Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Michael Grassi, and more joined a roundtable discussion about The CW’s upcoming show, Katy Keene. The Riverdale spinoff is coming to The CW on February 6, 2020!
During BroadwayCon weekend, we sat down with the stars of the show: Lucy Hale (Katy Keene), Ashleigh Murray (Josie), Jonny Beauchamp (Jorge), Julia Chan (Pepper), Camille Hyde (Alexandra), Zane Holtz (K.O. Kelly), Katherine LaNasa (Gloria), and writer Michael Grassi.
Following the inspiration of the Archie Comics, Katy Keene develops from the crossing of four friends who are aspiring creatives in New York City. Katy has aspirations of becoming the next leader in fashion, Pepper is a rising artist, Josie works towards getting a record deal, and Jorge wants to be on Broadway.
Do you feel you have any sort of responsibility of bridging the gap between the comics and the cinematography? What has been the reaction of the fans?
Lucy Hale: “Everyone’s been pretty supportive so far. I mean of course, the show’s not out but we have high hopes. This is my second time playing a character that’s already been established like Aria from Pretty Little Liars, who was already in the books, and so I wanted to pay that justice and definitely with [Katy Keene] because everyone has their idea of how she looks and what she wears and what she acts like. It’s a modernized version obviously, but it does have a comic book feel throughout it. We throw in iconic outfits from the comics in the show. But as far as character, they really gave me a blank slate to sort of paint it however I wanted. I just imagined her as a glass-half-full kind of girl, a loyal friend, loving, optimistic. And they really trusted me to create a character because in the comics you get a little taste of her but it’s been fun to kind of expand on that.”
Katherine LaNasa: “I was a huge Archie fan, too. I kind of date myself, but yeah that’s all we had. The video games were like pong and space invaders right? So we read comics. I mean, comics, we would just covet them and trade them. They would send them to us in summer camp. I think in a way that part of why I got the role was because of being such a big comic book fan. I sort of got the flavor of it. For me, it’s the stuff like instead of Tiffany’s we say Spiffanys, and the way that the characters look, there’s always it’s the way they float, you have a feeling of how they move.”
Michael Grassi: “It’s funny, Katy Keene is such a gem of a comic and I think it’s such a fashion-forward comic. I grew up reading comic books and it was always about superheroes it was always for very man-driven. So I think Katy Keene is so special because it’s like an alternative answer to people who maybe don’t [want to read comic books]. It’s about fashion, it’s dreams and making them come [true]. We always look to the comic books for inspiration, and it’s always a jumping-off point. But what we always look to do on shows like Katy Keene and Riverdale, is we make sure the characters are three dimensional. But we always look for inspiration in terms of how the comic books feel. So I think you’re looking into something about nostalgia. Riverdale is a nostalgic show. It’s like milkshakes and Bob’s Diner and lunch boxes. Katy Keene is nostalgic as well for that time when you’re in your twenties, and you’re broke, single, still chasing a dream and it’s in some ways the hardest time of your life but in some ways, it’s the best time of your life. When you look back and you’re like, I wish I could relive that. So I think that’s what you’re circling a little bit.”
There’s a cadence a 1940s feel even in the dialogue…
Katherine LaNasa: “Yeah, it’s very snappy; it feels very retro. And I love how they’ve really infused the show with it even though it’s modern times, everything is flavored in a sort of fifties, and sixties vibe, some of Katy’s, too. And there’s no technology in my workplace. You never see me on a cell phone or a computer. And then I just ran with it. I never ask for one. I use a pencil and I make notes. I have a phone with a cord on it. They were like would you have an iPad? I was like no.”
Can you talk about your signature hair?
Camille Hyde: “That’s something that I was so happy that they decided to keep in this real version of it because obviously I don’t know if you’ve ever read about Alexandra in the comics, but she has this white streak. And I got psyched when we were trying to do the test and they were like like we’re either gonna go for it or we’re just not and they tested it and said, yeah we’re going for it. So it’s an ode to the Archie comics and I think a lot of the old school Archie fans will see Alexandra and see the streak and put two and two together. I think that will be really cool for them. Obviously we’re gonna get a lot of the newer fans who aren’t really that familiar, but to them it will be really cool because it’s such a distinct thing, a distinct character trait. But also for those that did grow up reading comics, they’ll see the streak and go, hey they kept the streak. So that will definitely bridge the gap for sure.”
On the iconography in the series…
Julia Chan: “Jen who’s doing our costumes—I’m seeing this as we go through—there are real touchstones from the original comics that will pop up and have been modernized, the original work that she and her team have been doing… And you’ll see their motifs, they’re like easter eggs in the show. And in terms of character, just taking the kernels from each of those comic books. Pepper who has exploded into this rifter.”
Jonny Beauchamp: “But then there’s iconography from the comics that we always bring out, like for example, Ginger in the comics has an iconic streak in the hair, so every time Ginger’s on-screen, she always has that streak in the hair. We have Josie and the Pussycats, then Ashleigh’s wardrobe we often see subtle hints and nods of iconic Josie and the pussycats.”
