Glass interviews break-out star Madelaine Petsch


Glass talks to Madelaine Petsch, Riverdale’s shining talent and break-out star

MADELAINE Petsch once thought she’d never make it as an actor. But talking to the 24-year-old now you’d have no idea. She radiates confidence, charm and charisma, and despite her young age, holds a distinctive maturity beyond her years. Although Petsch has been on the small screen for years, it was landing the role as Riverdale’s Cheryl Blossom that was the big break for the Washington-born star. The character is a rare find for women in television. She always speaks her mind, does what she wants, and is completely unreserved. Speaking to Petsch, you can see the subtle similarities between her and her character. Both incredibly assertive and intelligent, there is no doubt that Petsch is the perfect casting for the role.

Alongside acting, Petsch also has a YouTube channel with over four million subscribers. Giving her fans a window into her personal life outside acting, since its beginning the channel has exploded with love and support from fans. A creative in every sense of the word, alongside creating her own video content, she has dabbled with design, even creating her own signature range of sunglasses with Privé Revaux.

As season three of Riverdale comes to a close, Glass sits down to talk to Petsch on her relationship to her character Cheryl, her sudden success, and the advice she’d give to struggling actors.

Madelaine Petsch. Photograph: Heidi Tappis

You play Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale, and she’s characterised by her vindictive but hilarious mean-girl persona. What’s it like to play such an interesting and emotionally complex character?
You know it’s funny, because every time I talk to an interviewer or anyone about Cheryl, people tend to talk about the vindictive part of her personality. I feel like it’s overshadowing, apparently for the audience, this really beautiful fragile girl on the inside – especially in the newer episodes of this season. It’s a beautiful thing to play such a complex character, it makes my job never boring as I feel constantly challenged by it. I learn more about myself and her every single day. There are always 15 different things going on with her so she’s not a straightforward character. It’s a real cool character to play.

I do love the character. Do you feel like you relate to her in anyway?
Yes, I feel like I say this in a lot of interviews, but I feel there’s a point in people’s lives where they felt like they didn’t know who they were and they were fragile. Growing up I had some difficulties figuring out who I was, and I feel I can relate to that in a sense of searching and figuring out who you are.

So you gained success very quickly after Riverdale, and you’ve since won two teen choice awards and a MTV movie and TV award, which is amazing. How do you feel your sudden success has affected your life?
It feels very natural. It seems to the outside world it happened very quickly, but we shot Riverdale for a year before it aired. It felt like a very gradual slow build. It feels like it integrated into my life very easily, and also when I didn’t know how to handle things, fans taught me how to handle it. I have such great supportive people in my immediate circle, but fans are so supportive.

Madelaine Petsch. Photograph: Heidi Tappis

You’ve said that before landing your Riverdale role, you’ve had moments when you thought you’d never make it in the industry. So what advice would you give to any young or struggling actors?
There’s a couple different pieces. I think the most cliché is you know not to give up and keep pursuing it. But also people told me my entire life that if there is something else that I’d like to pursue I should pursue it instead, because if I ended up doing acting it was going to be very taxing, which is true. Acting I truly believe is my calling, and that’s what got me through. I knew this is what I needed to do, so no matter what, no matter how many noes there were, and there were a lot of noes, I got a lot of noes. I still persisted, and I think that is the most important thing. If you know in your heart of hearts that what you are pursuing is what you need to be doing in your soul, to feed your soul, then you can do it eventually. Whether it takes five years or 15 years, you just have to be comfortable knowing that it may take a long time. But keep working at it and learn to fulfil yourself in other ways.

You also have, alongside acting, your own YouTube channel, with over four million subscribers. And you’ve said before that this is where you give your fans the chance to get to know the real you outside of acting. How do you balance your work acting, producing, as well as vlogging your life?
That is a great question. I don’t even know how I balance it. I think it’s because everything I do I love doing. I don’t feel I work a day in my life because everything I do I truly genuinely enjoy. For example, I hadn’t posted on my YouTube channel in the past month up till yesterday, because I was finishing off the season. And so I don’t necessarily always have the right answer, I don’t think I’m always great at balancing, but what I do I love, and I edit all my own videos. I think it’s about keeping yourself in a world where you enjoy everything you do.

