Riverdale After Dark: Barbara Wallace Interview
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On a special bonus episode of our Riverdale podcast, we’re interviewing Nana Rose Blossom herself, Barbara Wallace! Discover how Wallace got her start in acting, how the character of Nana Rose has evolved over the years, and whether she’ll be coming back for the final season. Plus much, much more.
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The theme music for Riverdale After Dark was written and performed by Jeff Solomon.
Full Podcast Transcript
Alex Zalben: (singing)
Alex Zalben: Welcome to Riverdale After Dark, a podcast about the CW’s Riverdale that’s briefly coming out of the dark. I’m Alex.
Justin Tyler: When you walk in the darkness and encounter someone who also walks in the darkness, man, you got to sit and have a chat. I’m Justin.
Alex Zalben: We have a special guest on today’s podcast that is none other than Barbara Wallace herself, Nana Rose. Barbara, thank you so much for joining us today.
Barbara Wallace: My pleasure.
Alex Zalben: I’m so excited to talk. You are absolutely one of our favorite characters on the show. We love talking about you on the podcast so much. It’s just always a pleasure whenever you pop up on screen and come in, and say something absolutely ridiculous, and completely change the plot of the show. To take it all the way back, I was looking at your bio online, and it said you had done about 70 stage plays before you started getting into TV and films. I know this is probably going a little back, but why acting in the first place? What drew you to it?
Barbara Wallace: Well, I’ve always loved acting, and if I’d had my druthers, I would’ve gone to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts but alas I wasn’t very talented and we were not wealthy. It was secretarial college for yours truly. I’ve always enjoyed community theater, and I do think it’s an amazing proving ground and learning ground. To be honest, I do love theater even more than I love television or film, because of its immediacy.
Barbara Wallace: I did community theater throughout my working years, when I had, quote, real jobs. Then when I got too old for real jobs, I was able to get an agent and did a few small background things in commercials and low and behold, I started getting slightly bigger parts. Was fortunate enough to get what they just described as a recurring role as Nana Rose. I had no idea it would go on this long.
Justin Tyler: Oh, that’s wild. You came to acting professionally or as your full-time job later on in your life?
Barbara Wallace: In the last 10 years. Yeah.
Justin Tyler: Wow.
Alex Zalben: Why make the leap to TV and film acting then? Was it just the money versus theater? I mean, Justin and I have both done theater, and we know you can’t often make a living on that, unfortunately.
Justin Tyler: Yeah.
Barbara Wallace: To be honest, I can’t afford to be too picky. I took whatever I could get. I always told my agent I’d do an ad for dog food in the nude if it paid. Sadly, there seems to be a little call for that.
Alex Zalben: Well, your first listed onscreen role, at least at IMDB, is coughing woman on Psych. Was there-
Justin Tyler: How did you prepare for the role of coughing woman?
Barbara Wallace: Well, I ended up in this lovely vintage theater called the Orpheum, way up in The Gallery, and it was suspected I’d been poisoned, but I hadn’t. Then this stunt guy fell off, fell down three floors onto this enormous inflatable mattress. I did get to meet Dulé Hill. Is that his name? Yes. Which was fun. That was my entree, coughing woman.
Alex Zalben: Oh, wow.
Justin Tyler: Still got it. Wow.
Barbara Wallace: I’ve still got it. Yeah.
Justin Tyler: Bravo.
Alex Zalben: I mean, it looks like your first CW role was on The Flash. The impression that I’ve gotten from talking to various actors and actresses is once you’re in with the CW crowd, you’re in there in a certain way, you’re in the rotation. Was that your experience?
Barbara Wallace: Gosh, that was quite a while ago. All I remember about The Flash was it took much longer to do the post broad on all these green screen things where they scanned even the souls of my feet, because I morphed into someone else, but all the productions are so good to me. I really cannot state that enough how considerate and thought they thoughtful they are because I am getting up there.
Alex Zalben: Well, that said, as you mentioned earlier, your bit on Riverdale, since I believe the fifth episode of the show, looking back, what was that audition like? What did they tell you you were coming in for? What did you read?
Barbara Wallace: I did go and get coaching from a dialogue coach because it was a lovely audition piece. I mean, sometimes they just give you two or three lines and it’s not a lot to work with, but they’d basically given me the whole of the first scene. I did go and work with this lovely man, Doug something. It was interesting that when they did shoot it, it was almost exactly what I had done at the audition. I guess I just happened to be lucky enough to give them what they wanted.
