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December 05, 2019

Artful Update

Playing an entirely new character on the CW’s Riverdale is an exciting project for Juan Riedinger.

Andrew Cristi
  • Juan Riedinger, left, as Dodger in Riverdale

    The CW

During a time where there are countless channels, attention to social media keeps rising, and more content is being put out than ever, it's becoming increasingly hard for any show to make its mark and gain a following - particularly when led by a cast of young newcomers.

And yet, the CW's smash hit Riverdale has endured, greatly increasing the popularity of anyone who comes close to it. And the new addition to the cast, Juan Riedinger, should look forward to the same.

Having cut his teeth on a variety of diverse roles in shows like Narcos, Claws, and Good Behavior, the native Canadian has already managed to demonstrate versatility, playing everything from a casino manager to an eccentric drug lord, and as different as each character is, they usually tend to turn toward the dark side.

It seems as though the actor has managed to find a niche for himself in a variety of bad boy roles, and having had a bit of practice in the arena, he should feel at home in the subversive world of the sudsy Riverdale.

As Dodger, Riedinger channels what he believes to be an ode to classic literature with Oliver Twist, coming on to the scene much like the famed Dickens character that recruits kids to pick people's pockets. Having mostly worked with series lead K.J. Apa, the Riverdale newcomer praises his young co-star for his professionalism, as well as the warm welcome he has given him.

Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on The CW, and fans will soon become very familiar with Riedinger's Dodger.

Welcome to the cast of Riverdale. What can you tell us about your character, Dodger, and about what you'll be doing on the show?

Riedinger: Thank you. Dodger was introduced in the third episode of season four, and it becomes apparent very quickly that he is not going to make Archie's life easy this season. Dodger is a local thug who recruits kids from Riverdale to carry out his criminal activities. Archie takes exception to this, and the two of them become instant enemies.

To my knowledge, Dodger is a new character that didn't exist in the Archie comics. However, although this was never confirmed to me, the name 'Dodger' does seem to be a reference to the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, who recruited kids to pick people's pockets, and who was similarly up to no good.

Were you a fan of the series before joining?

Riedinger: When I was kid, I must've read hundreds of Archie comics, so to belong to that universe now is pretty surreal to me. When I first heard they were going to base a live-action series on the Archie characters, I couldn't wrap my head around how they would pull that off.

But I have to say, the show delivers on so many levels. The writing, the performances, and the visuals, are all very compelling. It's a dark and sexy spin on the comics that appeals to both kids and adults alike.

Admittedly, I hadn't seen the series before getting cast in it, but once I got the role, I started watching right away, and I'm now a fan. Needless to say, my parents are hooked on the show now too. It's not hard to understand how Riverdale has become such a worldwide phenomenon.

This show has a truly intense fan following. How has that been for you thus far?

Riedinger: The fan following of the show is like nothing I've experienced before. When it was announced that I was cast, my Instagram account doubled in followers over night, which felt a bit overwhelming at first. When the number of people watching your work worldwide is that high, you're gonna get all kinds of reactions.

Some people might love the introduction of your character, while others might be more critical. People had strong opinions of Dodger before my first episode even aired. I'm curious to see how fans react once they get to see him in action. Since I'm playing a nemesis to Archie, I'll be happy if the fans love to hate my character. If that happens, I feel like I did my job.

How has the cast been as far as welcoming you?

Riedinger: It's always intimidating joining a cast that has been closely working together over many seasons. So far, most of my experience on the show has been with KJ Apa, who plays Archie, and who has been a true pleasure to work with. Considering how young KJ is, he carries himself like a veteran on set, and is extremely professional.

He has definitely made it a comfortable and pleasant work environment. As far as the rest of the main cast goes, I have crossed paths with about half of them on set, and everyone has been very warm and welcoming.

An added surprise has been getting to reunite with a lot of crew members I've worked with over the years on other shows in Vancouver. Seeing familiar faces always makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

You also recently wrote and directed your own short; A Snake Marked. What can you tell fans about it, and what inspired you to make it?

Riedinger: A Snake Marked was a passion project I made with a close friend. Before he approached me with the idea, I had taken a hiatus from directing in general to focus on my acting career. I've also directed my fair share of short films over the years, so I was determined that my next project be a feature. But my friend persuaded me into directing one more short, and I liked the concept, so I took the plunge.

A Snake Marked is the story of a convict who receives a surprise visit from his estranged father, and how this jarring encounter affects him on a personal and psychological level. We shot the film almost two years ago up in Vancouver, and everyone involved gave so much of themselves to help us make it for next to nothing.

When you're trying to execute a high concept idea on a limited budget, it's imperative to surround yourself with passionate people who care about the project as much as you do. We're currently touring festivals around the world with A Snake Marked, and have picked up a few awards along the way. We're really proud of what we made. People can follow the film's progress on instagram at @asnakemarked.

And you have a film on the way alongside your Riverdale co-star Lochlyn Munroe, Roads Of Ithriyah. What can fans expect there? And, you have two other films on the way as well. Anything you can tell us about there?

Riedinger: I played a college professor named Mauricio in an independent feature called Roads of Ithriyah, which is about a soldier with amnesia, and his journey of self-discovery. The film is currently in postproduction and should be out by next year.

Coincidentally, Lochlyn Munro who plays Hal Cooper in Riverdale, is also in the film.

The second feature I have in the works is one I'll be directing. I've been looking for the right screenplay for years, and I've finally found one which deals with the drug trade and gangs up in Canada. I feel like it's a story that's never been told, and I'm currently fine-tuning the script with the writer.

The plan is to shoot the film in the next year or two, and it will be my first feature as director. After having directed over a dozen shorts, I definitely feel ready to take the plunge into longer form storytelling.

Fans already know you from shows like Claws, Narcos, and Good Behavior. Which of those was your favorite to work on, and why?

Riedinger: That's a tough one to answer. Not sure I can pick one. Narcos was obviously a dream job, as I got to spend two months shooting on location in Colombia, working with incredible material, and getting to research and play the role of the eccentric drug lord Carlos Lehder. The success of Narcos opened up a lot of other doors for me, and was definitely a game changer in my career.

Good Behavior was also a fantastic experience all around. I had a lot of fun playing the main antagonist in the show's final season, and really enjoyed working in North Carolina alongside a wonderful cast.

Claws was a wild experience. I found out I got the part the morning of my first day of shooting in New Orleans for four months, and had to be on a flight within four hours of getting the news. That was a rollercoaster of a day.

My storyline on Claws was closely tied to Carrie Preston's, so we got to share a lot of scenes throughout the season. Acting opposite Carrie was definitely a highlight for me. It's great to hear the show has been picked up for another season. Whether my character is still in the picture remains to be seen, but coming back for another arc on the show would definitely be a fun experience.

With a role on Riverdale, you should soon be in high demand. Who else would you love to work with, and what other types of roles would you like to play?

Riedinger: I've been fortunate in my career to get to play leading roles as well as character parts, which is what I hope to keep doing. To be able to transition between films and television in memorable roles that I can sink my teeth into is all I could ever ask for. Thankfully, the caliber of television is so high these days, there are so many great shows and roles constantly being created.

As for who else I'd like to work with - I'm a junkie for new experiences. I've been fortunate to get to collaborate with a diverse array of creatives. I enjoy working with different types of people on each new project that comes my way, so it's exciting to witness the increased initiative towards diversity in our industry both in front of, and behind the camera.

Hopefully that trend continues, as people embrace a broader concept of what storytelling is and who gets to tell the stories. I guess what I'm saying is I want to continue to work with artists from all walks of life. That excites me.

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