Camila Mendes and Lili Reinhart Get Real About Sex and Being Yourself

January 03, 2018   |   Written by The Editors

What do Hollywood and high school have in common? Both have a reputation of generating the archetypal mean girl—you know the breed: pretty, popular, two-faced.

That’s what makes the CW megahit Riverdale all the more surprising. Its female leads actually—wait for it—like each other, even when the cameras stop rolling.

Another departure: Although based on the iconic Archie Comics that started in the I940s, this small-screen adaptation explores the dark side of a seemingly idyllic small town. At the center of the twisted plotline are Cleveland native Lili Reinhart, 2I, and Camila Mendes, 23, who has Brazilian roots. Lili’s sweet, shy Betty plays amateur murder detective, and Camila’s Veronica—an updated version of the spoiled rich girl—struggles to forgive a controlling father just out of jail.

Ahead of Riverdale’s hotly anticipated midseason return this month, the duo too a break from shooting to interview each other—and no topic was off-limits.

LILI: Cami, how would you describe me to someone who’s never met me?

CAMILA: I’d say it takes a little while for you to warm up and get a feel for someone. But eventually you come around. You’re actually really goofy.

LILI: Yeah, I’m definitely reserved at first. I feel like people often think, “Oh, she’s a bitch.” I dealt with that in high school—people assumed I thought I was better than everyone else. But I just have social anxiety. It’s funny, when we first met, I thought you were pretty reserved too. CAMILA: People don’t believe me when I say it, but I’m actually kind of shy at first.

LILI: What plotline would you write for Veronica?

CAMILA: I want to see her challenged—I want to see her at her breaking point.

LILI: I want to see Dark Veronica!

CAMILA: Yeah! I love strong characters and they’re fun to play, but I think we’ve seen a lot of strong Veronica. It would be interesting to see her in a different light. I want to see her weak and defeated. I want to see her fail. What do you want to happen for Betty?

LILI: I want to see her have a good time. Maybe not having phone calls on the reg with a serial killer, you know? I want her to let her hair down—and not just as a reaction to being depressed and stressed out. Betty didn’t even do [Riverdale’s fictional party drug] Jingle Jangle.

CAMILA: I want to see Betty do Jingle Jangle!

LILI: Also want to see her explore her sexuality. She never gets to—she’s always stressed! Poor girl. Okay—what do we spend the most time doing together off-set?

CAMILA: We love to talk about relationships. We’re always very candid about what we’re going through.

LILI: And we’re very different in how we love.

CAMILA: I’ve always admired that you have a traditional view of love—that Romeo and Juliet kind. I have a more modern, progressive take, so it can be nice for me to bring myself back to that poetic type. It makes me appreciate romanticism, which I tend to shut off. I approach things more casually.

LILI: And there’s nothing wrong with that.

CAMILA: But you’ve always been such a fighter for love. I’m not, which I’ve learned can be an error on my part.

LILI: Ever been in love?

CAMILA: I have—a few times. I was a serial dater in high school, but my truest love ended pretty recently. Sometimes you end up realizing that your dreams don’t line up with that other person’s dreams, and you have to make a choice. For me, following my own dreams has always been more important. What about you?

LILI: I’ve been in love. Over the past year, I had to grapple—as you know—with whether I should pursue this love in my life or not. [Lili is widely rumored to be dating Riverdale costar Cole Sprouse.] There comes a point when you’re like, “If I don’t pursue it…”

CAMILA: “…I’m going to be miserable.” Totally. You’ve inspired me to be more out-spoken about how I feel —to say, “I’m not ashamed to say I love you, regardless of whether or not you love me back.”

LILI: And you’ve been there for me too through some dark times and heartbreak.

CAMILA: A hundred percent. I’m not in a relationship right now, so if you were setting me up with a guy, what would you be looking for?

