KJ Apa dishes on Archie's exit from Riverdale and his dicey future

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Nov 28, 2018, 9:08 PM EST

Poor Archie. It’s been hard knock after hard knock for Riverdale’s Red Paladin lately. His streak of bad luck kicked off in the Season 2 finale when Hiram Lodge framed Archie for murder, resulting in a sentence at a juvenile detention center this year. There the corrupt warden branded Archie with a Gryphons & Gargoyles symbol, forced him into partaking in a prison fight club, and then coerced Joaquin into stabbing Archie in the gut to prevent him from winning. Archie and his friends ultimately staged a prison break, but Archie’s recovery in the bunker hit a snag tonight when his wound became infected.

After a brief trip to the hospital — not to mention the warden committing suicide and taking responsibility for framing Archie in a suicide letter — Archie was acquitted of any crime. However, he ultimately decided that his presence in Riverdale was a threat to those he loved, so Archie and Jughead secretly left town together on foot.

During a recent trip to the Riverdale set in Vancouver, star KJ Apa spoke to a contingent of journalists about Archie’s road trip, how prison changed him, his relationship with Veronica, and Archie’s eventual return to school.

Tonight’s episode, “Chapter Forty-One: Manhunter,” ended with Archie and Jughead skipping town, even though Archie was completely exonerated for murder. Can you tell us about where they’re heading from here and what we’re going to see from their relationship after?

KJ Apa: Archie gets out successfully, but he’s pretty much like a fugitive, so he’s on the run. I guess Jughead, as his best friend, kind of goes along with him on that. But, eventually, they end up finding themselves having to, like a fork in the road, they have to go their separate ways at some point.

How do you feel Archie’s stint in prison changed him?

I think it made him a lot stronger, a lot harder. I think he’s definitely a better fighter now. So, if anyone tries to mess with me, I hope I can just drop them straightaway. I think it kind of desensitized him in a way. I feel there might be a little bit of a post-traumatic stress after coming out of prison. His relationship with his father is now a little bit different. In these last two seasons, we saw Archie more of a boy. But I think after coming out of prison, his relationship with this man, he sees his dad as man-to-man instead of boy-to-man. There’s a really cool scene that we got to play with me and Luke [Perry], in, I think, 308 actually, where it’s the first time we get to play with the new dynamic in that relationship with Archie, kind of fending for himself now.

Leaving Veronica, is that out of protection for her?

Yes. Yes. I think Archie being in Riverdale puts her in danger because of the whole thing with Hiram and stuff like that. I think Archie being in Riverdale kind of puts a lot of people in danger, but most of all, puts Veronica in danger. But that being the reason for them having to part ways means that there is still something there. You know what I mean? They didn’t part ways because of someone doing something.

She’s not going to give up, obviously.

Exactly. And I don’t think Archie is either. So, I think at the moment, it’s just the best thing for them.

Do you think Archie’s justified in believing that he’s a danger magnet?

I think so. Absolutely. But I think he’s also dug his own hole a little bit. You know what I mean? It takes a while for him to kinda learn because he’s got such a good heart, Archie, and I think he wants to give everyone a second chance. He gave Hiram a second chance. There’s a possibility that he could be even giving him another chance.

I think that’s just part of who he is. He can be taken advantage of easily, I think, because he doesn’t see harm. In that way, he can’t really protect himself like that. I think he needs other people to say, “Hey, hang on. You should think twice about doing this.” But he’s like, “Why? I want to help this person.” He needs help. That’s how he sees it. It’s very black and white and simple for him. If someone needs help, he’s gonna help.

In the last episode, there was a lot of fallout from what happened in the prison. A lot of deaths in it. How does that affect Riverdale overall?

It has lasting effects on Riverdale because of the way that it affects the gang. All those things will surface at some stage. It makes the gang make a lot more sense. And it makes other deaths make more sense. So Betty and Jughead discovering what’s happened in that prison, and Archie telling them what’s been going on and what he’s discovered inside the prison, helps them to understand what’s going on in Riverdale while he was gone. It’s all tied together.

You’ve spent a lot of time separated from the rest of the cast this season. With Archie on the road, are you gonna have new supporting characters around you or are you gonna be solo quite a lot?

A lot of it’s solo, which has been great, which has been really cool. It’s been really fun because when you’re by yourself, a lot of weird s**t happens to you. You’ve got no one else to talk to. It is fun, but at the same time, I do miss doing scenes with the guys and stuff. But, you know, it doesn’t last. He can’t be isolated forever. But I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve been enjoying the prison stuff and working with new actors coming on set and enjoying material with Dan. But I do enjoy working with the core three or four.

When Archie is out on this journey, does he have a plan or is he just meandering around?

He’s pretty much meandering, actually. Because he’s trying to be undercover and not be seen by people, he is meandering, and I think that’s frustrating for Archie. I think he is angry at the world for him being in this position, so, yeah, he is kind of just chilling.

As much as Archie’s angry at the world, does he ever look back on the choices he’s made and the role he himself has played in creating this situation?

Exactly, which is what I was saying about him kind of digging his own grave. It’s that he can’t blame anyone else really but himself, and it really kind of makes his relationship with Veronica that much more complicated and more interesting, because in a way, you’d think that he’d want to blame her. “Why is your dad such an asshole?” Or, worse. But we don’t really see that because she thinks the same way about her father.

Do you see Archie as a heroic figure or a tragic figure, or a mixture of both?

A mixture of both. He’s a meathead with a heart of gold, is how I’d describe Archie. He’s got the best of intentions and he’s filled with so much love and he’s really pure-hearted, and I think he just wants to help people. But he doesn’t really think of the whole picture, which is why it’s lucky for him to be friends with Jughead.

We’ve seen a lot of fight scenes this season, like the prison fights. What’s that been like in terms of stunts?

It’s been great. That kind of stuff is my favorite. The physical stuff is always my favorite. When I read all the material about all the fighting stuff, and the prison stuff, I was ecstatic. I knew that I’d been working closely with Jodi, our stunt coordinator. Yeah, that stuff is my favorite. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to be doing all the time.

Should Archie ever make his way back to high school, do you think that transition back will be easy for him?

It’s not going to be easy, and we do explore that. I think it’s not easy because he comes back, and the high school problems seem ridiculous when compared to what he went through in prison. So that’s another cool kind of thing to play with. Because of that, and because of not being able to settle that well, we see him turn to other options, which are not good.

Does that create a divide between Archie and his friends once he does come back? Because what’s important to them maybe isn’t so important to him anymore?

It does. It create a huge divide. But, again, we don’t really get to explore that too much. For a while, it creates a divide where, without spoiling it too much, he is kind of just spiraling into a dark kind of place but is saved by a person and by music.