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We’re back with another special episode of Riverdale After Dark, interviewing Co-Executive Producer and Director Gabriel Correa. What’s it like to direct on Riverdale, particularly with key episodes like FP’s birthday (aka the Choni sex scene episode), the goodbye to Fred Andrews, the Jughead Paradox and the Season 6 finale? And more importantly: which ship is his favorite to direct? We answer all of that (well, some of that) on this in depth interview episode.
The theme music for Riverdale After Dark was written and performed by Jeff Solomon.
Full Episode Transcript
Alex: Welcome to Riverdale After Dark, a podcast about the CW’s Riverdale that’s taped mostly after dark, but sometimes during the day. I’m Alex.
Justin: When you spend so much time in the darkness and then record during the day, it’s like, whoa, it’s so bright. I’m Justin.
Pete: I’m Pete.
Alex: …and we are coming to you once again with another special interview with the behind the scenes celebrity from the world of Riverdale. He’s been a co-executive producer and director on the show, as well as wearing many other hats that I think we’ll talk about during the course of the podcast. Gabriel Correa. Hello, How are you? Welcome, welcome. Did I mess it up terribly?
Gabriel Correa: No, no, you-
Justin: Let’s not dwell on it, Alex.
Gabriel Correa: Let’s just embrace our differences.
Alex: Exactly. That’s nice. That’s fair enough. Gabriel, so nice to talk to you. We’ve been a big fan of your work and talked about your episodes a lot on the podcast, but I did want to take it way way back to the beginning, just basic setup for people. We’ve done some production stuff, particularly Justin, who’s worked out with some producer on a couple of shows. But for our listening audience who might just not know you worked up from an AD to the first AD to directing episodes of Riverdale, among other things. What do you actually do? What do you do as an AD? What’s the process actually like say, and I know no episode is typical, but when you’re tackling an episode of Riverdale, what generally speaking is it like?
Gabriel Correa: First off, thank you guys for having me here. Shout out to the fans that make the show very special and unique. Always a pleasure to be talking to people who appreciate our work and the passion, the effort, the proverbial sweat, blood and tears that we put into making film and television.
Gabriel Correa: Yes, I started on Riverdale as a first AD, first assistant director, and just very quickly prior to that in my journey, I did 11 seasons of another very successful CW show, Supernatural, where I started as a trainee assistant director. And then from trainee to third assistant director to second assistant director to first assistant director. So that was a big journey over 11 years that led me to Riverdale as their first assistant director. Okay. What does that first AD do? Well, the first AD and especially on Riverdale, will get a script, oftentimes late.
Gabriel Correa: And that is not a criticism of anybody. You have to understand this. These shows are very ambitious. They’re competing for their place in the sun. So the writers are there scrambling to put out what they think is the best version of an episode, and that leads sometimes to them being behind because they’re tweaking.
Gabriel Correa: They’re just really trying to present us with the best possible version of that script. So oftentimes as the first AD, you get that script out of the times late, especially on the earlier seasons. I wasn’t there season one, but let’s say season two. It felt in many ways that it was the first season because the show went up on the episode order from 13 to 22 and it became this sort of overnight sensation, if you will, because of the Netflix drop. So we had something to prove. The writers had something to prove. Roberto had something to prove.
Gabriel Correa: That it wasn’t just the fact it was here to stay and they could deliver 22 episodes and really solidify themselves as a hit show. So you get these scripts, they’re gigantic, you’re the first AD, you read them and then you start a process of breaking them down. So usually you would separate the scenes, you would then count, do a page count of each scene, what are the elements of each scene, so get a little highlighter. This is before, now an AD or director can do all that on a tablet or computer.
Gabriel Correa: But get your highlighter. You’re highlighting who are the characters in the scene? What are the elements? Oh, blood, okay, this is special effects or whatever’s pertinent. And once that script is broken down, you take all that information, what’s in special effects, what’s the visual effects, what’s the location, what actors are in the scene, how long is the scene? Put that all in your computer. And then you create this funny looking strips. And with that, you start putting together a schedule for the episode, which is a fucking nightmare. So that is the first step on the journey. On the life of a first AD on episodic television. You get a script, you break it down, you input the information on the computer and you start to move scripts around to fit into eight days or nine days, whatever the pattern of the schedule of that show might be. So that’s really hard. That’s really fucking hard.
