Who Plays Archie On 'Riverdale'? K.J. Apa Isn't Exactly "America's Typical Teenager"

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You've never seen Archie quite like this before… That's not just because The CW's Riverdale is giving an audiences a brooding, mysterious take on the colorful and carefree comic book series we all vaguely remember from our childhoods. It's also because Archie Andrews himself — that gangly, klutzy, lovable goof with the orange hair, referred to in the comics as "America's Typical Teenager" — is something he's never been before. He's, well… kinda hot? That shouldn't come as a surprise for a show on The CW, but the actor playing the iconic character is still a far cry from the image most of us have of Archie. Who is Archie Andrews actor K.J. Apa, anyway?

There's a reason American audiences aren't familiar with this handsome young actor yet. For one thing, he's only 19 years old, so his career is just getting started; but more importantly, he's coming to The CW all the way from his native New Zealand. That's right: America's Typical Teenager isn't American at all. This actor got his start acting in Shortland Street, a popular soap opera in his native country, which he joined as a series regular for two years. As it turns out, his role as Kane Jenkins probably served as good preparation for Riverdale, since Kane and Archie have a lot in common: the former is a rugby player who has an affair with his gym teacher, while the latter is a football player who has an affair with his music teacher. (Coincidence or type-casting? You decide.)

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Apa has a lot in common with Archie as well, as the actor told Nerdist in a recent interview:

"Reading the pilot, when I was just about to start shooting, something that stood out to me was we both — me and Archie — are struggling between music and [sports]. When I was in school, I had to decide if I was going to do music, because I was on a half scholarship at school, and rugby. Rugby was a big part of my life for a while, and I had to stop because of acting. So I had three things that I was just like, 'What's going to happen?' I had to stop playing rugby because you can't play rugby and act as well, so I was forced to stop doing that. My dad loves rugby, and he was gutted to have me not play anymore, after playing my whole life. That was something that I could easily relate to."

While Riverdale will mark Apa's debut in the eyes of American audiences, his second major role in this country will come only one day after the premiere of that show, when A Dog's Purpose opens in theaters nationwide this Friday. In that film, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) and based on the 2010 novel of the same name, Apa will play the central role of Ethan — a character who is portrayed in his older years by Dennis Quaid.

As you may very well know, A Dog's Purpose has found itself at the center of a controversy after a video was released by TMZ that appeared to show a canine actor allegedly being forced to participate in a stunt against its will. Apa is aware of the controversy surrounding his Hollywood feature film debut, and released a statement on Twitter, saying that he was "saddened" by the video and claiming, "I would never attach myself to a project that didn't treat animals with the utmost care, and honestly, the possibility that an animal could've been hurt is troubling to me."

In a statement to Bustle, the A Dog's Purpose producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures said this:

A DOG'S PURPOSE, produced by Amblin Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures, is a celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs. And in the spirit of this relationship, the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.
While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepherd Hercules throughout the production of the film. There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure the dog was comfortable with all the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules was not comfortable attempting the stunt caught on the edited tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that scene.
Hercules is happy and healthy today.

Regardless of any controversy surrounding his American film debut, if Apa's sudden success in Hollywood is any indication, American audiences may be growing increasingly familiar with his face over the next few years. Tune in to the Riverdale premiere this Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. ET so you can say you remember this future star from his fledgling days on The CW.