Riverdale star Camila Mendes is a newcomer by Hollywood standards—she only recently graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and her role as complicated, formerly rich girl Veronica Lodge is her first ever—but the Miami native has the confidence and insight of a well-seasoned vet.
Those traits have helped her settle in just fine on the Riverdale set in Vancouver, especially with her onscreen mother, actress Marisol Nicholes (who plays Hermione Lodge). “I love her to death,” Nichols gushed to me. “She’s my favorite. I think I can say that since she does play my daughter! She’s dynamite; she’s amazing. We get along very, very well. We truly do. Thank God!”
Viewers have fallen in love with Mendes as well, and not just because her version of Veronica is so much more than the spoiled heiress portrayed in the Archie Comics. Mendes brings an authenticity to the role that could have easily been one note. It’s something the actress applies in real life too. She’s quick to point out that she’s more than her upbringing, more than the color of her skin, and definitely more than old-fashioned stereotypes. And, best of all, she has no problem being vocal about it. Here’s why.
Glamour: You’ve said you have never felt so confident about a character. Tell me why.
Camila Mendes: I had been auditioning for about a year, and a lot of the roles I went out for didn’t feel…you kind of know, as an actor, when you get a script, if you’re like, “Can I actually play this? Is a casting director going to put me in this role? I’m not going to play this. I wouldn’t cast me as this.” You go out for it anyway because you want to get the exposure, and you want people to see you and feel like you’re doing something with your life. [Laughs.] This role came along, and it was the perfect fit. Everything about it—I had her on the surface of who I am. [I also liked] the fact that she was Latina, and they weren’t trying to push any stereotype on her. She just was Latina, which is how I feel. I’m a Brazilian—full blood, parents born and raised, and I lived there for a little bit—but I didn’t grow up there. I’m not as Latina as sometimes these castings demand you to be—this “urban” idea of what a Latina is. I’m American; I was born and raised in America, and I don’t want to fake who I am to fit a stereotype. This came along, and I felt like I didn’t have to try to be anything that I’m not. Obviously, I’m putting on a character, but I’m not faking anything. I just felt really strongly about her. I grew up watching Gossip Girl and The O.C., and I looked up to Blair Waldorf and Summer Roberts.
Glamour: Why did you look up to those characters?
CM: Because they’re strong! They say it like it is, and they’re in control and are confident and have a lot of pride. I think that’s a good example to set for young women. I was really susceptible to that [when I was young]. Being able to play that, I already knew how to go there. I rewatched The O.C., like, seven times! I know that show like the back of my hand, like, “I got this!”
Glamour: Veronica’s mom is trying to make a life for her and her daughter because she doesn’t know where the money is coming from next and her husband is in prison. Veronica’s the voice of reason right now in her family…
CM: That’s something that I’ve experienced too, growing up—when you start to see your parents struggle. The first time you start to see that, when they show that side to you—whether it’s financial trouble or there’s a divorce, whatever it is in your family—there’s going to be a point where something’s going to start to fall apart. When you see that and your parents going through that, it’s like you pull back the curtain. You’re seeing the backstage, as opposed to the front stage. You see them as people. The fact that just because they’re older or more experienced in life doesn’t mean they’ve learned from all their mistakes, doesn’t mean they’re changed. They’re continually dealing with issues they’ve been dealing with their entire life! And some people never learn. At a certain age you can’t really change; you just are who you are. I think Veronica sees that her parents are very much as lost as she is. It’s a coming-of-age story for everyone. Everyone’s growing. It’s not just the kids.
Glamour: Veronica certainly doesn’t have to be with anybody, but is there a relationship you’d love to see her explore? Or is she meant for Archie?
CM: I do think Veronica’s really good for Archie. I know I’m biased!
Glamour: They do have some sweet scenes together.
CM: Oh, there is! There are so many sweet scenes. I feel like they’re exploring this darker side of Archie, and he’s dealing with the darkness of Riverdale. I think Veronica plays into that. She’s seen a darker world; she’s not from Riverdale. She’s seen some shit. She’s been through shit. If anyone can help him through whatever he’s going through, it’s her. She’s kind of the strength in his life—or she’s stability. She can also recognize his…I think both of them are a little bit impulsive and a little bit unstable.
A new episode of Riverdale airs tonight on The CW at 9:00 P.M. ET.
Wait, there’s more: Watch Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom, give us a tour of Pop’s Choklit Shoppe: