This past May, leading “Riverdale” actress Vanessa Morgan caused quite a stir when she shared her experiences on the set. Morgan who played “Toni Topaz,” claimed she was “tired of us being used as sidekick non-dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show.”
Her tweets garnered a public apology from the series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. He and the show’s writers vowed to donate to Black Lives Matter and vowed to write more inclusive storylines for Morgan’s character and other characters of color.
Now, another Black actress on the show, Bernadette Beck, who plays “Peaches ‘N Cream” on the show, is echoing Morgan’s sentiments.
In an interview with Elle, Beck said, ““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. […] 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.”
According to Jezebel, the show’s characters of color were Morgan’s and the actresses who played Josie and the Pussycats, actresses Ashleigh Murray (Josie McCoy), Hayley Law (Valerie Brown), and Asha Bromfield (Melody Valentine.)
The fictional singing group was disbanded on the show to likely give the white actress who played Veronica Lodge more singing opportunities.
Beck shared that these practices further exacerbate the patterns of racism evident in this industry and jeopardizes future opportunities for actresses of color.
“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?”
Beck said that her character was written as a bisexual woman but that fact was only mentioned quickly as she was involved in a threesome subplot with Morgan.
Otherwise, she said there were times when she was totally forgotten.
“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.”
Speaking about the creators and directors, Beck told Elle, “You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day.”