Alex: As a director who spends so much time as a first AD are you’re always on schedule then? Right?
Gabriel Correa: When I direct, I’m always on schedule. I’m on schedule.
Alex: But the more serious question is that jump from first AD to director, especially within a show, I feel like that’s a hard leap. Can you talk about making that move?
Gabriel Correa: Yeah, it’s a very hard leap because as a first AD, you do sort of do this process that I described. You take that process and then you guide all the meetings, all based on what all these departments need to do to come together to make the show run smoothly. And you’re supporting the director. So you’re very in tuned with all the elements. You’re very in tune with the script and all the participants, the cast, the producers, the crew, your guest director.
Gabriel Correa: But for the most part, it can be a very non-creative job, very logistical. And I think that’s part of the biggest leap from first AD to directing, is that, yes, as a director there was a first AD. You know what it takes to be on schedule, all these elements, nothing is foreign to you. Talking to these people is not foreign to you. The scope is not foreign to you. But now, as opposed to putting together someone else’s quote unquote “vision”, now, it’s like they look at you and say, “Okay, where you want the camera, Where should the actors go? Do you want the black cape or do you want the red cape?”
Gabriel Correa: You are the one they have to answer all the questions. And that’s where that transition becomes difficult for some people. I was fortunate that that transition worked out really well for me. I always wanted to be a director and a filmmaker, so I was really looking forward and preparing myself for that moment. But that is probably the biggest challenge is switching your brain from…
Gabriel Correa: Because what they use this term for when you’re an AD that becomes a director, which is don’t shoot the schedule. Meaning it’s not just about delivering the episode on time and on budget. Think of when you have to sacrifice or even fall behind or put everything on the line because what you’re capturing on the camera is not good enough or you have to switch gears. So that is probably the biggest thing. Don’t shoot the schedule yet. So it’s like, don’t shoot the schedule but yet don’t fuck it up. Don’t be so behind you can’t catch up.
Alex: You can’t just make your day. You have to make your show.
Gabriel Correa: You have to make the show. And here’s the thing, we’re guest directors on TV, so it’s about being invited back. And if I say, “Oh, I deliver everything on time, you guys, it’s on schedule. It’s not a penny over budget.” But that show doesn’t resonate with the producers, the network, the studio, well I’m not getting invited back.
Gabriel Correa: And in the same token, if it looks amazing, but I went three days over budget, I imploded and it was a nightmare working with me. Well guess what? I’m not invited back. So it’s that sweet spot, it’s that sweet spot of making sure that you’re efficient, as efficient as you were as a first AD, yet super creative and making sure that you don’t forget that you now are in charge creatively of that one episode.
Pete: Now, I would assume an AD’s job is hard, but then it’s got to be extra hard because that script you get is not a normal script. There’s floating babies, there’s bear fights. Is it extra crazy working on Riverdale because of everything that they kind of tackle?
Gabriel Correa: It’s a bit extra crazy. It’s extra crazy. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s extra crazy too, because let’s say if I was make a comparison to Supernatural, Supernatural would have crazy things in their script, but they usually are crazy things of the same vein over and over again. But Riverdale, it’s extra crazy because it’s switched gears all the time.
Gabriel Correa: So it would dabble on the supernatural. So all of a sudden we have to do the effects, the occult, whatever it is. But then on the very next episode, or sometimes, I’m sorry, on the very next page, you would have a musical number and then you flip the page and there’s a football game. So all of a sudden you have to put together a little sports action sequence and then at the same time you have to have the sensibility to do a cabaret musical performance.
Gabriel Correa: And then you turn the page, you have to have the sensibility to shoot a breakup scene and so on and so on all the time. And so that makes it really hard. The other thing that makes it really fucking hard is because there’s so many of these scenes. Riverdale is a fast paced show, right? Things come at you, you it’s like, Oh my God, can was this a season? No, that was an act.
