Since its premiere, Riverdale has been introducing viewers (and Archie fans) to the new, TV versions of all their beloved comic book characters — often in ways they don’t expect.
The latest character to grace the small screen is none other than Ethel Muggs, who makes her first appearance on the show Thursday night, when she helps Veronica investigate a “shame book.”
Ahead of Ethel’s big debut, EW caught up with her portrayer, Shannon Purser (Stranger Things), to discuss her latest character, that Barb-inspired Golden Globes opening number, and if everyone’s favorite redhead will make a (ghostly) return to the hit Netflix series’ second season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How familiar were you with Archie comics before you got this role?
SHANNON PURSER: Not very. I would see them in the grocery store when you’re checking out. I remember my mom talking about them every once in a while. But I didn’t know a whole lot about the comics.
What are you most excited about Ethel in terms of playing her?
There’s just so much potential for her. She’s such a strong and kind person but we can tell pretty quickly that there’s some stuff going on in her life that the other kids either don’t know about and going into her past. So I’m really just excited to see what they’re going to do with her because she could go in a lot of very interesting paths.
Anything you can tease about what paths she might take?
The only tease I have so far is that she is a very dependable and resilient human being and she sees the best in other people. Even when others don’t. That’s really what makes her unique. While all this chaos is going on with her friends, she knows who she is and she’s not afraid.
Ethel makes her debut in tonight’s episode. What can you say about how we meet her?
When we first meet her she’s gone through something pretty horrible but she’s standing up for what she knows is right and she’s speaking out about an issue that really matters to her and then she kind of gets dragged down into a little bit of shenanigans with Betty and Veronica.
Considering how familiar people are with Betty and Veronica as comic characters, what is it like being in the Archie TV show?
It’s so cool! One of my favorite things about TV and movies is that we can take from these very well known and beloved stories and bring them to life. I feel very honored to get to play this character that people already know and are very familiar with. So I’m really excited… You don’t want to miss any episodes of Riverdale because so much happens in each one.
In the comics, Ethel has a big crush on Jughead — will that be a thing we’ll see on the show?
You will have to ask the showrunners because I do not know! [Laughs] But there’s definitely a little bit of interaction between Ethel and Jughead so it really could go any way. I’m definitely excited to see what they do with the two of us.
Fans have noted the similarities between Barb and Ethel. But in what ways do you think they’re different?
Ethel is a little more toned down and introspective. We’ll see later on in season 1 how she spends a lot of time in her thoughts. She’s a little bit, I don’t want to say kinder because Barb was a kind and good person. But I think Ethel is really willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. So while Barb was not a fan of Steve from pretty much the beginning, Ethel is willing to look for the good in everyone.
Riverdale does reference Stranger Things once or twice. What was that like?
It was cute that they threw that in there. I think that they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t feel too cheesy or obvious. But I have expected pretty much nothing that has happened in these past six months, so it’s really crazy to think that role would have such a big impact on my future and my career, but I’m so grateful for it.
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We also got a Barb reference in the Golden Globes opening. How did that come about?
It was crazy! Somebody on my team got in touch with me and was like, “Jimmy Fallon’s team of people have gotten in touch and he really wants you to be a part of the Golden Globes opening.” That was the craziest thing in the world for me to hear. I watch Jimmy Fallon all the time. I think he’s hilarious. And the Golden Globes is huge so to think that I’d get to be a part of it, it was just a crazy, surreal experience. And so much fun.
Did you have to play all the Barbs?
I was just the one in the middle. We had like 10-12 other swimmers who were dressed like Barb. And let me tell you, it was pretty weird to look across the field and see 10 people who are dressed just like you. It was an interesting experience, and they were all really cool and it came out so great.
Obviously, I do have to ask you about Stranger Things season 2. We know Barb is dead but is there any chance we might see her in flashback or a dream sequence?
I think that it’s Stranger Things. So there’s a possibility for anything. But I know about as much about season 2 as everybody else does. So there’s really no way to tell. But I’d love to be back if I had the chance.
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.