‘Riverdale’s Vanessa Morgan Criticizes Show For Making Black Characters ‘Sidekicks’ To ‘White Leads’

Vanessa Morgan, a main cast member on 'Riverdale,' spoke out about being 'used as the token biracial bisexual' and media's representation of black people in general. 

Vanessa Morgan — who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale — is making her feelings known about the media’s representation of people of color, both on the news and in entertainment. “Tired of how black people are portrayed in Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as sidekick non dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show,” the 28-year-old actress wrote in a message, which she shared to Twitter on May 31. Vanessa added that she’s not being quiet “anymore” over the message.

On The CW show, Vanessa plays Toni, a former member of Southside Serpents who later forms the Pretty Poisons with Cheryl Blossom (played by Madelaine Petsch). Toni’s character also develops a romantic relationship with Cheryl, one of the lead characters on Riverdale. On June 2, she elaborated on her frustrations in follow-up posts after @oneofthosefaces wrote to her on Twitter, “imagine they’re getting so much more bang for their buck bc ur part of an lgbt storyline too, double the diversity – DOUBLE UR PAYCHECK IMO.”

“Lmao too bad I’m the only black series regular but also paid the least girl i could go on for days,” Vanessa wrote in one response. In another tweet, she vented, “But exactly, used as the token biracial bisexual.” However, she clarified in another tweet, “My role on Riverdale has nothing to do with my fellow castmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.” HollywoodLife has reached out to The CW network for comment, but didn’t hear back by the time of publication. 

Other fans had similar observations as Vanessa. “SIDE KICK ONE DIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS TO WHITE LEADS GET EM you and ashleigh always deserved so much more,” one such fan (@aalison) responded, referring to Ashleigh Murray, Vanessa’s co-star who plays Josie and the Pussycats’ lead singer on Riverdale. On the CW show, Josie and the Pussycats is a band comprised of mostly women of color, but fans took notice when the bandmates received notably less screen time after Season 1 (the show just aired its Season 4 finale on May 6). Ashleigh left the show after Season 3 for a leading role on Katy Keene.

Vanessa’s co-star Asha Bromfield, who played Melody Jones and the Josie and the Pussycats’ drummer on Riverdale, rallied around Vanessa’s tweet. “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,” Asha wrote on Twitter.

Vanessa’s comments arrived amid the Black Lives Matter movement, which has gained considerable traction across the world in response to the death of an unarmed black man named George Floyd, who was horrifyingly pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. Vanessa’s co-star Cole Sprouse even revealed that he was arrested while protesting on behalf of George’s life and the many other black lives that have been lost.

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