Gabriel Correa: But Roberto, and the studio, and the network, rightfully so, they demand a really high level of execution for these scenes. So even though they’re very short, your football scene may be literally 30 seconds long. It needs to be executed as beautifully as another show that would have the same sequence, but it would be a five minute sequence, which means they spend three days shooting it, you’re spending two hours shooting. But that snippet needs to be as good as your competition. That’s part of all the mastery of being able to switch gears, think really fast and making sure that everything looks amazing. I mean, Riverdale I think, it’s really insane when you think of the quality of the product that everybody puts out with the time and resources that we have. It’s actually, it’s incredible. It’s incredible.
Alex: A hundred percent. And that talking about pace, because that was my question. There’s so much happening every episode when you’re shooting, are you shooting for the edit constantly? Are you doing a, okay, let’s do the scene. Okay now you need to do that same scene in half the time. Is it almost like that sort of exercise of let’s do a fast one and an even faster one?
Gabriel Correa: I did that a lot. Not necessarily. Not necessarily the way you’re describing it, but yes. Especially for me, because I think for the guest director, meaning the person that comes in and he or she would direct a scene, they do their cut, the director’s cup, they deliver that cut. Now they’re moving on to a different show, right? And then Riverdale airs at 42 minutes, but sometimes that director’s cut will have 60 minutes.
Alex: Too long.
Gabriel Correa: Very long. So then Roberto would come in and then he starts taking time out because he needs to deliver to time. And he knows what’s important to him. He knows an overall arc, he can see the show in a way that nobody can. And so you’ll start taking stuff out or either remove scenes altogether, which is a little more rare, but sometimes they’ll go or lift little dialogue bits or just tighten up the pace to the max.
Gabriel Correa: And then sometimes the director that did that episode doesn’t even get to watch. They’re so busy that sometimes they don’t even get to watch their final product. Not because they don’t want to, just because they might be two or three shows ahead already. Because that’s the life of a guest director. You got to keep working. When I was there directing all the time, taking on that role of being a creative producer while I’m watching everybody’s cut. And I’m watching the editor’s cut and I’m seeing how that’s evolving to a director’s cut and then I’m always watching what Roberto’s doing with the cut.
Gabriel Correa: So then it became a thing. When I’m directing, I’m doing exactly what describes like, well I have a pretty good sense of what may or may not make or how tight this pace needs to be. You don’t have time to do a scene and then say let’s do the fast version of that. But I’ll be constantly thinking about the cap in my head and thinking, oh, this camera move is too fast, or it’s too slow or this and the other because it’s about fighting for everything that is good to stay in the episode.
Gabriel Correa: So if I have a great idea and it looks beautiful, but it’s taking too long, I’m like, that’s not going to make it. And I wanted to make it. So yes, you’re constantly aware of the pace just because you’re used to the show and you want every good bit. You want to give a fighting chance to every good bit to stay. So it’s a big part of it, for sure.
Alex: I do want to get back to the production for a second. I’m guessing this is not your department, but I’m just curious because fans ask all the time about deleted scenes and that’s what we’re talking about right now. They release them for I think the first two seasons and then they switched to printing the DVDs on demand, which is when I think the deleted scenes and gag reel went away. Do they still exist somewhere though? Is there a vault of Riverdale deleted scenes?
Justin: You trying to crack the vault?
Alex: I’m not going to say I’m going to break in, but I am planning a heist.
Gabriel Correa: Not that I’m aware of, I don’t know. I personally have never seen a reel put together of deleted scenes or anything like that. And I don’t think there is a secret vault of those scenes. Of course, I’m sure the studio, if they really wanted to go back and you know you would have the director’s cut of every show present, that’s sort of super long. But sometimes that cut, even though it may be complete in the sense that it has all the scenes, it may not be a good indicative of what Riverdale is. Because as I mentioned, even the best directors sometimes because they’re not as in tune with the show as the showrunner. Sometimes little changes will be made. They will just make that episode a true Riverdale episode. So if you go back to the previous cut, yes you’ll find all the scenes, but is it going to be as good as the cut you watched plus the scenes? Maybe, at times, but not necessarily all the time, if that makes sense.
