KJ Apa Source: CW

2023 Rewind: KJ Apa Says Being Shirtless on 'Riverdale' 'Messed With his Head'


This piece is part of EDGE's 2023 Rewind series. We're reaching into our archives and sharing some of our favorite stories from the past year.

When the CW's"Riverdale" concludes its seven-year run on August 23, it will be one of the last of its kind: The 22-episodes-a-season teen soap, writes Vulture in an interview feature with cast members.

KJ Apa, who plays Archie, made headlines from the interview when he discussed his discomfort with being shirtless. On the show, Apa dyed his hair Archie red and spent a good deal of screen time showing off his buff body over the show's seven seasons. And he wasn't happy about that red hair. "I mean, I've walked around with red hair for the past seven years –." When questioned why that was an issue, he replied: "There's a part of my identity that I want to get back that I don't really feel connected to."

That Archie was buff was crucial to the show, which wanted the character to be hot. And Apa, who got the role when he was 19, was excited about showing off "his lean, ripped physique," according to Men's Health. "I've been through a lot of shit with that," he said. "It can mess with your head a little bit. At first, as a young child, which is what I was, I thought it was cool – you almost want the opportunity to be shirtless. I was like, 'Yeah, let me take my shirt off. Boom!'"

"The 'Archie is hot now' angle was a key component in defining the tone of 'Riverdale' compared to the comics, and as the show upped its steamy storylines and winking homoeroticism, the actor found himself shedding his shirt more and more, necessitating him to stay ripped year-round with a 'brutal' workout routine," adds Men's Health.

In March 2020 Apa shared with the magazine how he kept in shape with "a healthy mix of cardio, core strengthening, and endurance in his gym routine. His regular workout included rowing 500 meters, running a half-mile, and knocking out a killer core session of hanging crunches, Russian twists, and leg raises."

"And then you gotta consistently stay in incredible shape," he says. "It takes a toll. Even saying that I didn't feel comfortable I had a hard time with. I thought people would be like, 'Why not? Just fucking do it, bro.'"

Apa's co-star Camila Mendes, who played Veronica, added that series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was "always very understanding" of the cast's personal boundaries, and none of the performers ever felt forced or pressured to do those scenes. "It's just the nature of being on a teen show," she said.

When asked how much he was like Archie, Apa said: "I reckon for me, this last season has been the clearest depiction of myself. Archie started off very pure-hearted, then all of this crazy stuff started happening. I think when it really began was when Luke Perry passed away in 2019". (Former 'Beverly Hills, 90210' star Perry played Archie's father. Molly Ringwald plays his mother.) "His death was incorporated into the plot. It was a huge turning point for my character. He started going down this darker path. I remember talking to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and he thought I was this dark, brooding person in real life, which is why he was writing it like that."

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