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Riverdale Newcomer Nicholas Barasch Discusses His Favorite Memories From The Set - Exclusive Interview

"Riverdale" has been a culture-making TV series since 2017, and The CW's teen hit has reached Season 7, its last, with plenty of questions left on the table. After attempting to redirect Bailey's Comet from destroying Riverdale at the end of Season 6, the characters were sent back to 1955 to save them from their untimely demise. But now Riverdale's residents are presented with a new host of social issues and no memory of their lives before.

Nicholas Barasch spoke with Looper about taking on the role of Julian Blossom, aka Cheryl Blossom's twin brother in an alternate timeline where Jason Blossom neither existed nor died. Barasch discussed getting into character as the season's apparent antagonist, which role on "Riverdale" he originally auditioned for, and how the show's final season is bringing everything back to where it began in Season 1. Though the actor shared that some "bizarre" moments are coming up in the next few episodes — perhaps joining the existing list of moments "Riverdale" went too far — fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Riverdale almost had a different Archie

You joined at a pretty unexpected point in the story, with this huge jump to 1955. Were you a fan of the show before you got the part of Julian?

Totally. I certainly wasn't as avid a watcher, but you can't not know about "Riverdale" and the impact it's had, so I was super excited to join and to even get an audition in the first place. I went in for Archie way back in the day, like 2016, which was fun, and so now I get to play a different redhead on the show. What could be better? It's so much fun.

Did you get called back in because they remembered you? 

No. I don't even know if they remember that I went for it. Luckily, I got a second chance.

What was it like getting on set and seeing this other Archie, this other version of the whole show?

Oh my God, incredible. These faces are faces I've [spent several years] seeing on billboards in New York, so to be all of a sudden in a scene with all of them in a classroom was super intimidating, but they're all lovely. It's a very kind, awesome group of people, and to be on the tail end of their whole journey is pretty cool.

Are there cast members you've gotten close to? I know you play Madelaine Petsch's [character's] twin, and you've been an awesome family.

Yes, we've definitely gotten closer on set. We shot a scene the other day that was a really nice moment between Julian and Cheryl. She's fantastic, and watching her has helped me definitely with my role, and we're siblings, so it's given me a lot to chew on in terms of what our characters are like and what our family's like.

That's a fierce family to join right away. How did you feel joining such an intense family unit?

So intense. People have a hard time, which I understand, separating the characters from the people. But meeting Nathalie [Boltt], I had only seen scenes of her be terrifying on the show, so to meet her and discover she's the sweetest, goofiest person and incredibly talented was such a blessing. Sitting down at that Thornhill dining room table, I was like, "All right, we can have a good time here. It's not as upright and intense as it looks."

Joining the show presented a learning curve

"Riverdale" is kind of a cross between the comic book genre, teen soap, fantasy, time travel. How does that stand out in terms of the projects you've done before?

Wildly different. I don't have a lot of TV on my resume to begin with, so to then step onto a show like this, with all these vibrant colors and huge sets and we're in the '50s, was super different and fun. 

This is random, but the only thing that usually happens when I get cast is people darken my eyebrows on set because I had very light blonde eyebrows, so that felt the same as other jobs. 

[It's] so much fun to join a show that's been on for so long. It's such a family. It's such a well-oiled machine, so you have no choice but to hop on that train and be ready. It's been a huge learning curve, but I'm starting to get more confident than I was in the first couple weeks.

How would you describe that learning curve in terms of pacing or the cast chemistry?

[It's] more about what goes on in my head. I've come from a lot of theater, so that entails a lot of rehearsal and working with your director every day for weeks. I've worked with several different directors on this, so that was a piece that I had to learn: You show up on set, you meet your director, you meet who you're doing a scene with, and then go. It's very much hurry up and wait. 

I like to call myself a recovering perfectionist. I don't know if it was Julia Cameron or Brené Brown who coined that phrase, or someone. [I had to let] go of that, too, like, "It doesn't have to be perfect, Nick. This take does not have to be perfect." They're looking for those little moments where it feels authentic.

Do you rehearse before the scenes?

We usually do a short blocking rehearsal. We'll do a private rehearsal, which is just actors, the director, the AD, and the script supervisor. That's usually spacing it out — whether we're in the locker room, the hallway, or what's going on — physically in the space. Then they'll have an open blocking, so the rest of the crew who's working on the scene comes in, which is often several dozen people who are watching you rehearse. Then you take a little break, they set up all the cameras and the lights, and then you come back [about] 20 minutes later and do it. It's quick.

Nicholas Barasch struggled to bully K.J. Apa on screen

Your character has some edge to him. What was the process like getting ready to play this new antagonist character?

