Madelaine Petsch has experienced a multitude of emotions about saying goodbye to Riverdale, telling Us Weekly exclusively that she’s thrilled about Cheryl Blossom’s ending and excited about her own future.
“As an actor on the show, wrapping was, maybe, one of the hardest weeks of my life. The people that I work with — the cast and the crew — are truly some of the most phenomenal people on this planet. I feel very lucky to have spent seven years with them. We pretty much had the same crew for seven years, so I think the hardest goodbye was saying goodbye to our crew,” Petsch, 28, told Us while promoting her video campaign for the new Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupé.
Petsch recalled experiencing mixed feelings as production finished on the hit CW series in June. (The show, which is based on characters introduced in Archie Comics, will air its series finale on August 23.)
“It’s more to me about saying goodbye to these people who made the show [and] put their love into it. So that was quite difficult,” she continued. “But I know it was time to put the red lipstick away and say goodbye to Cheryl. So, I’m excited to say goodbye to Cheryl [and] I think her story has been completed really well. I think people will be happy with it.”
Petsch has brought Cheryl Blossom to life since Riverdale debuted in 2017, delivering scene-stealing performances as Cheryl navigated grief following her brother’s death, an unexpected introduction to witchcraft and more. Petsch has also left her mark while collaborating with Vanessa Morgan on Cheryl’s iconic love story with Toni Topaz.
“Vanessa has been my best friend since before the show even started. So to play her onscreen love when we have so much chemistry was absolutely wonderful. What I love about her is that even in scenes where we’re just [in the] background, we find ways to make Choni feel real and authentic and like they’re truly in love,” Petsch shared with Us. “I think you can really see — especially in the final couple episodes of the season — that what was really important to us is figuring out what our relationship looks like and making sure that it feels authentic and people really are happy with it.”
While reflecting on her Riverdale days, Petsch praised the series for teaching her some valuable lessons.
“The thing that Riverdale did that was really wonderful was [how] we would get scripts morning of — sometimes we would get new rewrites for a scene we were about to shoot in that moment. You really were in an environment where you had to work and think on your feet,” she noted. “Like, you never really got to just settle in and I think that that is a really great boot camp for an actor who wants to continue acting.”
Petsch enjoyed how Riverdale pushed Cheryl throughout the seasons, adding, “It is a really great challenge to find the nuances of these characters and still find the excitement in playing these characters for seven years. But every project feels different. I feel like going in with a blank slate is the most important thing mentally.”
Petsch, however, isn’t in a rush to dive right back into work after dedicating seven years to a single project.
“I’m excited about taking a vacation and spending some time working on myself. Also, I think this is an important time for me to separate myself from this character I spent so many years [playing]. Because otherwise if I went into a project immediately afterwards, I would maybe still have pieces of her with me,” she told Us. “But I think it’s important I take this time to separate Cheryl from myself and move on to this next big part of my career.”
Petsch noted that she’s still figuring out how to prioritize her mental health amid the big life change.
“I wouldn’t say that I know exactly what to do. There’s no rule or guidebook on how to navigate this. But I did just go on a spa retreat with one of my best friends [Caroline Day] who actually played Heather on the show a couple of years ago,” Petsch said. “I spent two full days working out a ton, getting massages and just trying to remove myself from this big heaviness that has kind of been around the end of the show. Now I’m really focusing on making my space feel like a home — I think that will be helpful. And I am doing my weekly therapy sessions.”
As Petsch continues to put herself first, she is still keeping an eye out for potential projects when the timing is right. She credited her experience in the entertainment industry for allowing her to go with her gut when it comes to choosing a role.
“I’m somebody who likes variety in my career. But when it comes to my next steps, it’s really just about the person who I’m playing. Do I feel like I can get into her skin easily or not? Sometimes it’s really appealing to have a challenging time getting into a character because it’s more work,” she detailed. “And I love the work. So, to me, it’s just about what I see on the page and what I can bring to life and how I think I can embody this character.”
Petsch continued: “There’s really no rhyme or reason to the characters that I resonate with. It’s just a feeling. It’s like my best way of describing it.”
Prior to wrapping Riverdale, Petsch worked alongside Froy Gutierrez and Gabriel Basso to film all three films in the Strangers remake trilogy back to back, which she is excited for fans of the franchise to see.
“When I took this task on, it felt far too large for anybody to ever handle. Like truly, I [felt] like I was over my head. But then when I got there, all three [films] take place in a short amount of time. I [approached it like I was] filming one long movie and then it all made sense to me,” she shared. “I was able to fit this puzzle together as if I was basically making one long movie or a television show or anything else. It was actually quite easy to get my brain around it once I realized the span of time it takes place over.”
Petsch has also recently teamed up with Mercedes-Benz for the world premiere of their new CLE vehicles. The performer, who has been an ambassador with the brand since 2019, collaborated on a social-driven video campaign that highlights the car’s exclusive comfort features, high-tech driving performance and sleek design.
“It was such a blast to shoot [the ad]. Mercedes-Benz is a really wonderful company to work with — they really do feel like a family. When the opportunity came to shoot a commercial for them, I was through the roof. I was so excited,” she told Us. “It feels like it’s the first time they’ve done anything like this. To be a part of it felt really cool and very special. It was shot in Lisbon — I’d never been to Lisbon before — and we had a really, really fun time. The director was brilliant, everyone was lovely and it [really] came together. I couldn’t be happier.”
Petsch gushed over the Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupé’s massage seat features — and the company’s commitment to becoming fully electric by the end of the decade, saying, “I love Mercedes-Benz for their forward thinking. I’m really excited that the car has [a hybrid component]. I think that we need more of that.”
The 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE Coupé will arrive in U.S. dealerships in early 2024. The CLE Cabriolet will also be available for consumers to purchase.
Riverdale airs on The CW Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.