Ashleigh Murray on why she wanted to return to Riverdale for Josie-centric episode
Josie is back on Riverdale.
This week's episode of the CW drama features the return of Josie and the Pussycats when Josie (Ashleigh Murray), now a superstar, comes home to work on her next album. Once there, she finds herself reflecting on her time growing up in Riverdale, the choices she made, and what she wants to do next.
EW spoke with Murray about reviving the character and finding closure.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you want to return and play Josie once again?
ASHLEIGH MURRAY: Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner] pitched the idea to me as a chance to give Josie some closure because at that point, prior to shooting this episode, we'd only seen Josie in her childhood and then in her very young adulthood on Katy Keene. And in each of those places, she was struggling and striving to become a superstar. Unfortunately, after the cancellation of Katy Keene, we didn't get to explore her making her dream come true, so this episode idea came about as an option to pay some homage to the Katy Keene years that we lost and also be able to pay proper homage to who Josie is in the comic books, which is a superstar.
Speaking of her being a superstar, how has she changed since we last saw her?
The reality is I've always seen Josie as a superstar. It really wasn't so foreign to find that comfort in where Josie is now. The biggest difference was being able to give her an emotional life that we hadn't been able to see. I think that's really what it's about, is seeing Josie as a human with emotions and with problems and with struggles, which is something that I feel like viewers have been asking for for a long time.
Outside of a musical episode, this episode might contain the most performances in Riverdale history.
I feel like it does. It's hard for me to say because so much of my time on Riverdale was musical. I've performed so many songs that it didn't feel that different to me. I was very prepared to do like 10 songs if we had to. [Laughs] But it has quite a bit of music for it to not be an episode about the characters performing a musical.
In this episode, it felt like Josie was returning to Riverdale with a different perspective on her time there.
Yeah, exactly. I know that my own emotional maturity — not that I've ever been terribly immature, I was born 35 — be that as it may, due to the pandemic, I myself have grown stronger and have a better understanding of who I am and what I want. The word "agency" has been a big part of that, of my own self growth. Stepping back into that space and this character gave me a sense of agency and gave Josie a sense of agency that neither of us felt like we had, so it was cathartic in a way. It was cathartic for this character to be able to face her past and be honest about the friendships she felt like she had. And then also, I had my own agency of coming back to a place where I didn't feel fulfilled or seen as an actor and I didn't feel a part of a show that I loved so much, and I finally got to be a part of it and feel good about it.
You talked about returning to give Josie closure. Walking away from this experience, did you feel a sense of closure?
Yeah, I feel like I did exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to show Josie with all of her colors and to feel confident about that and to not worry about the episode cutting away from her too soon so you don't really know what she's about or where she's going or what's going on or how she feels about anything. This episode showcases her from beginning to end, and whatever that end may be or lead to is for us all to find out, but at least you have a full picture of what's going on.
If this is potentially the end of this character journey for you, let's look back: Do you remember your first scene as Josie?
My first scene was when Archie Andrews walks in on the Josie and the Pussycats rehearsal session. We are on a stage in an auditorium at school, and he interrupts us because he wants to ask for help writing music, and I shut all that down and kick him out and I say, "Read my lips, Justin Gingerlake." [Laughs] I remember I was standing in line at a food truck in Manhattan not too long after the pilot aired and one of the guys who was cooking my chicken and rice was like, "Oh my God, you're Josie from Riverdale, my daughter loves you! Justin Gingerlake! Justin Gingerlake!" [Laughs] That was the first scene, and that was actually my audition scene for the show as well.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.