Casey Cott Steals the Show as a Musical 'Riverdale' Flips for 'Hedwig' (VIDEO)
Of all the out-there things Riverdale has pulled in its four seasons, the wildest one may be what it hasn't done: Capitalize on the endless charm of Casey Cott's Kevin Keller. As the Archieverse's first openly gay character, Kevin has had a few great moments here and there, a few boys on the side and one terrifically handled scene between Kevin and father Tom (Martin Cummins) regarding Kev's risky cruising habits. He's pretty much the perfect best bud and handsome AF, but it's always felt like he just wasn't getting his proper due.
This week, Cott gets to take center stage and shine like a pair of glittery platform boots when Kevin launches a campaign against Principal Honey (Kerr Smith), who refuses to allow him to perform a number from Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the school's now-revived Variety Show. The edgy rock fable about an East German trans female rock star provides the soundtrack for this year's startlingly powerful musical episode, as well as the theme of Kevin's emotional evolution as he stands up for himself and finds that, even though he often feels "invisible," his friends at Riverdale High see him as more than he ever imagined.
We recently spoke with Cott, an ebullient, theater-trained Carnegie Mellon grad about the joys of slipping into Hedwig's wigs, the kiss Riverdale fans won't see coming and how he's raising money for charity by shaving his head. Because, it turns out, the actor is just as inspiring as the groundbreaking comic-book character he plays.
How are you doing?
Casey Cott: I'm good! I haven't talked to you for a while!
Not for ages! And now, I can talk to you about, like, one of the best episodes the show has done. And you are awesome in it!
Thanks, man! I appreciate that. I appreciate it. Yeah, it was really fun shooting this one, for sure, and I'm glad they kinda tossed me some fun stuff, you know!
Some great stuff. How familiar were you with Hedwig?
I was pretty familiar. I had seen it on Broadway and I'd seen the movie. I had never met Stephen Trask, who wrote the music for Hedwig, before. But he hung out with us for a few days, which was so cool, to get to hang out with him. Super cool guy. I I'd never done the show, so it was really a great opportunity to kinda dive in and attack some of the music and stuff.
I'm sure your musical training also helped in keeping your time in the recording booth lower than normal, right?
Right. And since I had a lot more material that I was somewhat familiar with, I think it took two or three recording sessions this time. Luckily, they got me in early for both choreographing and recording the numbers, so it made shooting it a lot more fun once you kind of have that stuff hammered out.
Yeah. But you know what, they're all super talented and I think this is with everybody's singing: Once you get that confidence, the sky's the limit. So they've done a couple musical episodes now and they see how they work. They just bust out their vocals and they're incredible. Cole has a lovely voice, and Lili [Reinhart] and Camila — everyone has a wonderful voice. You know, it just makes it much more fun.
And it's also nice to see a little more fleshing out of Kevin and where he feels he falls into this universe of Riverdale.
Yeah, and it's fun to see Kevin express it instead of just kind of trying to appease his friends. I thought it was fun to kind of watch Kevin explode and say, 'This is what I want. This is how I feel and I'm not going to do this anymore.' And I think I definitely was ready for that. I was excited for that.
There is a really great sequence, the "Wig in a Box" number...how was filming that with the girls?
Oh yeah! That part was a blast. I think it's the first time Kevin's had a scene alone with Betty, Veronica, Cheryl, and Toni. And then we have a giant pillow fight! [Laughs] So, you know, in typical Riverdale fashion, it's super fun, super zany, insane and we just had a great time shooting it.
And how long did it take you to get into the costuming, because there's so many great looks you had to work?
I think the longest one was Hedwig. It took about 2-and-a-half hours for the hair and makeup, and then, luckily, the costume was just a one-piece, so that took about 2 seconds. So yeah, hair and makeup took a while. We had a lot of fun in the makeup trailer, but that was definitely the longest I've ever sat still in my life, so - it was really fun. It was really fun.
And the boots?
So the boots were... OK, I was actually worried. [Laughs]. Everyone was a little worried about the boots, but they were super comfortable. I got lucky. They probably look a little more difficult than they were, but they were very forgiving. And I wore some ankle braces just to make sure everything would be okay there. But they look incredible. They were so cool and weren't that tricky, thankfully. Maybe I'm just gifted! [Laughs]
When the entire cast shot the hallway scene where everyone is in the Hedwig outfit, who were you most impressed pulling it off?
