Standby for an hour of television that will truly tug on your heartstrings. At San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday, Riverdale executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced that the series’ season four premiere will include Shannen Doherty in a role paying tribute to Luke Perry. The casting itself is a nod to Riverdale’s beloved late actor who, per Aguirre-Sacasa, had wanted to have his former Beverly Hills: 90210 co-star and close friend on the hit CW series “since season one.”
It’s been just over four months since Perry passed away unexpectedly after suffering a massive stroke, and his presence has clearly been missed by the Riverdale cast, crew and all of the celebrated actor’s fans. Accordingly, the episode — which is slated to air October 9 — is titled “In Memoriam” and “will reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character [Fred Andrews] had on the show.” So, when it came time to map out the premiere, Aguirre-Sacasa knew he had to call Doherty. “They were such good friends, and when we were putting together this tribute episode, we wanted to make it as special as possible, and so we asked Shannen to do a pivotal, super-emotional role,” he explained, adding, “She read the script and immediately said yes. It’s very impactful.”
Shortly after the casting announcement broke, Doherty took to Instagram to share her thoughts on the role. Posting a photo of the pair during their 90210 days and a black-and-white snapshot of them taken not long before Perry’s death, Doherty wrote, “I am deeply honored to pay tribute to Luke on Riverdale. The care in which this show takes in honoring his memory is beautiful. He is missed. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.”
While younger generations adored Perry for playing the loving father of Archie Andrews on Riverdale, Perry’s ’80s- and ’90s-kids fanbase will always remember him as 90210’s resident bad boy heartthrob Dylan McKay. And Doherty will forever be tied to that legacy, as she played his on-again-off-again onscreen love interest, Brenda Walsh.
According to one of Riverdale’s young stars, Cole Sprouse, it was that link between Perry’s past and his present that everyone seemed to need to properly pay their respects. “It put the cherry on top of that episode and made a nice tribute,” said Sprouse, who plays Jughead Jones on the series. “[Doherty] was overjoyed to have the ability to share some of the burden of Luke’s passing that she had gone through in a cathartic setting with the rest of us.”