When Archie Andrews and his gang of “all-American” friends were first introduced to readers in the 1940s, few might have guessed that the comics would have been turned into a live-action series starring a Latina decades later. This is a sentiment that goes double when it comes to Veronica Lodge. At the time, her comic book character was so opposite of the stereotypical roles assigned to Latina actresses of that era. Back then, she was a product of extreme wealth which afforded her a house full of servants whom she often treated like second-hand citizens. Truth be told, these characters— the servants— were the ones that Latinos were more likely to have taken on.
Nearly 80 years since the comic’s first publication, Camila Mendes is the actress bringing Latinidad to “Archie” and doing it through her portrayal of the character least likely: Veronica.
In a recent interview, Mendes spoke about her hope of seeing more networks continue to challenge Hollywood typical approach of portraying Latinx on screen.
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On the Archie-based telvision series “Riverdale,” the Brazilian actress plays a version of Veronica whose has parents that are still tied to extreme wealth. They speak to her Spanglish, and regularly call her adoring names like “mija.” Still, these are not your stereotypical Hollywood Latinos. They’re complex, successful and (despite coming by most of their wealth in some pretty suspect ways) the emitome of today’s American-dream.
Besides taking on the role of a character whose role isn’t relegated to that of a hotel maid, or whose parents aren’t gang members, Mendes portrays a character who actually acts as a pretty great role model for young viewers as well. Veronica is smart, clever, has ambition, and while she has her negative traits, she’s also supportive and accepting of the characters around her. In an interview with W magazine, Mendes says that these traits have been key to her success on the show. “I’m so happy…and it’s not just Veronica, it’s the whole Lodge family being all Latino…portraying Latinos as a strong, powerful, intelligent family,” she explained. “We do well, we’re go-getters.”
Fortunately, there’s no sign of Mendes falling into a Latina Hollywood trope any time soon.
According to W, the actress recently filmed a romantic comedy called “The Stand In” and a thriller-drama called “Coyote Lake.” The actress underlined how important the roles were for her personally, primarily because they’ve allowed her to take on new characters. “I was really honored that with the last film I did that they would offer a role to me that was very different from Veronica, not knowing if I was capable of playing something different than Veronica,” she admitted. “Being Latina, everyone is always going to want to be like ‘Fierce, sexy, strong, confident!’—which is great, I think that’s definitely a good type of personality to portray and it’s empowering—but Latinas can be the goofy, nerdy, quirky, vulnerable women that I think is usually associated with white girls.”