[Laughs] Oooh that's a tough question. You know, it was really fun seeing Charles [Melton, Reggie], obviously, and Drew [Ray Tanner, who plays Fangs]. They both rocked it and had a blast with it. I think they liked it a lot more than they were even aware they could like it. [Laughs]
And how is K.J. as a kisser?
Incredible kisser! That was an incredible, unscripted moment that happened.
Stop! Was it really?
Unscripted, yeah! There's a part of Hedwig where Hedwig goes into the audience and lays one on an audience member. So, halfway through shooting that number, I was like, 'I should just go kiss K.J.' So I planted one on his cheek, and then the next take I went in to do the same thing and he turned his face and we just kind of laid a big one on each other. And then after that, we were like 'This is exactly what it should be. This is, like, perfect for this number' and I'm really glad it made the cut. I remember I told Tessa [Leigh Williams], our writer, to 'Please send Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] that screenshot.' She sent it to him and he responded, I remember, it just said 'In. The. Cut.' So he knew when that happened that the fans would love it. It was awesome.
And clearly K.J. was into it because he's so delighted by the moment.
Yeah. And K.J. as an actor, he's so present and so game for whatever's gonna make an awesome moment. He's the best.
That is so nice. And now, everyone will wanna know, what's going on with Fangs? We get a bit of a moment where there's definite support and a definite care there.
Yeah. So, Fangs and Kevin are gonna figure it out. I think I can say that. Over the next few episodes, you'll get more Kevin and Fangs hanging out. You know, I don't even know if they know what they wanna be, but they're definitely hanging out a bit. They might end up being near each other next year, we don't really know, so we'll see what happens. [Laughs]
So, obviously, my brother's an actor. My sister works Carly for Charity Water, which is a really cool company. She works right under Scott Harrison who created it. It's a really cool charity and 100% of donations go straight to giving people clean water in the world and they're a privately funded company by investors. So, I just loved the idea that 100% of the dollars you give will be going to what you're giving it to.
I was sitting at home, it was about 7:30 and I was going nuts that night in this quarantine...I was going stir-crazy. I looked at my brother and I was like, 'Let's do something crazy tonight. I wanna shave my head.' And we were all sitting there and within 15 minutes, my sister had [donation] uploaded the page and my brother and I were on our way to CVS to get a razor. It was just like one of those sibling nights where we acted like we were 15 again. [Laughs]
Did you guys have to get clearance from your shows?
Yeah. Well, Corey didn't because he's on a bit more of a break than I am. Before we uploaded it, I texted Roberto—actually, I texted my manager Chris and said, 'Hey, is it insane to shave my head?'And Chris was like, "No, just let's make sure we're safe." So, I texted Roberto and Roberto immediately responded with 'Go ahead. Do it. It will grow back...have fun.' And then he generously donated to our campaign, which was so cool. But, I did get the Roberto clearance. And actually, Roberto and I were talking about shaving my head at the end of season 1 for a storyline which never happened. So, I think we've always kind of wanted to see what it looks like and we got a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse with no possible backlash of it being onscreen.
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So, how do you like it?
I like it, but I'm growing it out immediately. I'm ready for it to be back. However, it has been nice waking up and just kind of rolling out of bed and no one can tell if I've showered or not, you know? [Laughs]
And now, doing this Hedwig episode, did it trigger that desire to get back onstage?
Do you know what's so funny? I didn't lose the theatre bug for a minute there, but I kind of was not super wanting to do it. And Hedwig, combined with some theatre things that have been happening recently—and with Broadway shut down right now—it's totally ignited the bug back in me. So, whenever that possibility comes, I'm gonna jump on it, whether it's a play or a musical, whatever it may be. That has definitely reignited.
Nice, nice. Well, listen, I'm super happy for you because Kevin has always been such a great character and I love that he's the one going up against Mr. Honey because we know that he has that risky side.
Yeah, yeah. And I think that side's coming out now. I think, moving forward, that side's gonna be invested. This is kind of a big coming-out episode for Kevin, so we'll see.
Riverdale, Wednesdays, 8/7c, The CW
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