If you’ve watched Riverdale, then you know KJ Apa as Archie Andrews — the boy next door who is always helping out his friends and family. But before the actor — who, as of this writing, has more than 18 million followers on Instagram — made a name for himself in Hollywood, he starred in a New Zealand soap opera called Shortland Street.
“I ended up joining a talent agency in New Zealand when I was thirteen and I never worked, never got any auditions or anything and then one day, when I was sixteen, they asked me to audition for this soap opera,” he told Flaunt magazine in 2018. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give this a go.’ To this day, I still don’t actually know why I did that, because I was so uncomfortable going in, but I still did it…”
The CW star added, “I forced myself to just go and do it, which is kind of crazy, because that decision is the reason why I’m here.”
Since then, Apa has starred in several movies — A Dog’s Purpose, The Hate U Give, The Last Summer, and I Still Believe — and it looks like he isn’t stopping any time soon. “I want to be successful, and I don’t want to have time off,” he told GQ Style Australia in 2018. “Success for me is creating interesting things that other people are interested in.”
Keep reading to find out more about Apa.
Acting wasn't KJ Apa's first love
It’s no surprise that KJ Apa is passionate about music. On Riverdale, his character, Archie Andrews, frequently picks up a guitar and sings plenty of times throughout the series, and in the film I Still Believe, Apa played Christian music star Jeremy Camp. Despite his acting career taking off, Apa revealed he wanted to be in the music scene, first and foremost. “I never saw myself being an actor. I always saw myself being more of a musician. I wanted to actually play music or play rugby,” he told Flaunt magazine in 2018.
In 2017, Apa admitted to Cosmopolitan that he feels “most comfortable” with “a guitar in [his] hand,” adding, “When I auditioned for Riverdale and did a screen test, I decided to take my guitar in there because I knew it would calm me down.”
However, Apa is “still waiting” for someone to point out that he doesn’t belong in Hollywood. “I’m happy doing it, but I kind of — I don’t feel out of place, it’s just … I don’t know,” he explained to Cosmopolitan, adding he “one hundred percent” feels like he has “imposter syndrome” when it comes to his career.
KJ Apa is 'super uncomfortable' when he sings
Even though KJ Apa loves playing his guitar, he is “super uncomfortable” when he sings, he told People in August 2019. However, while Apa was making the movie I Still Believe — which focuses on musician Jeremy Camp’s life as his wife battles ovarian cancer — he took a different approach when he recorded tunes for the film. “I went into the studio in Nashville — I did that first before we shot anything — and I think that really gave me perspective on the film,” he explained.
“Having that sound and knowing what all that music is going to sound like before you go in is super important,” he added. “It’s either going to boost your confidence and boost your morale or it’s going to be like, ‘Oh, man, that didn’t go so well, so what are we going to work with?’ Luckily, it couldn’t have gone better.”
So, will Apa — who is part of his own band, Legend — be releasing any new tunes in the future? “Here’s the thing — everyone asks about the band, but we don’t have music ready to put out in the world yet,” he dished to The New Zealand Herald in 2019. “We’ve recorded some music, who knows if it’s any good, but I love it.” He added, “I believe in the music, I’m proud of the music, and I can’t wait for it to come out, so people can hear it.”
This is why KJ Apa was hired on 'Riverdale'
If it wasn’t for this minor detail, KJ Apa might not have been hired on Riverdale. Apa “auditioned for Riverdale twice before landing the gig,” according to GQ. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Riverdale creator and showrunner, recalled that Apa was “jetlagged” during their first meeting since he had just flown in from his native country of New Zealand. Unfortunately, the first audition didn’t go well, so they brought him in a second time.
“And then he played his guitar,” Aguirre-Sacasa told the outlet about their next rendezvous. “And it was like, ‘That’s him, that’s Archie.'”
Apa sang Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and knocked the audition out of the park. “There were a couple Southern people in the theater so I brang my guitar,” he recalled to Vulture. “I felt really confident after I played that song, because music comes really naturally to me and it’s always something I’ve been really passionate about.”
But before Aguirre-Sacasa could hire Apa, they had to die his hair red to make sure he represented Archie Andrews in the best way possible. “We were all literally waiting for pictures to be texted to us from the salon, and now it’s hard for me to even think of KJ as anything other than a redhead,” the creator said. And the rest, as they say, is history.
How KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse's friendship evolved
Not only is the cast of Riverdale friends on the series, but they’re also very close when the cameras aren’t rolling. In fact, KJ Apa, who plays Archie Andrews, and Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead Jones, are besties in real life, but the pair didn’t connect right away.
“It definitely wasn’t instant,” Apa told Glamour U.K. in 2017. “He’s a good guy. It took a while for us to become close. We go camping — we actually drove back to LA from Vancouver, which was sick, a really nice trip. And we’ve been camping out in Canada, which is really beautiful, too.”
These days, Apa and Sprouse are quarantining together in Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic, per Entertainment Tonight. “[T]hey’re isolating together, which is very cute,” Sprouse’s twin brother, Dylan Sprouse, told the outlet. “I’ve heard a lot of cute stories,” Dylan added. “I heard they’re just lifting weights and eating cheese … I think that’s what they do.”
Well, it certainly sounds like Apa is living out his dreams day by day.
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