Playing the fans’ favourite misunderstood mean girl, Cherryl Blossom, in the megahit show, Riverdale, Madelaine Petsch reveals to us that she once struggled with bullying and loneliness, and had difficulty fitting in anywhere as a result of her fiery red hair and South African accent. Then, she landed the role that skyrocketed her career in television…
Clad in a dark hoodie sweater with an oversized cosy red plaid blanket wrapped around her, Madelaine Petsch enters the brightly-lit room in Palm Springs with a slight smile and a huge tumbler filled with hot coffee. All eyes were on the stunning red head, as she took off her oversized sunnies to get prepped up for hair and makeup. On The CW’s Riverdale show, which is based on the comic book classic Archie, Madelaine plays the ginger-haired Cheryl Blossom, a bona fide bad girl whose meanness is derived from her personal life that is rooted in tragedy after tragedy.
“It was emotionally difficult to play Cheryl, because she has been through so much, especially with her family. Her brother, who was the only one who loved her unconditionally, was killed by her father, so she is stuck in purgatory with her mother who, as you can see in the second season, pushed out her sexuality. That was incredibly hard to identify with because I have such a loving and supportive family,” the actress admits. “That being said, I think every person identifies with the loneliness of that character. I mean, that girl is continuing to go through a period of her life where she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, and I think everybody can identify with that at some point in their lives. I definitely felt like that for the majority of my childhood. So I can identify with that part of her that felt very lonely and empty, and that made it easy to build up all those walls and the facade of this external bitch, whom you can see in the first season a lot.”
Growing up in a small town in Washington, Madelaine was mercilessly bullied for being different from the other kids around her, so she learnt to mask her South African accent and picked up an American one, just to fit in. But it wasn’t until she enrolled in a performing arts high school that she began to feel like she could finally fit in. Her fiery red hair which was once the target of bullies is now seen as a beautiful feature that makes her unique. “You know what’s funny? I feel like I am what Cheryl needs. Who Madelaine is – that supportive friend – I am all about all the people in my life, and that is exactly what Cheryl needs, which is why I identify with her so much. I take my relationships very seriously, and my friendships, and I’m very family-oriented. Thats the real Madelaine.”
Before landing the role of Cheryl, Madelaine worked three different jobs just to pay the rent, and still managed to squeeze in time for auditions. She was a retoucher for headshots, and an assistant to a photographer during the day, whilst opening a coffee shop in the morning, and hosting at a restaurant in Beverly Hills at night. “Just never give up. I know everyone says that, but truly, I think what helped me get through that time of my life was that I would have been truly happy working as hard as I could to pursue my goal and continuing to work three jobs to pay my rent. That, along with finding people around you who will support you, and believe in you, and believing in yourself. If you believe in yourself, you can do anything. You can succeed.”
For the full article purchase a copy of Marie Claire February 2019 issue. For a digital copy click here.
Photography: Mitchell McCormack
Text & Styling: Azza Arif
Outfit: Kate Spade New York
Styling Assistant: Britton
Hair: Castilo Bataille/ The Only Agency
Makeup: Robert Bryan