Reading his cousin’s Archie comics years ago, it would be hard for a young Cody Kearsley to imagine he would be bringing one of those roles to life on TV.
The Oliver/Penticton actor is taking on one of pop culture’s most iconic roles in the new series Riverdale playing Moose Mason.
“It was very cool I grew up on (the comics). I knew the comics very well. My cousins had a huge collection of them. It was cool because it’s set in a modern day and it’s a lot darker. Each character has a darker backstory,” said Kearsley. “We got to bring these characters to life in a modern sense, in a different time.”
He auditioned for the part last year and found out he landed the role on his birthday, March 10.
“That was kind of cool, it was exciting,” Kearsley said. “It was great for me because I’d mostly done theatre my whole life. So this is my first big TV project. I was just excited to get in front of the camera, get on set and just keep learning.”
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It’s the start of a new career path for him, breaking into the film and TV and building on his theatre background which originated right here in the Okanagan. The transition from theatre to the screen is a big learning curve.
“It’s completely different. Being on set is insane. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people and they’re all doing different jobs. Everyone’s running around, it’s very chaotic actually. Especially for me because I didn’t know about the cameras, lighting, sound all these different things,” Kearsley said. “I got to learn a lot which is good. I got to watch the older actors who have been doing it a long time like Luke Perry and Lochlyn Munro and just spent a lot of time watching and learning it was great.”
Playing Moose Mason, a nearly 70-year-old character and possibly the genisis of the modern-day jock stereotype, Kearsley is taking on a much different and more in-depth iteration. Mason explores his sexuality and sexual fluidity in the series, while maintaining a jock facade.
“His kind of putting a mask on as the jock, as being a jock and being a bully is protecting himself, his insecurities and that kind of stuff. I’ve been exploring that side of it,” Kearsley said. “It makes it a bit more three-dimensional than in the comics where he’s just the dumb jock beating people up. There’s some actual life to it, it’s good.”
Kearsley said it’s an easy notion to connect to, with most people putting on an outward face which doesn’t always match what’s inside.
The energy on the set of Riverdale, filmed in Vancouver, is fittingly “like highschool” with many actors just emerging in the industry.
“There’s lots of different types of people, lots of different energies, but everyone is very positive and encouraging. It’s like a little family. Everyone wants to work together to make this a great project,” Kearsley said. “The energy is high because it’s a lot of people’s first jobs as well. Everyone is energetic and hungry, excited and amitious.”
Being able to watch himself on Netflix is both a surreal experience and a learning opportunity for Kearsley.
“It’s interesting to watch it on Netflix. I get to see when I’m doing badly, I get to see when I do OK and get to improve on that and figure out what I’m going to do differently next time,” Kearsley said.
Getting his acting start in both Oliver and Penticton, Kearsley trained in multiple dance disciplines with Traci Stevenson Bourne and Cheryl Blumke, at the Okanagan Dance School until he graduated from Southern Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver. In his Grade 11 year, Kearsley attended Princess Margaret Secondary to play the lead in Lori Grant’s production of Crazy For You then returned to SOSS in Oliver for his grad year and to play the lead in Alison Podmorow ‘s production of Grease.
After graduation he headed to Hollywood on a dance Scholarship, followed by a three-year training program at the Theatre Of Arts under the direction of James Warwick.
It was a hectic transition, Kearsley compared it to the first time you drive on a U.S. freeway filled with cars and lights and hard to find a sense of direction.
“The first year was insane. The first year there was so much going on. It’s hard to settle into yourself, it’s hard to breathe because there’s so many things coming at you all the time,” Kearsley said.
He started finding his focus and was able to attend screenings and actor’s coming to his school to talk allowed him to delve deep into the craft. Kearsley worked with ARK Theatre Company for a couple of years performing in plays. He took two years off acting, as his work visa only allowed him to do theatre he was unable to work in film and TV.
Two years ago Kearsley started focusing on film and getting out to auditions, booking his role on Riverdale a year later. Kearsley is currently in the midst of auditions for pilot season, where TV networks debut their new series and decide on their fall line up.
He is also looking to start his own theatre company in Vancouver this year, with a focus on promoting his Métis heritage and the work of other First Nations artists.
“I’ve read so many plays in my life that I just want to direct or produce or act in, but I also want to showcase new writers and new actors, especially in the First Nations community because I’m First Nations as well,” Kearsley said. “I’d like to get some different plays from First Nations writers and produce those. People that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to put their works up.”
The Riverdale series airs on Thursdays on CW, as well episodes are released on Netflix.