When the Black Lives Matter movement surged to the forefront in June of 2020, it inspired more than just chants of "abolish the police." Black people stepped forward to discuss the microaggressions and systemic racism they face every day in multiple high-profile industries, from journalism to hospitality, and they're still sharing their stories in the hopes of shaking up the status quo and creating fairer and more just workplaces. Now, the actor who plays Peaches 'N Cream on Riverdale is one of the latest in the entertainment industry to step forward, and Bernadette Beck's quotes about diversity on Riverdale are extremely eye-opening. (Warner Bros. Television, the production company behind Riverdale, declined to comment on Beck's quotes.)
Beck is not the first actor from the series to address this topic. Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz, tweeted back on May 31 that she was "tired of how Black people are portrayed in media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous, or angry, scary people." At the time, Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa responded on Instagram, saying he heard Morgan and that the show would "do better to honor ... all of [Riverdale's] actors and characters of color."
If Beck's comments are anything to go by, there's a lot of work that needs to be done. The actor, who has been part of the show since Season 3, told Elle that her character is little more than a token "sassy" Black character with zero backstory or personality.
According to Beck, she was "made out to be a very unlikable character, and therefore, an unlikeable person in people’s eyes." She told Elle:
I get it, there’s always a protagonist and antagonist, but I never had much of a story plot or enough character development to even be considered an antagonist. I was, for no reason, depicted in a very negative, unattractive light. And I’m not the first Black actress to show up on set, stand there, chew gum, and look sassy and mean. I feel like I was just there to fulfill a diversity quota. It’s just to fulfill points.
Perhaps the hardest part about having her character treated like a stereotype is that it can encourage viewers to see Beck that way as well. Beck said she's been harassed on social media and even received death threats, which she attributed to the way Peaches was portrayed onscreen. As she put it to Elle:
Some people say it’s just a TV show, but I’m thinking about the implications long-term. If we are depicted as unlikable, or our characters are not developed, or we’re looked at as the enemy all the time, that affects our public persona. What kind of opportunities are we losing out on even after Riverdale? Our white co-stars are getting all this screen time and character development. They’re building up their following, generating more fans, selling out at conventions, and fans have more of an emotional connection with them. But if we don’t necessarily get that, and we’re looked at with disdain, what does that do to us, and how does that stain our reputation moving forward?
Beck also said she was overlooked on set. "I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once," Beck told Elle. "The director [would] be walking off set and I’d have to chase them down because I had no idea where to stand, what to do — I just hadn’t been given any instruction."
Further, Beck also took issue with the way her character's bisexuality has been tokenized. Specifically, in Season 3, Episode 16, when Peaches was recruited for an almost-threesome with Toni and Sweet Pea, Beck said she was initially excited to have a more prominent part in the show. “But when I saw it all put together, it made my character seem like she was down for anything,” she explained.
Here's hoping these are some of the issues Aguirre-Sacasa meant when he said he'll do right by Riverdale's characters of color and that "change is happening and will continue to happen."