Speaking her truth. Bernadette Beck opened up about her experience as a Black actress on Riverdale, two months after costar Vanessa Morgan called for more diversity on set.
Beck, 26, has portrayed Peaches ‘N Cream, a bisexual member of the Pretty Poisons, since season 3. Her character’s lack of backstory and likability has led to hate from some viewers, according to the actress.
“I was made out to be a very unlikable character and therefore, an unlikable person in people’s eyes,” the England native told ELLE.com on Tuesday, July 28. “I get it, there’s always a protagonist and antagonist, but I never had much of a story plot or enough character development to even be considered an antagonist. I was, for no reason, depicted in a very negative, unattractive light.”
Beck added: “I’m not the first Black actress to show up on set, stand there, chew gum, and look sassy and mean. I feel like I was just there to fulfill a diversity quota. It’s just to fulfill points.”
During her two seasons on the CW series, Beck recalled being made to feel like her presence on set wasn’t valued.
“I was completely forgotten in the scene more than once,” the Perfect Soulmate actress explained. “The director [would] be walking off set and I’d have to chase them down because I had no idea where to stand, what to do — I just hadn’t been given any instruction.”
She continued: “You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day.”
For Beck, Peaches ‘N Cream’s personality, or lack thereof, is part of a bigger problem with people of color being depicted in a negative light in the entertainment industry.
“I didn’t understand when I first got on that show that it meant something for your character to be likable. Some people say it’s just a TV show, but I’m thinking about the implications long-term,” she said. “If we are depicted as unlikable or our characters are not developed or we’re looked at as the enemy all the time, that affects our public persona. What kind of opportunities are we losing out on even after Riverdale?”
By comparison, Beck claimed that her white costars get “all this screen time and character development,” which helps build up their following, “generating more fans, selling out at conventions, and fans have more of an emotional connection with them.”
During casting for the part, Beck noted that the network wanted a bisexual actress for the role. Her character was eventually a part of a “down for a threesome” story line, which Beck claimed added to the hyper-sexualizing of bisexual people in real life.
“When you’re in it, you’re going through the motions and you’re like, ‘Oh, great, I finally get to be utilized!’” she explained of the scene. “But when I saw it all put together, it made my character seem like she was down for anything.” Beck also called for more representation in Hollywood on social media on Tuesday.
“I have remained silent for far too long,” she wrote via Instagram. “We must come together as a collective to hold Hollywood along with our systemic oppressors accountable.”
Beck’s comments come two months after Morgan, 28, called out the creators of Riverdale for lack of diversity on the show and pay discrepancies.
The Canada native, whose character Toni is part of the LGBTQ community as well, spoke out about Black people being “used as a sidekick non dimensional characters to our white leads” via Twitter in May.
The show’s creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, apologized to the actress in a social media message in June and vowed to do better. “We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She’s right,” Aguirre-Sacasa, 46, wrote at the time. “We’re sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her. We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color.”
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The WB had no comment on Beck’s claims.
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