Luke Perry’s Family Was ‘Involved’ in Planning the ‘Riverdale’ Tribute Episode to Him

Luke-Perry-Riverdale-tribute
Luke Perry on Riverdale Cate Cameron/The CW

A proper goodbye. Luke Perry’s family contributed to the Riverdale season 4 premiere, during which the show paid tribute to the late actor.

“One of our executive producers, Sarah Schechter, was very close to Luke and very close to his family, and we involved them as much as we could,” showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told reporters on October 2. “I think they read the script and then they provided those great photos.”

He added: “It’s nice. I love seeing him in his baseball uniform.” The Beverly Hills, 90210 alum, who died in March at age 52 after suffering a stroke, shared son Jack, 22, and daughter Sophie, 19, with ex-wife Rachel “Minnie” Sharp. He was engaged to Wendy Madison Bauer at the time of his death.

The Wednesday, October 9, episode featured photographs of Perry as well as footage of his character, Fred Andrews, from previous episodes. The hour saw Archie (KJ Apa) and the town giving Fred a sentimental sendoff after he was killed in a hit-and-run car accident.

Aguirre-Sacasa noted that the gravity of the situation was top of mind. “We kind of knew this was going to be brutal on the cast, especially KJ who was Luke’s main scene partner,” he explained. “Luke and KJ, almost every episode, had a scene in the kitchen, and no matter what was going on, you’d find them at the island and Fred would be giving Archie advice, which he would or wouldn’t listen to. And that was a real touchstone for KJ, I think. So I talked to KJ about it.”

Despite the intense circumstances, the cast rallied to honor Perry. “I think everyone was really proud to gather to tell this tribute to Fred and to Luke, and I think everyone was, I don’t want to say happy to have a catharsis, but I think we’d been, when [Perry’s death] happened, we were all scattered, so there was something really special when we all gathered to do the table read that was cathartic,” he recalled. “But we knew it was going to be hard and it was.”

The 8 Seconds star’s 90210 costar Shannen Doherty also played a significant role in the episode, which was fitting given their friendship. The actress, 48, portrayed the woman Fred sacrificed his life to save while helping her change a flat tire.

“Over the seasons, Luke and I had talked a lot about trying to get Shannen on the show, and the timing never worked out or the part was never quite right,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “When we were working on the episode, we knew that there would be some characters outside of our cast of characters that would be involved. We thought that, rather than have another actor play that, we thought it would be nice that it would be someone he cared for in real life. And he cared so deeply about Shannen. That’s how we got to that. With these episodes like this, it resonates for Fred. It also resonates for Luke and Shannen kind of speaks to that, I think. And you know, I think she really wanted to be a part of it from when we first talked to her about it.”

The story line will continue to impact Archie as season 4 unfolds. “The shadow Fred’s death casts is in episode 2, and honestly, we’re about 10 episodes into [shooting] the season, and we’re still feeling that,” the executive producer revealed. “The truth is, something like that, Archie will be wrestling with that the rest of his life. Other characters, less so. And I think one of the things that’s been interesting is when a tragedy like that happens, everyone grieves and then people move on at different points. But for the person who’s at the core of it, they live with it every day. We don’t pretend it didn’t happen [throughout the season]. It’s still permeating Archie’s story.”

More specifically, the teen will struggle with making his father proud. “We’ve seen Archie for three years looking to see what kind of man he’s going to be, what he’s going to do, and I think, in the end, it’s trying to do what his father did, which was help his community, help his town, help his friends, make the right choices,” Aguirre-Sacasa teased. “Archie wants to live up to that, I think. I think he’s always wanted to follow in Fred’s footsteps, but now feels that burden even more so. But Archie’s still gonna be Archie and I think he’s gonna struggle with grief and struggle with how to live up to Fred’s memory.”

Riverdale airs on The CW Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

With reporting by Kayley Stumpe

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