Prom, Prisoners & Pop’s: Mädchen Amick on Directing the ‘Riverdale’ Finale

Chapter Seventy-Four: Wicked Little Town
Katie Yu/The CW

If you think the kids of Riverdale are scary (and they are), Betty and Archie have nothing on their folks. Since The CW’s subversive soap launched, the adults in this town have been messy, manipulative and at times, even murderous. So of course, we love them. And fans will be Team Grown-Up even more after this week’s unexpected season finale, which was directed by series regular Mädchen Amick with a killer style befitting Alice Cooper.

In the hour, entitled “Killing Mr. Honey,” the teens face the ultimate evil—their principal Mr. Honey (Kerr Smith)—and his insidious plan to rob them of prom. While some of the gang take it upon themselves to prank the prickly administrator into backing down, it ultimately becomes necessary to call in the big guns: their parents, who show up for their kids like never before. At the same time, Jug (Cole Sprouse) begins to pen a twisted tale of revenge inspired by the situation for his college application that plays out in a series of highly demented sequences that may actually bleed into reality (wait for the final moments). And of course, there is also the Voyeur running around, let’s not forget that.

So sit back and soak in our chat with Amick, truly the coolest Cooper ever, about her trip behind the camera, getting to turn this episode into the finale and how Falice may be impacted by the next season.

OK, with everything going on, did you have to finish editing this remotely?

Mädchen Amick: I was three days into my four days of editing when they shut us down and it took a few days for everybody to get their equipment sent home to them so they could finish whatever was outstanding. We had to do our last day just remotely…the editor would send me a link and then I would give my notes and that’s how we did it. So it wasn’t ideal, but we got it done.

It’s such a great episode to get to direct because there’s so many things going on. You get different timelines and different narratives.

Yeah. For the characters to be able to finally confront and deal with their nemesis all year, Mr. Honey, was really fun. And Kerr Smith was so gung-ho about just being tortured for the entire episode. [Laughs]

Honestly, how much time did he spend tied up?

A lot! Most of the episode, we had him tied up. We had him tied up to a chair, we had him gaffer-taped, we had a gag, we did all kinds of good stuff to him.

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

Hilarious. Watching this one—and I feel like “Wicked Little Town” was similar—the story is about high schoolers being high schoolers. Nobody’s playing detective or running a speakeasy.

[Laughs] I know, they were kids. That was fun. I had a lot of scenes in the student lounge, which is very challenging to shoot because you have so many people, so many different directions. But I tried to make each student lounge scene feel a little different, and it was really fun to have all the characters in there because I came up with things for everybody to do. For one, I said, “Okay so everybody’s sitting around doing homework” and all the actors were like, “Oh my god, we’ve never done that before!” [Laughs]

And when did you get the script?

I got this script only about…[pauses]…I got a writer’s draft right on my very first day of prep. This was in January. So yeah, we started filming at the beginning of February. And so you prep for eight days, shoot for eight days and you edit for four days. And I got some of the storyline, like story ideas, a couple of days before prep, so at least I had an idea of the story we were going to be telling. But at first, I just got the writer’s draft, which, by the way, means it hasn’t gone through Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa, showrunner], the network, studio, anybody. And you never know how much it’s going to change. Most of it stayed somewhat similar in broad strokes of storyline and places that it was going to take place.

Now, you get all this great stuff and then it turns out this is the season finale!

[Laughs] Yeah. I know, but it worked out nicely. And Roberto did say that. He said, “Luckily, it’s sort of like we had upped the ante of what’s going on with this ‘Voyeur auteur’ and the stakes get higher at the end of this episode.” That [twist] was about to start a new threat to do with that, so ending it now and having that be the cliffhanger ended up working. I am so thankful that it did. But now he’s going to have to adjust for next season obviously.

Dean Buscher/The CW

Obviously, the fandom would hunt me down if I didn’t ask about Falice. Skeet is leaving next season, so what’s going on?

I know. But I have no idea [what is planned]. No idea. I wasn’t even sure what Roberto had planned to do even before the shutdown happened. So now, I mean, I know that the plan was there was going to be a time jump to Season 5. The kids have gone to college and they’re returning back to Riverdale for some reason. So I know just that, in itself, was going to cause some kind of jump in different relationships and stuff like that. But now that we didn’t really finalize prom and graduation, I’m only assuming that he’s going to want to do that next season. At least start off the season with bringing things to a close. But I don’t know. I’m totally guessing, and I have no idea how he will deal with Marisol [Nichols, Hermoine] and Skeet leaving. But at the same time, like we always joke on Riverdale, if you end up dying or moving away, that’s guaranteed more screen time! So, it’s not the last of FP. [Laughs]

Speaking of the parents, you got to shoot some great scenes with them. And usually, it’s always the kids who get the slow-motion walk-down-the-hallway scenes. But you gave it to the parents!

That’s right. [Laughs]

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

Can you talk about the scene in Pop’s with the kids and their parents? It’s may be the first time we have seen all of the characters united.

Exactly! Yeah, it was a moment for all of the parents to support their kids with something really important that’s happening. And it united everyone, which is kind of a nice note to leave on, because obviously we’ve all been at each other’s throats here and there throughout different storylines and seasons. So it was nice to see them all come together, have that nice moment with the kids at Pop’s and tell them that they love them and they support them and, you know…sorry that your high school lives sucked so much. [Laughs]

It was obvious from some of the shots you framed and the visual tone that you have directed before.

Well, I did a docuseries pilot that was an hour long—we’re still shopping that around—but this was my first network drama hour. So it was really fun, challenging and rewarding. It was just great that it was a world that I know and actors that I know, because everybody was super supportive. But there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and everything that you have planned, you have now got to execute it. And man, when you step on that floor, first thing in the morning, you better be ready to jump on that train because that train is moving! You got to be ready.

Kailey Schwerman/The CW

I am sure it helps to have the cast on board.

I really loved directing the actors and their performances and just getting to know all the nuances of how the different actors worked. They actually all loved taking direction and getting notes, being pushed and challenged. And that was really nice because you never know if you’re going to come across an actor who’s like, “I know the character, leave me alone.” Luckily, we don’t have those actors on our show. And I think that they were probably more open to me because we know each other and trust each other. And even leading up to the episode, they were all saying, “Oh, I can’t wait for you to direct me.” So it was a very positive experience. And I think I pushed them. It’s also hard because when you’re getting to the end of your season, everybody’s so tired. It was the ninth of our 10th month of filming and those late Friday nights, everybody just gets really tired. I’m so thankful that they rallied their energy. [Laughs]

Riverdale, Wednesdays, 8/7c, The CW