On the 31st of May, the actress, best known for her role as Toni Topaz in The CW’s teen mystery drama based on Archie Comics, wrote that she was “tired of how black people are portrayed in [the] media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people.”
“Tired of us also being used as sidekick non-dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show. It starts with the media. I’m not being quiet anymore.”
One fan commented that the producers must be “getting so much more bang for their buck b[e]c[ause] [yo]ur part of an LGBT storyline too,” adding that double the diversity should mean “double [yo]ur paycheck.”
“I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least,” Morgan replied. “Girl, I could go on for days.”
The Riverdale actress’s comments put forth the question: where did all of the black characters in Riverdale go? What happened to them?
Morgan’s character Toni Topaz is in 15 of the 19 episodes of the last season, but exists in the shadow of her character’s white girlfriend, Cheryl Blossom. She has no ongoing storyline and has about one to three lines per episode.
After three seasons, Josie and the Pussycats, played by Ashleigh Murray, Hayley Law and Asha Bromfield, an iconic singing trio and staple of the Archie Comics universe in much the same way as Jughead and Kevin are, vanished. Law, who plays Riverdale’s Valerie Brown, existed only as a prop to white leads, and was only given a storyline once and only when she was dating Archie.
Robin Givens, Josie’s Mum and the literal mayor of Riverdale, Sierra McCoy, also just, uh, “disappeared.” Jordan Calloway, who played Chuck Clayton, was written out after his character’s only storyline involved him slutshaming Polly Cooper.
As many on Twitter are pointing out, Riverdale’s producers and writers have been gradually writing out their black characters, effectively silencing black American voices.
In response, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, creator of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, issued an apology on Twitter admitting that they “will do better to honour her and the character she plays, as well as all of our actors and characters of colour.”
“We hear Vanessa,” he said. “We love Vanessa. She’s right. We’re sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her.”
“We will do better to honour her and the character she plays[,] as well as all of our actors and characters of colour. Change is happening and will continue to happen.
“Riverdale will get bigger, not smaller. Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside it. All of the Riverdale writers made a donation to @BLML, but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writers’ room.”
Meanwhile, Vanessa Morgan has vowed that, going forward, she’ll only be wearing clothes made by Black designers to public events.