Justin Tyler: The character of Nana Rose has, like everything on Riverdale, gotten pretty extreme over the years. What was it like to watch that unfold for your character?
Barbara Wallace: Well, I never know where it’s going. I mean, I find it pretty hard to stay in touch with the plot, frankly.
Justin Tyler: Yeah. You and everyone else.
Barbara Wallace: I’m learning to expect the unexpected. I’m just very curious to know if I’m going to be back for season seven and if so, in what capacity, since we are doing this giant leap back in time. I don’t know if I’m just ageless and still there and still look exactly the same or if I’m going to be playing my own grandmother or what. I would love to know what’s happening going forward.
Alex Zalben: That said, and we’ve touched on this a little bit, but at what point did you realize that they were just throwing you increasingly more and more ridiculous lines and plot things and Nana Rose has become almost this source where everybody goes and says, hey, we have a mystery we’re trying to figure out. Then she throws a total curve ball their way. Do you feel like they’re challenging you at all in a certain way?
Barbara Wallace: I don’t know. It’s hard to say because we have so many different writers and different directors, so things can and do change. It’s all very fluid, but I do love it when the writers give me what I call it, one of my zingers.
Justin Tyler: Oh yeah.
Barbara Wallace: She should have drowned them at birth, like a basket of kittens and things like that. Sadly, I haven’t had too many zingers recently because they’re too busy trying to kill me off.
Alex Zalben: I mean there was that scene, which was so shocking and I was so upset. Luckily she came back in Phoenix fire, but what was it like shooting that scene with Chris O’Shea where he is almost stealing the breath out of you in this last season.
Barbara Wallace: I like Chris, I enjoyed working with him. I wish we’d had a few more scenes and they wanted to use a stunt double when he was throttling her, when she’s all mummified up in all the bandages and naturally me being bloody minded I said, I want to do it myself. They did have a stunt double equally bandaged up and so I’m not quite sure which bits of me they used and which bits of the stunt double they used.
Barbara Wallace: It was fun. I loved doing my own stunts. I particularly enjoyed doing my marine crawl across the floor to get to the phone a couple of years back.
Justin Tyler: Oh that was classic.
Barbara Wallace: Again, they had a stunt double. I said, no, I want to do it. I want to do it.
Alex Zalben: Is it the same thing with, there’s a couple of scenes, a couple of episodes where you get locked in that room with the straw.
Barbara Wallace: Oh yes. In the chapel. In the dungeon on the straw. Yes.
Alex Zalben: Yeah. They put up a couple of fun pictures of you just rolling around there on the straw. What was it like to film that?
Barbara Wallace: It was fun. As I said, they’re very considerate. They put all this padding and everything under the straw and they make very sure that I am comfortable and up for it and they treat me like cut glass honestly. I enjoy getting out of that freaking wheelchair for starters, which isn’t very comfortable. I said, okay, so you burned me. The chair went up in flames, please can I get an upgrade to something with power steering and a drinks holder. Alas, no they’ve dragged out another wicker work horror, which is even less comfortable than the original. I can’t win.
Justin Tyler: I love the reveal that you are much more, you want to be doing full on stunts on this show. Roberto, are you listening? Let’s get Nano Rose out there. Fist fights, jumping over snake pits, whatever we can do.
Alex Zalben: We need to get Nana in the south side serpents. That’s what needs to happen? She needs to lead the serpents next season.
Barbara Wallace: I would think I’d look very good in one of those leather jackets. Actually the photo did contact everyone in the cast and say, okay, great last season, looking forward to the next one. If there’s anything you’ve ever really wanted to do, now’s the time to tell us. I said, I’ve been telling you this every time I’ve met you on the rare occasions we have a rat party or something. I want to whip a Beretta out from under my trustee lap robe and plug someone right between the eyes.
Justin Tyler: I have a feeling that will definitely happen.
Alex Zalben: That’s amazing. I mean, just since they keep throwing you all these wild things, do you find, is there any sort of continuing arc for the character? Is there any sort of thing that you find in terms of how she is developing as a character or is it so wild and so out there that it doesn’t really matter. You just come in, say the Zingers and that’s pretty much it.
