Update, June 5th, 2020, 11:24 a.m. ET: Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, spoke out this week about how the teen drama treats Black characters as “sidekicks” and uses them for diversity in advertisements, without giving them substantial roles on the show. She also noted that she is “paid the least” among show regulars. Now, Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is making it clear that he’s listening to his star, and he’s making a vow to do better.
“We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She’s right,” Aguirre-Sacasa wrote in a text image post on Instagram, addressing Riverdale viewers and fans. “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.”
He also promised big changes for the show and the writers’ room and wrote that, “Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside it.”
Aguirre-Sacasa and all of the Riverdale writers have made an unspecified donation to Black Lives Matter LA. We’ll have to wait and see what these changes will be and how Riverdale will address Morgan’s, and other actors’, concerns. If it results in more screentime for Toni Topaz and gives Morgan the pay she deserves, we are on board.
Original post, June 3rd, 2020: Vanessa Morgan is done being quiet. The 28-year-old actress, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, called out the teen drama for marginalizing its Black characters. Morgan took to Twitter to stand up for herself and her fellow Black actors, calling for accurate representation in the media at large. Morgan is the only Black series regular on Riverdale, and she also says she’s paid the least.
On May 31st, Morgan posted a text image to Twitter with the caption, “I’m not being Quite [sic] anymore. #BlackLivesMatter .” The image reads, “Tired of how black people are portrayed in Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people.”
“Tired of us also being used as side kick, non-dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show. It starts with the media,” Morgan wrote.
Not only is Morgan the only Black series regular on Riverdale, but she is also one of two lesbians on the show. One Twitter user called out the fact that Morgan represents two minorities on the teen drama, and wrote, “double the diversity – DOUBLE UR PAYCHECK IMO.” This prompted Morgan to respond to the tweet and share that she’s actually the lowest-paid series regular on Riverdale.
“Lmao too bad I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least. girl i could go on for days,” Morgan wrote.
Lmao too bad I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least 😂👏🏽 girl i could go on for days 🐸— Vanessa Morgan (@VanessaMorgan) June 2, 2020
While some of Morgan’s followers reached out to her white castmates to address the issue on Twitter, Morgan quickly shut down that conversation. She wrote, “My role on Riverdale has nothing to do with my fellow castmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.”
Castmate Lili Reinhart responded to Morgan’s tweet saying, “We love you, V. And support you 10000%.”
We love you, V. And support you 10000%.— Lili Reinhart (@lilireinhart) June 2, 2020
It’s time Hollywood takes responsibility for accurately representing diversity onscreen. Morgan’s callout is one step in the right direction when it comes to speaking up for yourself and your community. Toni Topaz would be proud.