Following her comments calling out her show for its sidelining of Black characters, Riverdale star Vanessa Morgan has claimed that she’s paid less than her white costars. Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on the CW teen series, first issued a statement about how Black actors are relegated to “dangerous or angry scary” characters or non-dimensional sidekicks to their white counterparts on May 31, amid the nationwide Black Lives Matter marches surrounding the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died while pinned under a while police officer in Minneapolis.
While Morgan has clarified that her comments have nothing to do with her fellow castmates and there is “no need to attack them” since “they don’t call the shots” and stand behind her, she also continued to share some insights about her role in the series. As the only Black series regular, Morgan tweeted on June 2 that she’s also “paid the least.” In response to a tweet about how Black actors are used for diversity advertisement purposes, Morgan replied, “Yup,” and later tweeted, “Lmao too bad I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least.” Alongside some emojis, she added, "girl i could go on for days.”
According to American Community Survey’s (ACS) census data, the wage gap for Black women last year was 61 cents to a dollar, while their white counterparts earned 80 cents, per Essence. Sarah Fleisch Fink, the general counsel and director of workplace policy at the National Partnership for Women & Families, told Bustle in an interview last August for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day that this is emblematic of the discrimination Black women have faced throughout history. "It represents historic systemic barriers — to quality jobs, quality health care, reproductive care and housing — and a devaluation of Black women and their labor, both paid and unpaid,” Fink said. “Our country will never achieve equality until we fully recognize the gender wage gap and that it is especially punishing for women of color.”
In a follow-up tweet, Morgan also lamented being used as “the token biracial bisexual.” Since Morgan has started speaking out, a few of her Riverdale costars have chimed in and expressed solidarity. Asha Bromfield, who played Josie and the Pussycats drummer Melody Jones, tweeted on June 2, “Don't even get me started with how Riverdale treated the Pussycats. We had so much more to contribute than standing in the background and adding sass to a storyline. I stand with you @VanessaMorgan.” Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty Cooper, added, “We love you, V. And support you 10000%.”
The actor also made clear that she was speaking up to honor her black fans in a tweet on Wednesday, pledging that she has "made it my purpose to fight for us." She continued, "We aren't your token black non dimensional characters. This is being black in Hollywood. I will fight for YOU."