Barbara Wallace: I’d like to think that she is what we in Canada would call an elder with wisdom and that I think she probably, I mean, Cheryl always says she has dementia and I think that’s a pigment of her imagination. I think Nana Rose is quite well with it when she chooses to be and that she knows a lot more than she lets on and she’s probably got more powers than she lets on. I would like to think that in some ways she’s manipulating what’s going on, but that’s probably a product of my tiny mind.
Alex Zalben: We theorize about that all the time. Particularly the last season with all the supernatural stuff, it always felt like they would cut to you sometimes and it would feel like, oh, Nana’s working some sort of angle here. There’s something going on that we don’t know about. It’s definitely coming through. What does Nana know?
Barbara Wallace: She’s been around for a long, long time. As we know, she’s in her nineties. I think she’s a powerful woman who is allowed to sit back and watch going on around her, but her day will come.
Justin Tyler: Whoa, ominous.
Alex Zalben: I wanted to ask you about working with some of the other cast. You mentioned Madeline Petch, who I think you’ve worked with probably the closest with over the course of the past six seasons.
Barbara Wallace: Absolutely, yes.
Alex Zalben: Yeah. What’s it been like working with her?
Barbara Wallace: She’s great. She’s very, very professional. I’ve gotten to know her a bit better in the last season because obviously we spend a fair amount of time in a grizzly little tent back on the sound stage, waiting to be called back. Very professional. As I said, I’ve gotten to know her a bit better and I like her a lot more than initially. We didn’t know each other and feeling each other out a bit. She’s great to work with.
Alex Zalben: Another one that you work with a lot is Natalie Bolt who plays Penelope. Obviously that’s a very different relationship there with her.
Barbara Wallace: [inaudible 00:13:14] Natalie, yeah.
Alex Zalben: What’s that like?
Barbara Wallace: She’s very talented as a director as well as you don’t just know. She directed one episode, funny, bright. She does other video things as well. I do hope she’ll be back in the next season because I just adore Natalie.
Alex Zalben: One other one that I wanted to ask you about, who’s been a newer edition, but Kyra Leroux as Britta Beach has been so heavily featured this season, particularly in the manner. What’s it been like working with her?
Barbara Wallace: Oh, she’s a sweetheart. Again, very, very professional. I didn’t actually have many scenes with her or in the dungeon of course and things. I think that young woman will go far.
Alex Zalben: You mentioned the switch up with the wheelchair. There’s been a couple of other costume switch ups and things. I think she used to have a red stripe in her hair back in the earlier seasons.
Barbara Wallace: Oh, I’ve still got it.
Alex Zalben: Oh you still got it. Oh you do. Okay.
Barbara Wallace: I’ve got one in my little, I don’t know what you’d call it anyway. I’ve got one in my bathroom. I wear them home and then I rip them out. If I forget to take it back and they’ve got lots more.
Alex Zalben: Do you have a favorite Nana Blossom look from the past six seasons though?
Barbara Wallace: Well, in the first couple of seasons I had to wear this lastly clouded contact lens, which was really quite annoying. Now they put it in post prod, which is job security for some poor guy or gal somewhere. I think in the first season I loved my hair and they’ve kept a lot of continuity with the wardrobe is always kind of burgundy and black and the dark red jewelry and everything. That really hasn’t changed much. I did like the earlier seasons look, but it’s nice to have some change as well.
Justin Tyler: When you’re shooting the show, I feel like in the actual episodes we get to see so many withering looks from Nana Rose. When you’re shooting that, are they like, all right, give us four very spicy takes of side eye? How does that work?
Barbara Wallace: I have absolutely no idea. It’s just channel my inner bitch, I guess.
Alex Zalben: Well, it’s working out on the screen.
Barbara Wallace: I’m noted for my tact and charm. Pick one.
Alex Zalben: One relationship that I think has been really pleasantly surprising for fans is between, and we’ve seen less of it this season, but between Nana Rose and Tony. You would expect on the surface, given everything we know about the history that Nana would be disapproving of Tony and Cheryl’s relationship. There’s these great scenes where Nana tells Tony where to go rescue Cheryl and says go get her. What’s it been like developing that relationship in particular and more importantly, does Nana Rose ship Shownee?
Barbara Wallace: I think originally I was with you that she would’ve disapproved being old school, but then she just wants Cheryl to be happy and realizes there is true affection there, but I’ve not had any scenes with Tony since the baby was born or anything like that. That relationship isn’t really evolving.
