Following Vanessa Morgan's revelation that she was the least-paid series regular on Riverdale and felt as if her character was tokenized (and her claims were backed up by former stars Ashleigh Murray, Hayley Law, Asha Bromfield), another Black actress on the show is speaking out.
Bernadette Beck has portrayed the recurring character of Peaches ‘N Cream since season 3. Despite appearing in the show for two seasons, the character, who is a member of Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz (Morgan)'s Pretty Poisons gang, has had limited storyline and dialogue.
In an interview with Elle, Beck came forward to stand in solidarity with her the other women. “I was made out to be a very unlikable character and therefore, an unlikeable person in people’s eyes," she said.
As Elle reports, “She [Peaches] simply exists in the background of many scenes, chewing bubblegum with her arms crossed and looking defiant. She is often positioned as a service worker, either DJing or collecting tickets at the door to an event. On multiple occasions, producers told Beck that she was supposed to appear "sassy" and that her character is someone who "always speaks her mind"—ironic, considering Peaches has very few lines of dialogue. This attitude is never explained on the show or in marketing or promotion."
Beck added, “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.”
She also said that during filming scenes, production would forget about her character and wouldn't tell her where to stand. “I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once," she said. “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. 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?”
When Morgan came forward with her claims, series Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa issued and apology and promised to do better.
“We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She's right," he wrote in a statement that was posted on social media. “We're sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her. We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color. CHANGE is happening and will continue to happen. Riverdale will get bigger, not smaller. Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside it. All of the Riverdale writers made a donation to @BLMLA, but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writer's room."
Photo: The CW