Riverdale is mourning the loss of a loved one this week — and sometimes, music can help us to heal.
The CW drama rolls out its annual musical episode this Wednesday (8/7c), but don’t expect grinning and tap-dancing. Instead, the episode dives deep into the grief that Betty (Lili Reinhart) and her mother Alice (Madchen Amick) are enduring after learning that Betty’s sister Polly was murdered by a family of killer truckers. Using songs from the Broadway musical Next to Normal, it finds Alice coping with the loss by entering a fantasy world where she’s the perfect mom to a perfect family.
It’s a big episode for Amick, and she wasn’t quite sure what to expect when she first heard about it. “I was like, ‘Oh God, do I have to start doing some dance lessons? What do I have to prepare for?'” she tells TVLine with a laugh. But then showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa sent her songs from the musical to listen to, “and I was just like, ‘Oh, this is so beautiful and so poignant to the storyline, and what an emotional journey they’re going to be going through!’ So I was really, really happily surprised.”
During the musical numbers, Alice imagines herself as a picture-perfect 1950s housewife, dressed in an apron and pearls while tending to her smiling children. (Polly and Charles are both happy and living at home in her fantasy.) The loss of Polly broke something inside Alice’s psyche, Amick says: “She’s done. She’s checked out. She’s gone back to a fantasy world where everything’s perfect. She can’t handle the loss anymore… and it’s Betty’s job to lure her back into reality.”
Amick hadn’t seen Next to Normal before, but “I did lots of research,” she remembers. “I watched all the pirated cell phone footage of the Broadway musical.” The process of shooting the “gut-wrenching” episode “was so intense,” she adds. “I felt like for 10 days straight, we just went into full crying trauma.” But it helped “having Lili as an actress by my side and being able to navigate through these emotions with her.” It also helped having longtime Riverdale cinematographer Ronald Paul Richard direct the episode, she notes: “He was so sweet and so emotionally connected. It was like the three of us were just bawling from beginning to end, on and off camera.”
This week is an emotional rollercoaster for Alice, to be sure… but could there possibly be a new romance in her future? (After all, it’s been a while since Jughead’s dad F.P. left town.) “There might be a little something something brewing in the next season,” Amick teases. “She might have some eyes for somebody, and somebody might have some eyes for her.”