I was recently going through my digital recorder, looking for an interview, when I heard a voice that caught me by surprise. It was the late Luke Perry, talking about “Riverdale.” And I was startled to come upon the recording, 5½ months after his sudden, unexpected death.
It was a brief interview at a CW press function a couple of years ago, shortly before the second-season premiere of the series. What comes through quickly is just how enthusiastic Perry was about the show and how happy he was to be part of it.
“The pilot just blew me away,” he said. “There were, like, five or six moments in it that I just went, What!?!”
He loved that the show was “a really subversive take” on the Archie comics. “It’s what would happen if you took those guys off the clean, unfolded pages of the comic book and drug ’em through it a little bit.”
And he brushed off criticism that the show could go too far at times.
“When I saw Betty and Veronica kissing on the lips in the pilot, I took out a quarter and I flipped it and I was, like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing it anyway,’” he said with a laugh. “I liked it. I thought that was pretty cool.”
The man best known for playing the rebel Dylan McKay in the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” almost 30 years ago was clearly pleased to be playing Archie’s dad in “Riverdale.” “I enjoy playing the nice guy. The stay-at-home dad,” he said. “It’s something new for me.”
And, after the events at the end of Season 1 of “Riverdale,” he said things were looking up for him in Season 2.
“I didn’t get shot yet, is the first thing that I’m very excited about,” Perry said. “I haven’t taken any bullets yet this year. Having said that, it ain’t over. It’s ‘Riverdale.’ You never know what’ll happen.”
He was funny. Engaging. Clearly enjoying himself as he was being interviewed. And it’s kind of heartbreaking, given that in March, Perry died at the age of 52 after suffering two strokes.
I remember interviewing him multiple times at the height of his “90210” fame in the early 1990s. He was always friendly, enthusiastic and patient. When Fox botched a press event meant to re-create the show’s fictional restaurant hangout, the Peach Pit — half of us couldn’t see or hear the cast members — Perry took it upon himself to make the rounds, apologizing for something that wasn’t his fault and giving as many people the quotes they needed for their stories as he possibly could.
I remember laughing when he told a story about filming a Dylan-and-Brenda (Shannen Doherty) make-out scene on the beach that was interrupted when the faux rocks started “just floating out to sea.”
(And I feel really badly that I once referred to Perry post-”90210” as a “network has-been.”)
Every person I’ve ever talked to who worked with Perry, whether on “90210” or “Riverdale,” has praised him up one side and down the other. In a business where egos often get out of control, he was a genuinely good guy.
And when “Riverdale” returns on Oct. 9, the season premiere will feature a “real tribute to Luke,” said executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa — and a guest appearance by Doherty (whose character on the show is being kept under wraps).
Doherty recently told TV critics that she wasn’t planning to join her castmates on this summer’s “BH90210” reboot (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., Fox/Channel 13), “and when Luke passed away, things drastically changed for me. And I felt like it was a great opportunity to sort of honor him.”
Had he lived, Perry couldn’t have been a full-time star of the reboot; he was under contract to “Riverdale.” But he talked about guest-starring and hanging out with his old friends.
They would have welcomed him. Everybody liked Luke Perry.