It isn’t enough to give Black actors roles in television if they’re only going “stand in the background.” This topic came up as Lili Reinhart and Asha Bromfield called out Riverdale’s diversity tactics on June 9, amid ongoing conversations about The CW show’s lack of fair-pay and representation. Lili, 23, invited Asha, 24, to an Instagram Live broadcast to chat about her experience playing Melody, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats—a.k.a. one of the only Black recurring characters on the show.
Riverdale fans were waiting for Asha’s take after fellow actress Vanessa Morgan went public about her own experiences on the show. Morgan tweeted her disappointment over how Hollywood portrays Black characters, writing that she was “tired of us also being used as sidekick non dimensional characters to our white leads.” She later called out Riverdale specifically, citing, “I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least,” in a response to a fan.
Asha’s experience is similar. The Locke & Key actress echoed Morgan’s point about serving as a “sidekick” to white characters in her conversation with Lili. “I’m so much more, and Black people are so much more, than support systems,” she said. “It becomes toxic messaging when we are perpetuating this idea that there’s any less validity to my own life than yours, that my sole purpose in this world is to support someone who looks like you.”
While Asha did take comfort in the fact that her on-screen band is made up of entirely Black women—”The tears, the emotion that we felt to see each other, three Black women together in a group,” she recounted—it doesn’t mean her time on Riverdale has been without its own faults.
“In one breath, being a part of [Riverdale] was the most profound, historic, exciting thing for me as a Black actress, and on the other end, it was devastating,” she confessed. Just like Morgan, Asha’s character has existed on the sidelines of the series—and Riverdale could do better. “We stand in the background and we have a lot of attitude, or we don’t talk,” she explained. “Or, we’re only included when we are uplifting white characters.”
Riverdale’s showrunner, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, has since promised to “do right by their characters,” according to Lili. But Bromfield knows that one show alone isn’t going to change everything. “It’s so much bigger than Riverdale. It’s a bigger conversation about how we are humanizing Black people on screen in all capacities,” she said. Speak on it.