It was fun. The last role I did — which actually Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], the showrunner, saw me [in] — also had a darker side to him, so I was lucky to have a runway to this character. I'd gotten to test out that side of myself, because I'm normally cast as the much more innocent nice boy, so to play the baddy is so much fun. There's some acting techniques, some emotional recall. I definitely picture people in my life over the years when I have to be mean to sweet K.J. Apa. It's been such a blast. The lines I get to say, too — the writers are having so much fun this season.

So you identify more with the roles where you play nice and sweet. [Did] you find a little bit of yourself in this role?

Absolutely. I think we all have a little Julian in us, but the first week on set, people were meeting me and going, "You're the bully jock? What's going on?" So I'm able to act, so that's a blessing. I do not walk through life like Julian. I have trouble taking up space. I'm a quiet, more introverted person, so it's been stepping out on the wild side for me.

This season is a good time to jump back into the show

I don't know if you'd seen the earlier seasons of "Riverdale," but with Jason being the original twin and you're now this alternate-universe-past twin, was there any work about how different you are from Jason?

Luckily, I didn't have to know a ton because we're kind of starting all over this season, but I've certainly watched episodes with Madelaine and Trevor [Stines], who plays Jason. Their dynamic is so sweet, and our dynamic is not as sweet. But I learned from being there. We all have a family; I'm lucky I have a sister, so that is not a huge stretch to bicker with my sister, so that was helpful.

Would you say it's a good time to tune in, post-time jump, for people who haven't seen the past couple seasons?

Absolutely. It's definitely, for longtime fans, giving Season 1 vibes. It's very much about the relationships between these kids in high school and discovering their sexuality and fighting against their family. Then you add the '50s component, too, and there's a lot of sociopolitical issues going on. It's a really interesting story, and these actors are so great that we all know and love. It's a great time to clean [the] slate and hop on and watch.

I love the doing good and trying to make a better future, better environment.

I know. I was getting emotional [watching] the end of the last episode. I was like, "What's going to happen now?" And I'm like, "Nick, you've read the script," but I was so pulled in. It's pretty great.

Have you been screening the episodes with your friends or family?

I watched the 1st with my sister and her boyfriend, and I chose them because I didn't want to have a party. I was already kind of watching through my hands, and they were very neutral and supportive. I have not seen the 2nd episode yet, but I'm going to play catch-up at some point. It's hard to watch yourself. I really enjoy watching other people's scenes that I didn't get to be on set for.

The actor may show off his singing chops

The cast dynamics on set and on-screen — do they play out similarly? Differently?

There's a lot of fighting and battles when the cameras are rolling that do not happen when the cameras aren't. Everyone is friends and have known each other forever. I recall a scene from Episode 3 when it was 10 of us in a room together doing one scene for 10 hours. It took a long time, and it got silly, and people were making each other laugh. Those are the moments that you remember and you look back [on] and go, "That was so much fun." The filming of it almost takes a backseat because you're having so much fun.

That [is] probably a favorite memory from filming this season. Is there another memory that stands close to that one?

Yes. Same episode, actually. When the make-out sequence happens, which is teased in the trailer, that was one of the most bizarre things I've ever done in my almost 25 years on the planet, but so much fun. It was late at night, and they were like, "All right, make out," and so that's what we had to do. It was a very safe, comfortable atmosphere, so you just leap. You just go for it.

Was that ever something you were nervous about as an actor, having to do intimacy training or those kinds of scenes?

Yeah. Luckily, I've done a lot of theater, and I've done shows where I've had to kiss people eight times a week, so that part was less intimidating. Certainly, when I was a teenager and all the feelings were so pure and new, it [was] a little harder, but for this, it's fine. You kiss people. It's part of the job.

Were you on Broadway? Do you sing?

Yeah, I've been on Broadway. I do sing. I'm going to say there's a strong possibility I'll be doing some singing, without giving anything away.

That's good. "Riverdale"'s a very musical show, so I wouldn't be surprised at all.

It is super musical-friendly, and Roberto, the showrunner, has written musicals himself.

This season will determine which couples are endgame

Is there anything special you'd like to tease for the next couple episodes? You guys are still filming right now?

Mm-hmm, we're still filming. They just released another teaser. It gets pretty sexy, the teens are horny, and it's so much fun. There's the diehard ship fans who want to see their couples make it at the end, but right now, we're at a time in the season where all bets are off, and it's just fun watching these characters find their way. Some relationships don't work out, and that's also great to see on screen.

Is there a little added pressure [from] being the last season of the show that's gone on for seven seasons?

Definitely. But luckily, the atmosphere is so light, and reading script after script, the writers are clearly having so much fun. They care a lot about doing a proper sendoff for the show, and luckily, so far, the reaction's really good for the first couple [of episodes]. I'm excited to see how fans will react to the future episodes.

New episodes of "Riverdale" air on Wednesdays on The CW.

This interview has been edited for clarity.