Riverdale, as they say, is the town with pep — but it’s also a place that puts a lot of stock into the clothes on your back. Whether the blue and gold lettermans marking Riverdale Bulldogs, or the black leather toppers preferred by the Southside Serpents and the Ghoulies alike, there’s more to a jacket than keeping warm. And when a Riverdale resident is made to turn their jacket in — like, say, Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz were forced to do by Serpent King Jughead Jones — there are two options: take the exile lying down, or assemble a crew of your very own.
Enter the Pretty Poisons, a group of girls brought together by Cheryl to create the family Toni has never had. They were introduced in Episode 12 of Riverdale’s third season, a stretch of television that has brought us everything from a bear attack to an order of nuns with a suicide pact. In comparison, the idea that Cheryl and Toni could go rogue and create their own gang is pretty tame. Yet while it serves to reason that the former Serpents are at the helm of the Poisons, Peaches ‘N Cream, played by Bernadette Beck, serves as the gang’s backbone.
“Peaches 'N Cream is pretty much everything that I'm not, almost? She's just this tough bruiser girl and I'm pretty much the opposite of that,” Beck tells us with a laugh. As it turns out, her motivations to join the Serpents may be personal: “She comes from more of a working class home, and her mother owns a pawn shop that was robbed by the Southside Serpents,” Beck adds.
A Vancouver native, the actor remembers she landed the role a day before her first episode went to camera. “I didn’t know how serious they were about hiring a Canadian for the job,” she remembers, but still gave her audition her all. Since then, she’s been thrust into a world of maple syrup, speakeasies, and plenty of mystery — a full immersion into a world she’s been a fan of since she was a kid asking for Archie comics at the supermarket.
“I have to remind myself that I'm on Riverdale. At certain moments, I just can't believe it,” she admits. “Like I look at K.J. [Apa] and I'm like, ‘oh my god, that's Archie, he's right there.’ My brain will not compute.” The bigger hurdle, however, is knowing what she should and shouldn’t share with fans who are notoriously hungry for details about the show, and any new character who shows up.
According to showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the Pretty Poisons “play a major part in the rest of the season moving forward. Since Jughead kicked Cheryl and Toni out of the Serpents, Cheryl wanted to give Toni a community and a family much like the Serpents provided for her — also, Cheryl wanted to give Toni her own gang to lead.” Peaches ‘N Cream, he says has a “pretty big role” within the group, but won’t divulge on how the addition of a new gang could disrupt Riverdale’s perpetually fragile ecosystem: “Stay tuned,” he hints. “That would be a pretty big spoiler.”
As for Beck, she thinks the inclusion of an all-girl gang has been a long time coming. “I don’t know if it's always going to be an all-girl gang, but it’s pretty cool because we can compete at the same level as a guy gang,” she points out. “We're very glamorous but at the same time, we can get our hands dirty. And I think that speaks to a lot of girls who are watching the show.”
When FANGRRLS spoke with Beck, she had only completed filming four episodes so far, so she’s still figuring out who her character is, too. “I don't know too much about Peaches ‘N Cream’s entire backstory but I try and piece as much as I can in order to bring this character to the table,” she explains. Still, she’s excited to show viewers “a new character that adds to the story. I'm excited for them to see another character of color who is strong and who's also developing a voice.” After all, despite the gangland shenanigans, this is still a show about high schoolers who are navigating first relationships and boundaries and studying for the SATs; establishing yourself in the social ecosystem of Riverdale High is practically mandatory for the school curriculum.
One thing Peaches ‘N Cream already knows, however? That she doesn’t have to choose between the things she loves to express herself. “It's totally ok to be whoever you want to be,” Beck says of her character’s ethos and the greater message of the Pretty Poisons as a whole. “You can still love makeup and doing your hair and be glamorous... and still kick ass.”