Riverdale fans rejoice, because after months of waiting and wondering, K.J. Apa is replacing Kian Lawley in The Hate U Give. You probably already know the New Zealander as Archie Andrews in the hit CW series, but now he'll be stepping into a major film role, playing the boyfriend to The Hate U Give's star, Amandla Stenberg. According to Variety, filming will take place in Atlanta, and the studio has authorized over a week of reshoots to replace the original footage featuring Lawley.
The film is based on the Angela Thomas YA novel of the same name which came out last year and is anchored by themes of race and police brutality. Stenberg's character is Starr Carter, who is launched into activism after witnessing the police killing of her unarmed friend. In short, race is an omnipresent theme in the project, and it became an unavoidable conversation off-set as well, after a video surfaced of Lawley using racial slurs in February.
The video in question has been removed from the platform, and Lawley promptly apologized via Twitter, saying in part:
"I’ve learned a lot & I am grateful to have the power to change. I never want to be who I was yesterday. We’re in a constant battle to become a better version of ourselves."
But the lapse in judgement was at odds with the message of the project, and Lawley was fired from The Hate U Give on Feb. 5, even though filming had already wrapped.
A Fox studio representative released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter explaining the decision thusly:
"Due to the controversy surrounding his past comments and behavior, Kian Lawley will no longer appear in 'The Hate U Give.' The studio plans to recast the role of Chris and reshoot scenes as needed."
At great additional expense, producers elected to reshoot the YouTuber's scenes with an entirely new actor. It's a decision that's mirrored in that of projects like BBC One's Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence, which elected to replace Ed Westwick, and All The Money in the World, which made a similar decision to reshoot Kevin Spacey's scenes. And it's a decision that Lawley claimed to understand in this case as well, in a statement and second apology that he released to Variety on Feb. 6. He said,
"Words have power and can do damage. I own mine and I am sorry. I respect Fox’s decision to recast this role for The Hate U Give as it is an important story, and it would not be appropriate for me to be involved considering the actions of my past. I understand the impact and I have grown and learned since then. From now on I plan to use my voice for positive change."
With Lawley removed from the project, it was just a matter of who to replace him with, and with a decision this monumental and potentially costly, it's no wonder that the selection process took as long as it did. But now, a little less than two months after Lawley's firing, he's been replaced. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. In addition to his work on Riverdale, which was just renewed for a third season, Apa also has a film called The Last Summer in pre-production, about a group of students getting some last time in with each other before heading off to college.
Apa has proven his endless charm and talent on Riverdale, so it's wonderful to see him getting some extra work in this way. It turns this bittersweet moment much more sweet, and should make fans that much more excited to see The Hate U Give.