You would never be able to tell that Camila Mendes (no relation to Shawn Mendes) is a Hollywood newbie. The poised and brilliant Brazilian American beauty is starring on The CW's new series, Riverdale, playing complex character Veronica Lodge — and her acting chops are superb.
Riverdale has quickly become one of our guilty (or perhaps not so guilty) pleasures, and Mendes has surely won over our hearts with her portrayal of Veronica and her backstory.
Though based on characters from the classic Archie Comics we all grew up knowing to love, the tone of Riverdale is completely different, much darker. The series centers on the small town of Riverdale as its people are reeling from the recent murder of the local high school's golden boy Jason Blossom, which causes everything in, what appears to be their picture perfect world, to change. Riverdale follows all-American teen Archie Andrews (played by KJ Apa) and his dad Fred Andrews (played by Luke Perry) , Betty Cooper (played by Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (played by Mendes) and her mother Hermoine (played by Marisol Nichols), Jughead Jones (played by Cole Sprouse), Cheryl Blossom (played by Madelaine Petsch), and leader of Josie and the Pussycats, Josie McCoy (played by Ashleigh Murray), as they each navigate through the nightmare and secrets that make Riverdale a quiet, sleepy town, filled with dangers in the shadows.
We spoke to Mendes all about Riverdale, playing the iconic character of Veronica, her upbringing, her gripe with Hollywood's treatment of Latinos and lots more.
Get to know and love the Brasileira in our exclusive interview below:
This is your first role ever, which is amazing! How did you prepare for this moment?
It’s crazy, I feel honored! It’s this epic role that I would’ve never imagined would be my first. You always assume that you’re just going to have a gradual start, book your featured role in something, and then kind of work your way up from there. So to start with a role like this, it was incredible and very unexpected. It‘s one of those things that just happened so fast. I mean it didn’t happen fast, actually — the casting process took place over months and months but because it was so go, go, go. It was more like ‘ you have a call back here, call back there, flying to LA to do a network test,’ there was so much going on. You can’t think twice about it when you’re in the moment. Just keep going. Otherwise, you lose focus when you have to keep your eye on the prize.
What would you say you were most afraid going into all this?
Honestly, at the time I was more afraid of getting very close to something and losing the opportunity. To be at the very end and just have them say no, and just be like, ‘Okay wow, this could’ve changed my life,’ and then watch it change someone else’s life, that would’ve been very sad. It’s one of those things where at that level, if you’re testing for something, you’re just as good for the role as anyone else testing for it. At that point, anyone can play the role. It’s just a matter of who’s a better fit. There are so many small things that play a part in the end that you can’t take it personally. It’s removed from who you are. It’s more about the larger picture. Now, I feel like, I don’t know what my fears are now. It’s definitely scary playing such an iconic role because you feel like you don’t want to let anyone down. So far, people have been responding very well. You just have to accept that not everyone is going to love it, and that’s okay. They don’t have to love it.
How did you get into acting? Was it something you wanted to do your whole life?
Yeah, I pretty much did. I think when I was around 8, I was doing a lot of little plays for my class, and my mom kind of picked up on how much I enjoyed it. I was also just a very hyper, goofy, attention-seeking child. My sister would put on plays — she would write skits and stuff, and I would act in them. I think my mom just noticed that there was something going on there. Eventually, when we moved to South Florida, she put me in a school that had a very strong arts program. The owner of the school, he invested a lot in the arts. We had a theater and a program that was very professional, and it was kind of inspiring, you know? There were kids that were paid to go to our school, got scholarships. So everyone there had a lot of talent, so I was like ‘Oh, shit. This is awesome.’ I think I started to take it seriously then and started to consider it like a possible career. Then everything just kind of fell into place — I auditioned for NYU, I got in and spent the next four years of my life in acting school. Right as I finished, I started auditioning for this role, so it was like perfect timing.
Did you have any sort of a backup plan if it didn’t happen?
Never. I never had a backup plan because I didn’t want to give myself one because honestly, I don’t think I’m good at anything else. I’m like — it has to be acting. It really does.
That’s amazing! Let’s talk a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? Did you grow up in Miami?
I grew up in a lot of places. I moved around a whole lot when I was younger. I was born in Virginia then I moved to Atlanta, then back to Virginia and back to Atlanta. Then I moved to Orlando, when my parents divorced. Then my mom and I, with my sister, moved to Brazil for a year. My grandpa was sick, and my mom just wanted to kind of deal with the divorce there. I don’t know. She took off to Brazil, and we were kind of dragged into the whirlwind of her life. From there, she was like okay no, I don’t want to live in Brazil anymore. So we went back to Florida, except this time we went to South Florida. From there, it was Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and then I moved to New York. We were like ping-ponging everywhere. Even within cities, we would move from different houses and stuff. It was kind of crazy.
At the time, I despised it. I would have a break down every time my mom said we were moving. As a child, you get so tired of saying bye to everyone and letting go of things. You start being scared of forming attachments because you’re scared you’ll have to leave soon. But in the end, honestly, I’m very glad to have had that experience because I feel like it made me who I am. Now I feel like I’m a very flexible person. I can kind of go with the flow and make friends and I’m good at letting things go. Which I feel, I don’t know. As you become an adult, you notice qualities in yourself, and you’re like now I know why I am the way I am, you know? And that’s a good thing.
Great to see you took such a positive approach to it! Being that there was little stability, it could have really frazzled you.
Moving has been a huge part of my life. But it’s not all good things. You start to notice what kind of messed you up about it. Everyone kind of has this moment in college, when they feel like they don’t really know themselves, or they feel a little unstable or a little unsure. I went through this whole thing and I realized that you can only establish a sense of self within yourself because everything else around you is going to change no matter what. So all you can control is who you are and as long as you stay true to that, then you’re home. I created this idea in my head that no matter where I go I’m home because I am — my body is my home. I got a tattoo below my right breast that says, “To build a home,” because that’s my goal in life — to build a home within myself.
Love that! Any other tattoos?
No, that’s the only one. It’s funny because everyone’s like once you get one, you don’t stop getting them or something. But I’ve never had the urge. I just needed to get that one tattoo because it really meant something to me and then I got it and I was like I’m good, I don’t want any others.