Madelaine Petsch. Photograph: Heidi Tappis

Your character Cheryl Blossom is known for her distinctively bold style. And she’s rarely seen without her trademark colour red. Can you tell us the more memorable things you’ve worn while in character?
Definitely the spider pin. I have a couple of really beautiful spider brooches I wear on the show. To me they’re very memorable. Most recently, in the finale I wore this beautiful Miu Miu see-through lace shirt with a red tie and it’s so beautiful. I have this amazing cloak that the costume designer created. It’s a long, kind of archery style cloak with a hood, and it’s bright red. It’s probably one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. Our costume designer is out of this world, and honestly, I owe it all to her. I also have some amazing flame Louboutins which are to die for. I mean I could go on for ever, I’m obsessed with my wardrobe on the show. It’s so well-tailored.

Do you feel like her style is similar to yours at all?
I think she did influence my style a bit. I think she made me more daring with colours. Growing up as a redhead, I was always told to stay away from oranges, reds, and pinks. It was so funny, because when I booked the show, they were like what colours do you not like wearing, and I was like oranges, reds, and pinks. They were like, “Oh, being red is a huge part of the character, I hope you’re okay with that”, and I said I was, “Game, whatever – yeah let’s do it”. And now I love oranges, reds and pinks, so I think it opened up my mind more to fashion in general. It made me a little more daring, and I’ve learnt to have fun with it. I think she’s influenced me, and I have also influenced her a little bit.

Madelaine Petsch. Photograph: Heidi Tappis

So, you’ve brought out your own collection of sunglasses, and I know you’ve just announced the second with Privé Revaux. Could you imagine yourself bringing out any other collections in the future, clothing wise?
Yes, of course. This has been my first test. I thought if I enjoy the design process, and if my fans enjoy purchasing the things I’ve created, then yes. It was a very big test, especially the first collection. I’ve just announced the second collection which I’m so excited about. I never thought I’d be someone to sit down and draw a design and have it come to life. But that’s how the sunglasses came into fruition, and I realised I loved that process. It’s such a cool process, getting samples, and approving certain things, and being able to nitpick. I am truly so proud of them, so I definitely could see myself doing something else.

It was revealed two seasons into Riverdale that your character Cheryl is a lesbian, and the show has since shone a light onto the ethics of gay conversion therapy. What was it like to act the coming out of a character?
The coming out was by far the favourite scene I’ve shot on the show. It’s such a beautiful moment to have a character, who seems to be the most angry and the most hurt and fragile, to come out and realise this is who she is, and realise something she has hidden from herself for so long, and realising this is why she doesn’t love herself. It creates a big shift in Cheryl, learning how to love herself, and it was such a beautiful scene to shoot, and I had a great scene partner. The outpouring of love and support we got for that was amazing. Being able to bring the representation of lesbianism to that scene is a true honour. We really worked hard to bring it to justice.

Madelaine Petsch. Photograph: Heidi Tappis

The theme of our summer issue is “purpose”. How would you define purpose for yourself?
I think that’s a very interesting and loaded question. I think a number of things. I think there are different kinds of purpose. I think my purpose on this planet is to try to bring happiness to other people, and to entertain, and create, whether it be five minutes or an hour of content that can help someone escape from their problems. I think purpose can also mean taking care of the environment, reducing your carbon footprint, and being conscious of what you’re doing. I think purpose is also taking care of other people. I mean, purpose is a huge question. I think my purpose in art is to entertain people and help them escape to different worlds, or enjoy different worlds, or experience different worlds.

I think my purpose as a human is to bring as much love and happiness to as many people as I can. I think my purpose on this planet is to bring awareness to environmentalism and taking care of our planet, so it can be sustained for a long time. I think purpose is a beautiful word and there are so many ways to describe it, and those are the three things that are barely scratching the surface.

by Emma Hart

From the Glass Archive – Glass Magazine, Decade, Issue 38, Summer 2019

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Photographer: HEIDI TAPPIS

Photography assistant: LISA FLORY
Styling assistant: LEONARD MURRAY

Look 1
Top, skirt: FENDI
Diamond earrings: BULGARI High Jewellery

Look 2
Shirt: GUCCI
Top diamond necklace: BULGARI High Jewellery

Look 3
Vest, skirt, shoes: DIOR
Bracelet: BULGARI

Look 4
Diamond earrings, bracelet: BULGARI High Jewellery

Look 5
Top, skirt: FENDI
Diamond earrings: BULGARI High Jewellery