Television’s reckoning is far from over. On Monday, July 27, Riverdale’s Bernadette Beck slammed the portrayal of Black actors on the hit teen drama, marking yet another blow to The CW show. The 26-year-old actress is not the first to call out Riverdale for its treatment of Black actors and characters in recent weeks. Unfortunately, her latest comments about being “portrayed in a very negative, unattractive light” echo the experience of several castmates, such as Vanessa Morgan, 28, and Asha Bromfield, 24, who have both spoken out about the show’s issues with racism and a lack of diversity.
Like Morgan, who previously called out Riverdale for making her character “nondimensional” and a “sidekick” to white characters, Beck has now revealed how the show made her feel like she was “just there to fulfill a diversity quota.” The actress spoke candidly in an exclusive ELLE profile about her time on the series as Peaches ‘N Cream, a member of the girl gang Pretty Poisons, in Riverdale season 4 and 3. Her interview covers everything from issues of tokenism to the lack of storyline development for Black characters on the series—all decisions that have even larger impacts for Black actors in the long run.
“I was made out to be a very unlikeable character and therefore, an unlikeable person in people’s eyes,” Beck told the publication. “I was, for no reason, depicted in a very negative, unattractive light. And I’m not the first Black actress to show up on set, stand there, chew gum, and look sassy and mean. I feel like I was just there to fulfill a diversity quota. It’s just to fulfill points.”
The Tomorrow People alum went on to explain how an “unlikeable” Black character like hers can have troubling implications for actors even beyond their role. It can lead to audiences not only disliking a character but also disliking the actor themselves. Beck expressed that fans of Riverdale would often have “more of an emotional connection” to her non-Black castmates, like Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, KJ Apa, and Camila Mendes—leaving actors like her behind in public perception.
“I didn’t understand when I first got on that show that it meant something for your character to be likable,” she said. “Some people say it’s just a TV show, but I’m thinking about the implications long-term. If we are depicted as unlikable or our characters are not developed or we’re looked at as the enemy all the time, that affects our public persona. What kind of opportunities are we losing out on even after Riverdale?”
She went on to add, “Our white co-stars are getting all this screen time and character development. They’re building up their following, generating more fans, selling out at conventions, and fans have more of an emotional connection with them. But if we don’t necessarily get that, and we’re looked at with disdain, what does that do to us, and how does that stain our reputation moving forward?”
This lack of attention isn’t only among fans. According to Beck, she was often “forgotten” on set by the director, putting her in the uncomfortable position of having to nudge him for instruction.
“I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once,” she told ELLE. “The director [would] be walking off set and I’d have to chase them down because I had no idea where to stand, what to do—I just hadn’t been given any instruction. You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day.”
While Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the show’s creator, issued an “apology” to Morgan following her statements in June, he has yet to publicly address Beck’s comments. “We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color,” he wrote in response to Morgan. Let’s see if and how he really intends to do that.