Riverdale Star KJ Apa Says the Series Makes Him "Feel Like I'm in Jail"

KJ Apa is best known to many for his role as Archie Andrews on The CW's Archie Comics-inspired television series Riverdale, a role that sees the actor dye his hair red in order to match the character's comic book appearance. But while the role has made him a household name, there are some downsides to the role. In a conversation with his Songbird co-star Demi Moore for Interview, Apa described his role as Archie on Riverdale as feeling like being in jail as well as opened up about the pressure of playing such a well-known character.

"I felt so free coming from a show where I feel like I'm in jail a lot of the time," Apa said about his Songbird role as opposed to his role on Riverdale. "There are so many restrictions on what I can and can't do. With this character, it was like, 'Wow, this is what it's like to really express myself in a natural way.' I wasn't covered in makeup or hair products. I had long hair and a beard. I just felt free."

Apa's Songbird character, Nico, is a far cry from Riverdale's Archie. Songbird is set in 2024 in a world that is now dealing with a terrifying mutated version of the COVID-19 virus called COVID-23 that has seen the government take drastic measures to deal with it -- including forced quarantine. Apa's Nico is a motorbike courier with immunity to the virus who finds himself trying to save his girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson) when is set to be taken into a quarantine camp after the death of her grandmother. The controversial film was the first to have gone into production following pandemic-related shutdowns in Los Angeles last year.

For Apa, playing Nico gave him a sense of freedom that playing Archie does not, and he went on to explain that while he's grateful for the role, there's a lot of pressure -- and some people have difficulty separating him as the person from Archie the character.

"There's been so much pressure in playing Archie," Apa said. "I'm so grateful for the show and its success, but at the same time, there's a lot of baggage that comes with that success. I feel like the only people I can talk to about my issues are my costars, the people who can really relate to me. Cole [Sprouse] is an amazing person to have on set because he's been doing this his whole life."

He continued, "I try to look at it from a fan's perspective to understand the way they think. But there are times when I'm like, 'Wow, they really have no idea that we are actual people. They can't separate us from our characters.' You don't have that in other professions. You don't dissect the life of a builder and start judging the decisions he makes in his life with his wife and kids. As an actor, I will be judged on everything: my political opinions, my opinions on drugs, my opinions on the people I want to be with. Everything. It's something I've had to come to terms with."

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Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.