The past few months have seen some significant conversations in our society, after the death of George Floyd led to worldwide protests surrounding racial inequality and police brutality. The change has sparked a conversation surrounding the representation of Black characters in media, with Riverdale stars Vanessa Morgan and Ashleigh Murray addressing the show's narrative shortcomings last month. Bernadette Beck, who portrays Peaches 'N Cream on the hit The CW series, is the latest to speak out about the subject, candidly addressing it in a recent interview with Elle. Beck, who has appeared on the series since Season 3, pointed out that Peaches 'N Cream has been given little-to-no development on the series, and was made to be seen as "unlikable" from the minute she first appeared.
“I was made out to be a very unlikable character and therefore, an unlikable person in people’s eyes,” Beck explained. “I get it, there’s always a protagonist and antagonist, but I never had much of a story plot or enough character development to even be considered an antagonist,. 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.”
"I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once," Beck revealed. "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."
Ever since her first appearance on Riverdale, Peaches 'N Cream has largely been regulated to being a background character, whether as a member of the Pretty Poisons gang, or among the students of Riverdale High. Beck claims that, on multiple occasions, producers told her to appear as someone who is "sassy" and "always speaks her mind" -- despite having very few lines of dialogue on the show. One of the most significant moments Peaches has had on the show was in the Season 3 musical episode, where she wordlessly agreed to participate in a threesome with Morgan's Toni Topaz. Beck, who is bisexual in real life, argued that the scene unintentionally perpetuated the negative stereotype that bisexual people are hypersexual and "down for anything".
“When you’re in it, you’re going through the motions and you’re like, ‘Oh great, I finally get to be utilized!’” Beck revealed. “But when I saw it all put together, it made my character seem like she was down for anything.”
Beck also addressed how her character's portrayal on Riverdale has impacted her life offscreen, as she has suffered severe anxiety attacks as a result of body-shaming and death threats from the show's viewers.
“I didn’t understand when I first got on that show that it meant something for your character to be likable,” Beck explained. “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? 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?”
Shortly after Morgan and Murray made their comments, Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa took to social media to apologize and to promise a positive change in terms of representation. Whether or not that will end up impacting Peaches 'N Cream - especially with an upcoming five-year time jump shifting the show's entire status quo - remains to be seen.
What do you think of Beck's comments surrounding her character's representation on Riverdale? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!