Marisol Nichols is new to the world of teen drama. Despite a brief turn on “Teen Wolf," the actress is better known for her roles on crime shows, like Special Agent Zoe Keats on “NCIS,” or chief of Counter Terrorism Nadia Yassar in “24.”
But now the 43-year-old actress stars in “Riverdale,” the new CW show everyone’s buzzing about. In the steamy, noir spin on the classic “Archie” comic — with a vibe of “Twin Peaks” meets “Gossip Girl” — Nichols plays Hermione Lodge, mother to the infamous Veronica. In this retelling, the two have fled a life of New York high society for Hermione’s hometown of Riverdale, after husband and father Hiram Lodge goes to prison for embezzlement.
The series opens with Hermione and Veronica both adjusting to small town life. Veronica sheds her mean girl past, while Hermione finds new struggles as a single, broke mom, and contends with the high school drama she left behind. That includes an old nemesis in Betty’s mother (Madchen Amick, who incidentally will play Shelly Johnson in the “Twin Peaks” reboot), and an ex-boyfriend in Archie’s father (Luke Perry).
Ahead of Thursday night's premiere, Nichols calls from L.A. to talk about playing a glammed-up version of Hermione and feeling like a '90s teen opposite Luke Perry.
Hermione was allegedly a mean girl when she went to Riverdale High, but from what we’ve watched so far, as an adult she seems like a good person? We’re not sure.
I’m glad that you can’t really tell! You’re going to see a lot more Hermione and what she’s going through, with her and Luke Perry. She is trying to do the best that she can. She’s trying to be a better person than she was in high school. Same with Veronica: they’re both going through that same change. Of course, any villain would say they were doing the best they could.
So you would say she’s a villain?
She’s not a villain, but she’s not without her own flaws, without giving too much away. She makes mistakes and doesn’t always do the right thing.
This is a different role than you’re used to playing.
Yes. I’m used to “24” and “NCSIS”, crime dramas. That was my specialty for a long time. And so I’m really happy that I can step out of that. I love those shows, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s more about the plot than the characters, and so this is really fun to be able to create something so bold and three dimensional, with a lot at stake.
“Riverdale” also has that mystery/thriller element.
Exactly. It still has a mystery at the heart of it, but it’s not, “OK, well the evidence shows…” or “Let’s get this over to forensics.” [Laughs]
What’s it like having a “will they/won’t they” with Luke Perry?
[Laughs] It’s been fun! I’m not gonna lie, I’m a girl for god’s sake. I remember “90210” very well. It’s fun being thrust into those things. I posted a picture on myInstagrambecause Skeet Ulrich joins us for a while as well, so I’m like, "OK, well I’m a ‘90s happy girl." Going to work isn’t hard on those days, I’ll tell you that much.
How does having a daughter in real life inform the role for you?
Eight years ago — my daughter’s only eight years old — I was still a working actress but I had a hard time playing a mom because I didn’t really get it. I could go, “Oh well that’s how I feel about my dog, or my cat,” but having a kid changed me so much. I was like, “I get it, I know exactly what I’d do.”
So being the mom to Veronica, I sort of just invented that backstory of how they grew up together and how she raised her. It’s really funny because when I’m memorizing my lines, [my daughter] will read Veronica’s lines for me. [Laughs] And she’ll change the lines to add in “mommy.” When I go to set I’m still hearing that little kid’s voice when she’s talking. It adds a different element to it, for sure.