no more dying my eyebrows.

You’ve described this season as the best so far. Why do you think it’s been a game changer for the series, and what kinds of lessons did you all take away from last season?

No one knew what was going to happen in the first season, since it was only 13 episodes. The second season was kind of a weird spot too, because we were doing 22 episodes and suddenly we are doubling the time we’re all living in Vancouver. For the third season, I felt like everybody was on their feet and very steady because we knew what was coming. I could tell that with the cast and myself. It’s turned into a more comfortable kind of environment, and I feel comfortable going to work every day now.

“Riverdale” on an average day is pretty batshit, so what do you think the town will be like now that it’s down a sheriff and has been quarantined?

Yeah, it kind of turns into a bit of a circus and a shitshow without giving too much away. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that is separating the kids from their parents and separating the parents from each other. The whole Gryphons and Gargoyles game becomes intense pretty quickly.

KJ Apa and Camilla Mendes as Archie and Veronica in "Riverdale."
KJ Apa and Camilla Mendes as Archie and Veronica in "Riverdale."
The CW

We also saw the very unfortunate breakup between Veronica and Archie. Are you looking forward to Archie being single?

I am looking forward to Archie being single. All things have to come to an end at some point, especially in TV, because people are going to get bored. I wasn’t all that surprised, too, because it definitely was a change that needed to happen. I think it was inevitable, with him going to prison and them not being able to see each other. It wasn’t going to last.

And I hear that new romances and pairings are on their way. How would you feel about a potential Reggie and Veronica relationship, given your character’s history with Reggie?

I think Archie and Reggie are very good friends despite them feuding together in the comics and in our show. Deep down they are really good mates. I don’t think Archie holds any resentment toward Reggie. If anything, he’s happy that his mate is looking out for his girlfriend now.

“Riverdale” is no stranger to twists, of course, so if you were in the writer’s room, what would the next big twist be for Archie that you would dream up? I know fans have been calling for a Kevin and Archie pairing …

I would love Archie to get stuck into fighting. I think that would be a really cool storyline and something good for him to focus on that’s physical as well, because I really enjoy doing action on the show. I think taking that prison fighting and somehow managing to bring that to Riverdale would be cool.

You’ve also recently starred in the “The Hate U Give,” which has such a powerful and important story to tell. Did it make you eager to do more film work and look at life beyond “Riverdale?”

Oh, of course, man! I think along with the rest of the cast, it’s so important to be getting into other projects during hiatus. I’m itching to be doing other projects. I was stoked to be a part of that movie to work with [Amandla Stenberg] and [George Tillman Jr.] our director. It’s surreal, man. Working on those kind of sets is why I love doing what I do.

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