Alex Zalben: Well, we have heard that it is probably going to come back the next season. If it does come back, will Nana be on the side of Shownee? All right, Justin, calm down. I’m pushing my agenda here is what’s going on.
Barbara Wallace: I didn’t get your last question.
Alex Zalben: Do you think if Shownee does come back in the final season, will Nana be on board?
Barbara Wallace: Oh yeah, for sure.
Justin Tyler: Alex’s hard just grew five times when you said that.
Alex Zalben: What about Nana Rose though? We haven’t really seen any romantic interests for Nana Rose over the course of the seasons. We certainly speculated for the flashbacks so that maybe something happened with Nana Rose and Pop Tate back in the day. Do you think there’s any possibility there of romance in her future?
Barbara Wallace: Oh, I do hope so. I would love to have the dirty linen revealed because I’m sure the old girl had a past. I think she was a go out as I say in England. I think that would be kind of interesting. I draw the line at incest but apart from that, it might be amusing.
Justin Tyler: All right. Fair. That’s great. A romance that you can pull a pistol out and shoot someone right at the end.
Barbara Wallace: Exactly.
Alex Zalben: Since you spend so much time on the thistle house slash thorn hill set, is there something that fans might not notice on screen just because we’re going through these scenes so quickly that you enjoy in particular about the set?
Barbara Wallace: I wish you could see the detail they put, the set construction and design people have thought. As you said, I’m usually in Thornhill or whatever it’s called, thistle house, or it was before. We used to shoot that in a gorgeous old place called Fox Glove Farms, which was very challenging because the rooms were small and crammed with all this vintage stuff. It was a nightmare to part the circus there and everything.
Barbara Wallace: They recreated every single room, but just on a bigger scale so it was easier for the techies to get around in, but the attention to detail in the great hall, which you never really see. I mean, there are something like 40 or 50 stags heads and skeletons and things all the way around, up in the ceiling. You never see it. The detail is absolutely extraordinary and the length they go to and sadly, because so much is edited out, I think they have to lose a lot of the background stuff, which the viewers might enjoy. They do try to cram an awful lot into each episode and so a lot of it ends up on the cutting room floor, including some of my finest moments I might add.
Alex Zalben: Wait. Are you able to talk about those at all? What’s a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor that you were particularly proud of, but didn’t make the final cut.
Barbara Wallace: Oh gosh. I can’t remember. They obviously leave the good stuff in, but if they’ve got to prune eight minutes out of the director’s cut to make it fit, everyone has to contribute a little. Nothing momentous. It’s just, I’m lucky to get one or even two days per episode. I guard every line with my life.
Alex Zalben: I do want to ask not about Riverdale, but coming up, you have a role in, I think it’s a movie called Let’s Get Physical as a character who is also named Nana. What could you tell us about that?
Barbara Wallace: I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell you until it’s released, but I will drop this one in that in one day, Nana, who is, I think she’s like late eighties or so participated in a pole dancing class and I will leave it at that.
Alex Zalben: No stunt double for that one?
Barbara Wallace: Perhaps I have said too much and no, there was no stunt double. Play your cards right and I’ll send you a picture.
Justin Tyler: Oh yes, please.
Alex Zalben: Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. Again Nana, we love watching her on screen.
Justin Tyler: She’s truly one of our faves.
Alex Zalben: Fingers crossed, yeah, she’s in a poodle skirt next season tearing up the floor at the sock op or something like that. I guess we’ll see.
Barbara Wallace: You know it.
Alex Zalben: If you’d like to support our podcast, patreon.com/comicbookclub. Also, we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to Crowdcast and YouTube. Come hang out. We would love to chat with you about Riverdale, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice to subscribe. Listen and follow the show at Riverdale Dark on Twitter, Riverdale After on Instagram, Riverdale, After Dark on Facebook, Comic Book Club live.com for this podcast and many more until next time, we’ll see you after dark.
Justin Tyler: Nana Rose. We got her.
2 thoughts on “Riverdale After Dark: Barbara Wallace Interview”
Great interview. I adore Nana Rose (who doesn’t?) and Barbara Wallace was hilarious. Thanks for making it. Really made my morning. She was a treat to be sure.
Thank you so much!