Wonderland.

MADELAINE PETSCH

The actress on life after Riverdale, her YouTube channel, and not being a pushy vegan.

Top and pants by GEORGE CHAKRA, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR and shoes by SAINT LAURENT.

Top and pants by GEORGE CHAKRA, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR and shoes by SAINT LAURENT.

Most people know Madelaine Petsch from her role as Cheryl Blossom on the CW teen drama Riverdale, but 6.84 million also know her from her YouTube channel. In one of her more popular videos, Petsch shows viewers what she eats in a day “as a vegan actor”. The bubbly redhead gushes over a fresh bunch of kale and consumes an entire bell pepper in one sitting without ever getting preachy about veganism or taking on a holier-than-thou attitude. Perhaps the most refreshing part is that she’s also able to poke fun at herself, adding text screens that say things like, “Who gets excited about kale?”

This down-to-earth approach to a vegan lifestyle is the ethos behind one of Petsch’s most recent projects, a documentary titled Meat Me Halfway. The 27-year-old served as executive producer, championing the “reducitarianism” movement that writer and director Brian Kateman advocates for in the film. He created the term in 2014 as a way to encourage people to consume fewer animal byproducts, rather than cut them out entirely.

“I’m not telling anyone to go vegan, that’s a crazy ask,” Petsch tells me over the phone. “But I am saying, ‘Think before you order that beef patty’ or whatever because we have a great alternative for you. It’s more about arming people with information and doing it in a fun way.”

(LEFT) Beanie by HUFF, top and skirt by VIKTOR & ROLF and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. (RIGHT) Beanie by HUFF, chain by MARC JACOBS, sweater by MARC JACOBS, brief by DOLCE, tights by WOLFORD, socks by LEG AVENUE and shoes by DR MARTEN.

Beanie by HUFF, top and skirt by VIKTOR & ROLF and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. Beanie by HUFF, chain by MARC JACOBS, sweater by MARC JACOBS, brief by DOLCE, tights by WOLFORD, socks by LEG AVENUE and shoes by DR MARTEN.

Though Petsch is working to set herself up with more projects she’s passionate about for her life post-Riverdale, she teases that there’s plenty more drama — and nuance — before the show’s end. “She goes through a huge shift,” Petsch says of her character, Cheryl, in the currently-airing back half of season five. “For some people, I think it’s going to be totally on the nose and they’ll have expected it this entire time. And for some people, it’ll be out of left field. There’s a lot of stuff to play with and it definitely is carried over into season six.”

Though the Archie Comics-inspired show has continued production throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (rendering the cast and crew essentially trapped in the show’s shooting location, Vancouver, last season when the borders were closed), Petsch says she’s always felt incredibly safe on set. “I’m very thankful to be working throughout the whole pandemic,” she says. “And I know that I’m protecting other people [because] I got vaccinated. I’m so thankful that we have that opportunity now.”

Rather than tiptoeing around the subject or making a grand statement about it, Petsch has continued to speak about her vaccination status as a medical decision, rather than a political one. “It became a political thing when it shouldn’t have been,” she says. “I’m never gonna tell somebody what they should do with their body, of course. However, after copious amounts of research, my family and I felt like the best choice for us.”

Petsch seems to continually let her instincts be her guide, in all aspects of her life. This driving sense of intuition led her to one of her other upcoming projects, a psychological thriller called Jane which is set to premiere on the distribution platform, Creator+. The film focuses on Olivia (played by Petsch), a high school senior battling intense mental health struggles.

(LEFT) Headband, Top, Brief by VIKTOR & ROLF, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. (RIGHT) Chain by MARC JACOBS, dress by ALBERTA FERRETTI, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR, flannel by R13, jacket by MARC JACOBS, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT.

Headband, Top, Brief by VIKTOR & ROLF, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. Chain by MARC JACOBS, dress by ALBERTA FERRETTI, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR, flannel by R13, jacket by MARC JACOBS, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT.

“I have really bad panic and anxiety disorder,” she says. “At the height of the pandemic, my anxiety got really, really bad, as most people’s did during that period of time. I went back to that script and I was like ‘I have to do this.’ I just feel like I haven’t seen a movie that I feel personifies anxiety in a way that I can relate to.”

Petsch is also producing on Jane, a balancing act that she says has been totally worth it. “It made me even more invested in the project,” she says. “I really felt at the end of the day, this was also my creative vision, which is only making me feel more creatively fulfilled as an artist, definitely as an actor.”

You might think that as her career ramps up, Petsch’s YouTube channel would take a backseat, but the actor says that it has been fulfilling in ways she could have never imagined. Not only does she love the hands-on aspects of it (she just hired an editor after having done it herself for nearly four years), but the medium lets fans see her as more than her breakout role on Riverdale. “You’re getting to know me; a version of me that I get to control the narrative of,” she says. “I think there’s something really empowering about that.”

“I was always scared that I wouldn’t be taken that seriously,” she admits. ‘Which is stupid, and I know that. But you know, I’ve been on a drama CW show. I remember I was meeting for a comedy and they were like, ‘Oh, I watch your YouTube channel, you’re actually super funny.’ And I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is creating a different avenue for me.”

What’s more, Petsch gets to connect with her fans in an intimate and meaningful way. “It’s really beautiful when I get messages from fans, which I can’t believe I get these, but where they’re like, ‘Your YouTube channel helped me stay alive for a year.’ Like that is insane to me. Things like that just really drive it home as to why I do it.”

Of course, it would be understandable if Petsch someday hangs up her YouTube hat, but the foundation has already been laid. Her authenticity radiates through the screen and inevitably into every project she touches — something that can’t be faked even with all the editing prowess in the world.

(LEFT) Chain by MARC JACOBS, dress by ALBERTA FERRETTI, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR, flannel by R13, jacket by MARC JACOBS, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. (RIGHT) Beanie by HUFF, chain by MARC JACOBS, sweater by MARC JACOBS, brief by DOLCE, tights by WOLFORD, socks by LEG AVENUE and shoes by DR MARTEN.

Chain by MARC JACOBS, dress by ALBERTA FERRETTI, bra by AGENT PROVOCATEUR, flannel by R13, jacket by MARC JACOBS, tights by WOLFORD and shoes by SAINT LAURENT. Beanie by HUFF, chain by MARC JACOBS, sweater by MARC JACOBS, brief by DOLCE, tights by WOLFORD, socks by LEG AVENUE and shoes by DR MARTEN.
Photography
Mike Rosenthal
Words
Catherine Santino
Fashion
Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn
Hair
Sabrina Porsche
Makeup
Jen Tioseco
Location
1717 Vine
MADELAINE PETSCH

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