Riverdale cast promise a show that's about a lot more than a love triangle

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May 4, 2017, 12:01 PM EDT (Updated)

Are you a Betty or a Veronica?

Fans of the Archie comics will immediately recognize the conundrum of which lady is the most suited to win Archie's heart that's been at the heart of many of the books over the years.

But this week at the annual Television Critics Association winter press tour, the cast of The CW's upcoming Archie comics-inspired series, Riverdale, is adamant that the series isn't just about that old-school love triangle.

Set in contemporary times in a Riverdale that is decidedly more complicated and less wholesome than the world of the comics, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) is an aspiring musician bucking the jock life expectations of his father. Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is still the good girl, but she's dealing with her very strange and oppressive mother, Alice (Mädchen Amick). And Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) is trying to redeem her troubled family's image.

During the series panel, Apa, Reinhart and Mendes were quick to clarify that their character dynamics will be far more complex than Archie readers might expect.

"Our Betty isn't just the sweet girl next door; there's much more going on," Reinhart explained. "I feel like we're kind of breaking the barrier of saying you're either a Betty or a Veronica, because Veronica has a sweet, vulnerable side to her that we see in the show, and Betty has a darker side."

"I feel like they're trying to be a little more like the other, which I think is why those kinds of friendships are so interesting, the ones where you mirror each other," Mendes added about their characters.

A strong friendship is what will connect the Riverdale Betty and Veronica as they turn to one another for counsel and support while a whole lot of bad things go down in their little hamlet.

"At the end of the day, these girls are friends, and that was majorly important to us starting the show," Reinhart said. "These girls, yes, they do have a problem at the beginning involving a certain someone," the actress said looking at Apa, "but these girls are so much better off as friends and as allies. We try not to pit these girls against each other. We don't see two girls that are actually just friends. They love each other and they really, really care about each other."

Mendes concurs that it's not a cat fight. "That's not to say, as in any relationship there's going to be conflict, but I think the idea is that we're always going to try."

And for Apa, who played guitar in his audition for the part, the New Zealander admits playing such an all-American role has been nerve-racking. "I knew coming into this that it was going to be a big responsibility, and that's how I see it. I see playing Archie as a responsibility to create a new version and to create the best-version Archie."

As to Archie's aspirations of pursuing his creative side in the series, Apa said, "I think Archie is just a kid who is trying to find his passion. He's trying to find out what he's good at. And I can definitely relate to that going through college. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Archie definitely has those similar kind of things in his head where he's, like, my dad wants me to play football, but I want to do music.  Through trial and error he finds out what that is, and music kind of sticks for him."

Riverdale debuts on The CW Jan. 26, 2017.