Alex: Yeah. I did want to mention just for fans who may or may not know, and we probably should have established at the beginning, but you’ve directed, I think about 19 episodes of the show and I was jotting down some of them to the points we’re talking about in terms of wild swings. You directed Fire in the Sky, which is the one that introduced the Maple alien, had a dance battle with Cheryl and a teen, and then jumped over it to Jughead being kidnapped by aliens.
Justin: Well done. Well done.
Alex: Great pin cushion man. One of my favorites. That started with a first awkward Jabitha kiss and Ed did with a wedding between Chicken Charles and Knife Point and then a whole knife fight naturally. And then of course the one that we should probably talk about here a little bit is Night of the Comet, which the season six finale, which hits all of those things you’re talking about. Beyond bonkers special effects sequences. You have a riot fight going on in the casino and it ends-
Justin: Phoenix rising.
Alex: Phoenix rising to a musical sequence, which was wild. Particularly that moment, which I remember us talking about on the podcast. And I think we all went through very similar feelings of they can’t possibly be doing a musical number right now and then loving it because it felt like at this point where else can you go? What was it like directing that in particular? That montage?
Gabriel Correa: That montage? I mean, by the way, I think the montage turned out spectacular. I thought it was very moving. Great song choice. And I think also the arrangement they did, and I call them the kids. They’re not kids, obviously, but they are in my heart. They played kids. I think they killed absolutely killed it.
Gabriel Correa: The thing about that sequence, I read the script and things start coming to my mind as far as the visuals and I jolted on some stuff and then we had a concept meeting and Roberto and I started talking about what that would be tonally, right? Cause there’s about two ways that could go. It could be this very subdued, very somber end of the world. But it could be this a apocalyptical, like things exploding, earth, shaking, everybody’s dying, sort of feel, like a disaster movie type end of the world.
Gabriel Correa: And Roberto’s like, I think we should do the more emotional bit. And I’m like, I’m with you. I love it, Let’s do it. And then we start evolving into the song. What was the song, how do we do it? And then as we’re getting closer to going into filming, I did some storyboards for that sequence. I wish I had them here, I would show it to you. Because now that the episode is aired, even though people listening wouldn’t be able to see it, unfortunately.
Alex: We could. We could see it.
Gabriel Correa: But I start doing the boards and I thought, you know what I got, I got greedy, you guys, I got greedy. I said, “Maybe I can have it all.” Maybe we could lean on the emotion of all these characters, their journeys and whatnot. Maybe the comet is getting closer and closer and there is a sense of doom, maybe that never overtakes the emotion.
Gabriel Correa: And I think we did a good job of that. Cheryl looks absolutely stunning coming out of the diner and kicking that off and then you’re going to our couples different stages of their relationships. Shamus Whiting Hewlett, he was a cinematographer on that episode. And Shamus is somebody that worked with me a lot on previous seasons and then he left to do another show and then he came back to the finale with me because one of our DPs became unavailable.
Gabriel Correa: So it was great to team up with him again. And as we’re doing that sequence, we talked about the look and he had this flashlight that you would have off camera and sometimes you just come in and do a little flare. So if you go and re-watch the sequence, especially Archie and Betty in bed, you would see these little flares that would come in and flutter just on the edge of the frame and transition to somebody else.
Gabriel Correa: So there was a lot of these little creative things to enhance that. And when Cheryl was lifted up in the air and the comet is coming, we put this image shaker on the camera. So there’s a main camera effect just at the very end where she has her hands out and the whole thing is just vibrating enough to the point that the intensity is just elevated.