LILI: He’d be six feet tall and well-built, with beautiful blue eyes. He’d be from Europe, with an accent. And you’re such a social butterfly—it would be nice for you to have someone who could bring out a more intimate side of you. Maybe he’s more of a homebody.

CAMILA: Yeah, he could balance me out.

LILI: Basically, you just need a hot European model.

CAMILA: Listen, if you meet this guy…

LILI: I’ll let him know.

CAMILA: I feel like his name is Francisco or something. Maybe there’s an accent in his name.

LILI: Or it’s a color. Like Bleu. ‘Je m’appelle Bleu.”

CAMILA: When I got to know you, I was surprised because you’re way more sexually aware of yourself than I thought you would be.

LILI: I’m very open sexually.

CAMILA: That’s something that we bonded about. I didn’t initially think you would be willing to talk about sex. And then once we started, I was like, “Oh my god!”

LILI: I love to talk about it. It’s interesting—one big insecurity I had to get past was when the person I’m with has had more sexual experiences than I have and has been in love more than I have. It’s mainly sexual though—I find myself thinking that they’re comparing me to their ex-lovers. I know it’s a stupid insecurity, because I can’t control someone’s past or dictate who they slept with before me…and besides, they’re with me for a reason.

CAMILA: Exactly!

LILI: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about sex?

CAMILA: I’ve never liked this idea of “don’t give him everything.” Like you’ve given someone all of yourself by having sex with them. What’s valuable to me is giving you my love and my intimacy. What about you?

LILI: The idea that sex is going to be the same with everyone—that’s a misconception. That’s how I felt when I lost my virginity—I was like, “So this is sex!” And then you have sex with someone else, and you’re like, “Holy shit—this is so different.” What you want, what feels good to you—it’s all going to change with every partner you have. ‘What do you think guys need to know about sex?

CAMILA: I want to tell them, “Don’t have sex at me—have sex with me.” I want them to understand that it’s so much better when we’re connected. Also, nothing makes me feel more special than when a guy opens up to me about something vulnerable. That’s when I start to fall in love.

LILI: Theres nothing more beautiful than a man crying.

CAMILA: Yes! I mean, the reason he’s crying also matters.

LILI: Right—like, if I fucking eat your Chipotle, maybe don’t cry. But if you’re talking to me about a vulnerable part of your life, yes, I’m going to fall in love with you.

CAMILA: So, Lili—since we met, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in me?

LILI: You’ve grown to be able to stand up for yourself. You know what you want, and you’re not afraid to say it now.

CAMILA: I used to say yes to everything because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion. There’s a big fear that we’ll be seen as divas. I’ve just learned to let go of that.

LILI: I remember someone once saying, “There’s a difference between being abitch and being a woman in control.” But an opinionated woman who knows what she wants is automatically labeled demanding.

CAMILA: And it’s not the case.

LILI: Being a young woman in Hollywood is intimidating. I came forward on my Tumblr to talk about my sexual assault story [As a teenager, Lili went on a date with an older coworker who tried to force himself on her], and I know you’ve dealt with sexual assault as well. In my situation, I know how powerless I felt, because it was my career on the line. It’s hard not to think that your next move dictates your career—aka the rest of your life.

CAMILA: Especially because in most of these accounts—at least until recently—people have spoken up and then nothing’s done about it. And it’s not just Hollywood.

LILI: Not at all. It’s in every profession and at every age. It’s represented in our show—it happens to high school girls. We have to start thinking about why these men do this. And how do we teach the next generation that no one has that power over someone else?

CAMILA: How to just respect other human beings. If I could go back to before I started Riverdale, I would tell myself to speak up when I felt like something wasn’t right. To use my voice and know that it’s worth hearing. I think what it really comes down to is giving fewer fucks.

LILI: How to give fewer fucks. I think it took a minute [for you] to get there. It did for me.

CAMILA: Well, it’s easy to think you have to fit some kind of mold. The darling, the bad bitch, the cool girl. But there’s no way to mess up being yourself.