Ashleigh Murray: “Like really heightened specific nods to animal print that’s really right in your face. Jen does a really good job in finding that balance, even the outfit I was describing to you, it has two of the same type of animal print but it doesn’t clash, and she pulls it together with the right warmth. She is just a magician.”
Michael Grassi: “Also, Pepper in the comics always has her iconic glasses. And Pepper in the show has her iconic glasses. And there’s one Katy Keene cover that I’m obsessed with where she’s wearing her Katy sweater, which Jen built a beautiful version, and you’ll see in the show.”
Zane, since you’ve had that history of being a fan of the franchise, what’s it like when you audition and then you realize you’re in this iconic thing that you grew up loving?
Zane Holtz: “It’s cool, I remember when they were doing the Riverdale pilot and I think I was on another show. I was probably too old to be in high school, but this thing came around a couple years later and worked out. Being able to be part of that universe was very rewarding, like my childhood dreams. I was a massive Archie Comics fan when I was a kid. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada and John Goldwater who is the head of Archie Comics told me that, for whatever reason, Canada is a big market for Archie Comics. They’re in every grocery store when you check out. So when I was a kid, me and my sister had four or 500. I wasn’t as familiar with Katy Keene, but then Katy Keene dates back to 1945 and my grandmother told me that she had the Katy Keene books when she was a kid. So there is a lot of history there. And so when we were getting ready to do the pilot and do the show, I looked up some of the old Katy Keene and KO stuff. And KO is always kind of like sweating. He’s always kind of stressed out.”
Lucy Hale: “It’s hard to date Katie that’s why he’s sweating.”
Zane Holtz: “And you’ll see in some of the other comics, some of the other boyfriends have black eyes from KO. It’s quite funny. They did do a fantastic job. [Also], a good friend of mine is a huge comic book collector and when he found out that I got this job, he sent me an original. It was hand-drawn by Bill Woggon, and it’s dated 1955 or something. I’ve got it up on my wall. It’s one of those deals, he’s like sweating and thinking about Katy, but he’s training with Gloria and getting chased by a bull, it’s just fun.”
I love this idea, four friends, trying to make it in a big city. I feel like that story can be told during any time period because it’s so relatable…
Julia Chan: “I did exactly what my character did and came to New York, lived with a bunch of roommates with mice, in Chelsea before the Highline came, and people throwing up on your doorstep. Although Beyonce did shoot a music video there [laughter]. But I remember just leaving every day and not knowing what to expect from the city. I felt like I put an armor on and said, what do you got for me today? I think the episodes are structured so beautifully because every episode we kind of wonder what we’re gonna run into. And I think it does come from what the city brings whether it’s professionally or the people you’re auditioning for or sitting in front of. We always want obstacles and New York has that. And then rewards, too, she can be great, too.”
Jonny Beauchamp: “I got kind of lucky because I was born and raised in New York, and so is my character. I used to play characters that were super different, but Jorge and I are so [similar], the line is just getting thinner and thinner. Where we do differ is the absolute gumption. And in the pilot, there’s this audition scene and Jorge kind of goes in twice and Ginger goes in the second time to try to wow them and he’s completely turned down by the casting director. And she just looks at him like, I don’t your approval for anything, and you know you obviously don’t see how fabulous maybe I’m just too fabulous for your chorus. I don’t know if I would ever have the gumption to say that but that was kind of awesome to play and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Because as coming up artists, we’re constantly putting our hearts out there, and we’re always rejected, it’s a part of the game, but sometimes it feels as if they don’t take into consideration that there’s a human being behind this leotard. And sometimes it’s just a little swift with the brush off, to kind of live in that moment, I felt like I was reppin’ for the girls.”
For the non-comic book fans, what are some parts of the storytelling—about trying to make your dreams come true in NYC—that you’re really looking forward to showing?
Lucy Hale: “I think the whole takeaway from the show is: go after your dreams. No matter what it is. In this show it’s obviously a designer, a boxer, an artist, a Broadway star, but everyone’s got a dream. No dream is too small or too big enough; everyone’s got something. So I think the whole takeaway is: you can make anything happen. And I think that what our show has to offer, obviously a lot of the Riverdale fans, well, they’re calling it a Riverdale spinoff, but I think what people will be really shocked to see is that they’re so drastically different. We live in like a heightened fairytale world and showcasing a really nostalgic version of New York and we have musical elements. One of our main characters is a gay man who dresses up in drag. You don’t really, when do you see that? Especially for our age group, it’s just so important. And we talk about some important social issues too, it’s just a fun, sweet show. It’s such a joy. Then there’s the clothes, too. So romantic…Our DP is really incredible and what we’re really proud of is like it’s so hard for the second episode of a show to flow from the pilot. It’s usually like such a drastic difference, but I just watched episodes one through six last night, top to bottom, and it flows so seamlessly. It feels like a movie. The whole season feels like a movie. So thank God for that.”