With her flawless skin and youthful personality, it’s hard to believe that Robin Givens has been acting for over two decades. The 52-year-old actress hasn’t aged since her breakout role as Darlene Merriman on the ABC sitcom “Head of the Class” Fast forward; Givens has gone from playing a high school student to being the mother of a high school sophomore as well as the town’s mayor in the new CW series, “Riverdale”. Based on the wildly popular Archie comics which dates back to 1942 ,“Riverdale” puts a fresh, seductive and almost not so PG13 spin on the classic comic book characters which includes Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Josie (Ashleigh Murray). Typically in series based around high school or college students, their soapy drama is enough for an hour-long episode and their parents have more ancillary roles but not in Riverdale. The show is definitely multigenerational. With 90s heartthrob Luke Perry as Archie’s father and Marisol Nichols of “24” fame as Veronica’s mother, watching “Riverdale” is a family affair. In an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, Givens and Murray talk diversity, their powerful positions in the series and Givens shares the industry advice she’s passed down to her TV daughter.
LAS: With this show being many of the actors’ first time starring in a series, what advice would you share regarding the peaks and valleys that come with being an actor? Over the course of your career, has there ever been a particular challenging time while waiting on the next opportunity to come along?
Robin Givens: For me, no. I was supposed to be a doctor, [acting] was always a hobby. I guess my break hasn’t ended yet for me to go back to medical school (laughs). I know for me I chose my break, my break didn’t choose me. I think I got my SAG card when I was 10-years-old. I had been working for so long that eventually, I reached a point in my life where I wanted to concentrate on my family, raise my children and have a life separate and apart from the business. That was really important for my development as a person.
LAS: What does it mean to you that the show doesn’t just sprinkle in diversity for diversity sake but has cast you (Givens) in a position of power as the mayor Riverdale and you (Murray) as Josie, leader of the renown pop culture band, Josie and The Pussycats, in addition to showing your home life and your relationship with your father?
Ashleigh Murray: Playing Josie is an honor because we’re running out of comic book characters (laughs). I didn’t think I would get a chance to play someone that I looked up to. I’m thankful and honored to be able to embody this character and give her the sass and power that I believe her to have outside of the pretty button world of the Riverdale comics. Secondly one of the favorite things about having our TV family, we’re just a family like everyone else in town. Culturally, we may have our differences but I’ve got songs to write and mom’s got a town to run and dinner to make—we’re just a family and you see us live it the way we do not necessarily because we’re black. There isn’t a put upon [stereotypical] idea of how “black” families are.
“Riverdale” shows the audience that it doesn’t really matter what kind of skin you’re walking in, because that doesn’t determine what type of person you are; Look at the Blossom family for example, they’re rich but they’re crazy! I don’t even understand how Josie and Cheryl Blossom (actress Madelaine Petsch) could be friends once you see how they’re household runs. Then you see how our household runs with Josie’s father being on the road all the time, you learn how they deal with it and the ways in which they support each other the same way anyone else would.
RG: They could have gone in a completely different direction with the mayor of Riverdale but the fact that they chose someone like me–it makes me feel proud to be on the show. It’s truly so diverse, it’s wonderful. There was obviously a decisive decision to cast in a way that reflects the world that we live in which has all different shapes, sizes, colors and types of people. I’m truly proud to be apart of this show.
LAS: Is there any particular industry advice that you would pass along to Ashleigh and other up-and-coming actors?
RG: I’ve had some great women in my life. I come from a family that doesn’t know anything about the entertainment industry so Cicely Tyson has always been my mom in the business. She and Eartha Kitt were close. Eartha and I had worked together but we became close because of Cicely. I had the opportunity to sit with them, listen, learn and talk about the importance of acting. Cicely and Eartha really believed in the craft itself so Cicely always taught me being good at your craft will always win out. So that’s something that I would pass along. Young people always come up to me and ask how do they get into the business and I always refer back to that old school wisdom–really study and learn your craft and really be good at what you do especially in a time like this when people want to be famous more than anything. I grew up in a time when I loved the craft so I’m decided to commit to it.
Recently renewed for season 2, “Riverdale” is must-see TV! Don’t miss another episode. Catch it Thursdays at 9/8c only on The CW.