For a struggling town, Riverdale sure does attract the best guests!
This week, series original Ashleigh Murray slips into the cat ears once again when her Josie McCoy heads back to the ol’ scratching post for “Chapter Ninety-One: The Return of the Pussycats.” Last seen being amazing as a pre-fame Josie in Katy Keene (R.I.P., you beautiful dream), Murray’s latest version of the character is now a full-fledged pop icon who is not above reading bad friends for filth and tearing through a slew of songs while she’s at it. Along the way—we won’t spoil why she’s come home—Josie and her former bandmates Val (Hayley Law) and Melody (Asha Bromfield) reunite, Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) get in on the singing, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) gets told what’s up and Kevin (Casey Cott) almost gets a storyline. Better luck next week, kid.
Since Murray is one of our all-time faves, we just had to chat her up about returning to the town known for its body count, getting to give Josie her due and working with some of her Katy Keene costars again. Oh, and we also have an exclusive clip from her performance of Nina Simone’s “Stars” because you, too, are some of our favorites.
Ashleigh Murray, how are you?!
Ashleigh: I’m so good, Damian! How are you doing?
Well , great now that I’ve seen your episode, your big return!
Yes, yes, the grand return. [Laughs]
I have to say, it’s perfect how Josie drags her old friends. I mean, there’s an amazing scene where you read that entire group at once.
Yeah, that was intense. It was intense to watch, too? Oh my God. [Laughs]
How did it feel going back? I mean, this is a weird time to be trying to go back to Vancouver.
Yeah, it was definitely weird. Especially because I was leaving New York and you know how it has been for us here in New York throughout this pandemic. We were just starting to really open things back up, like you could use testers at Sephora! And then I arrived in Canada and had a 14-day quarantine…then once I got out, it was so surreal walking the streets that I used to live in for so many years. It was interesting.
I think my favorite thing—well, my second-favorite thing because my first favorite thing about going back was being able to do this episode with Robin Givens—but my second-favorite thing was that I actually was in such a really stable mental and emotional place. It was very difficult for me while I was there full-time. With this, I could leave work and go hang out with my two best friends and spend the weekend with them and be able to completely turn off and leave the stress and the weight of work at work and actually live a life on Fridays and Saturdays.
And how was it getting back together with the girls?
You know, it was nice. I hadn’t seen them in so long. And we were kind of talking a bit before we got there. So it was interesting stepping back into the roles, into the same place all over again after so long.
How did showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa pitch this idea to you?
I’m trying to remember, it was so long ago. I think he had pitched it as a way to bring Josie kind of to a close, since we didn’t get to have what we had hoped with Katy Keene. It was supposed to be this really grand ending, a full-circle moment…she left her small town to become something big, we got to see a little bit of her in her early twenty-somethings pursuing her career in New York, and then we lost this gap of time of what happened. He was like, “We’ve never actually been able to see Josie as the superstar that the comic books say she is.” So he wanted to give Josie an opportunity to be seen at the peak of her life and her career.
And then, not only do you get to work with Robin on screen, which was so lovely, but she directed the episode.
Yeah! I adore, adore, adore Robin. And being able to do this with her, that was also one of the things that Roberto had pitched to me. He said that he wanted Robin to direct the episode—and Robin has been flourishing in her directing career—so it was really nice that I got to have my first experience with her in this capacity.=, and it was phenomenal. You know, it was hard. It was a hard episode for me to do, for many reasons. She pushed me in a way that I’m not sure I would’ve pushed myself.
And the fact that we know this environment, we know these characters, and she’s an actor herself is so helpful. She took the time to ask me to start over, or keep going, or keep playing a scene. She knew how to push me as an actor creatively in a way that directors who had never acted before don’t really know how. So it was fantastic, Robin already knows that I’m going to work with her again. She and I are going to be doing tons of things! [Laughs]
Because of what Josie experiences in the episode, which I don’t want to spoil, who better to have walk you through those scenes than someone like a mom?
Like a mom, you’re absolutely right.
You just finished “The Way Out” with Katy‘s Johnny Beauchamp. How was that?
Oh, it was unbelievable! Honestly, it was my first experience going to work not stressed out and not worried about if I’m going to make it through the day. What was really beautiful is that Johnny was leading that film and I was a supporting role, so…I just got to be there and support him in a moment that was really pivotal for him creatively. It was just amazing. I love Johnny, I love working with him. I love seeing him work. He’s fun and easy to play with because he’s so dedicated and so meticulous. He’s got such a Type-A personality that is beneficial for the art.
It’s going to be so good. And what I’m really excited about is that people are going to be able to see Johnny in a way that they’ve never seen him. I remember when we did a table read before we shot the film, I was not prepared for how low he was sitting in his body and in his voice, it was just a completely different type of person. It’s wonderful, it’s going to be great.
Speaking of Katy Keene reunions, Camille Hyde (Alexandra) is in this episode…but I don’t think you even have a scene together, do you?
Well, we do, but not speaking together, no. I think there was originally something, but the script had to be shortened. There was supposed to be a moment where we spoke, but then that didn’t happen.
Well, it really does feel like they have finally honored Josie and the Pussycats.
Yeah, I also love that you get to see Josie wholly, it’s not being cut in and out between other people where you just kind of get a glimpse of her here and there, but you have no idea who she is. I feel like you really get to follow along with who she was, who she is, and who she’s become. You get to see her in totality.
Riverdale, Wednesdays, 8/7c, The CW