Gabriel Correa: And there’s a big fan on Madeline’s face and of course it’s raining and it’s four in the morning, so it’s pretty brutal to shoot. But I think the end result is, it’s unexpected because like you said, what a song? And yet, and yet you can’t help yourself by being moved. I don’t want a song right now. I want like, oh wait a minute, I’m so moved by this song. I like this song. And yet keeping that sort of superhero moment with Cheryl at the end, which is pretty cool.
Alex: Yeah, I think you absolutely crushed it and I love hearing those details. I do want to ask you about one specific thing here, and Justin’s looking at me right now, nodding his head.
Justin: Yeah, go ahead.
Alex: You know where it’s going. As everybody’s with their loved ones in the sequence, Toni is singing to Big Baby Anthony. She’s in Sex Bunker with Fangs. But the way that it’s edited, it goes between Cheryl and Toni at the end. Yes. We took that… Are Cheryl and Toni singing to each other in that moment?
Gabriel Correa: Yes, for sure they are. But I think it’s less into, the way I took it is it’s less than a direct singing to each other. But Cheryl was singing to herself in longing. Toni is singing with Baby Anthony and Fangs. But I think the more the lyrics take over and you start thinking on the meaning, I think they both go to a place that it goes into a reflection of what the relationship was. The supernatural experience that they have. Which is very ambiguous, whether not do they really not remember anything?
Gabriel Correa: So very much they’re singing to each other. But I think it’s less of like, oh, I’m singing into the wind hoping that when you’re young and you are romantic, I’m singing to the wind, hoping that this person on the other side of the world is thinking the same thing. I think maybe it’s less that and more like as I’m singing those lyrics about the end of the world and what would I want to be, I think I’m overtaken by this longing for this person that I really, really love. That’s how I see it.
Pete: Great answer.
Alex: I have another sort of production question. I feel like we were reading, especially near the end of this last season, that there were multiple units shooting at the same time. And as a director for an episode, a big part of the job is keeping everything in your brain at once. How were you able to, while there were simultaneous shoots happening, bring all that together and of know what was happening at the same time? Cause that seems wild to me.
Gabriel Correa: It’s pretty wild. I mean, it’s not as wild as season two wild. I can talk a little bit about that. But what happened at the end of this season and when we were having all these multiple units is that COVID was still very much an issue. So at any given day you may lose a cast member or a key crew member due to COVID and they needed to isolate. So you needed to cancel either an entire day or part of a day because certain people weren’t available.
Gabriel Correa: And then those scenes start piling up in accumulating and then you got to catch up. Now a lot of what was done as far as multiple units towards the end of this season happened with different directors. So I’ll be directing the season finale while Anna Karrigan will be directing her episode. The episode that would never end.
Gabriel Correa: She came to Vancouver to be here for I think 17 days. And she was here for, I don’t know, a month and a half or something. To me it was more keeping up as a producer about what’s outstanding and what’s not. Less so than me having to bounce back and directing these multiple units. That being said, what does happen quite often is that we call these splinter units.
Gabriel Correa: So a second unit is when you have a dedicated unit shooting simultaneously with a main unit. So they’re separate directors. So I’m directing a main unit day. I have my crew, I have the things I have to do for my episode, I’m shooting my stuff. At the same time there’s another unit, the second unit, with another director shooting their own episode with their own crew. And that happens simultaneously.
Gabriel Correa: But when it gets really tough, and this happens all the time, is when we do these splinter units. A splinter unit is when I’m shooting during the day, my stuff, and there’s a tiny little crew shooting at the same time, also my stuff. So I’m directing a scene while they’re prepping another scene and I yell cut, and I run sprint across the stage because they’re-
Alex: That’s what I was imagining.
Gabriel Correa: And then I land there and they’re like, okay, and then action. And you do a scene and you keep going back and forth. But as intense as it is, they don’t run the entire day, you know what I mean? They overlap maybe eight hours with your shooting date, but I’ll tell you, I like them. They’re vomit inducing. If you put a body cam on you and do a time lapse, you see gray hair growing in right time.
Justin: You need a third unit shooting your gray hair growing.
Alex: I love also the fact that you said it’s not an entire day, it’s just eight hours, which is a normal-
Alex: Normal human day.
Justin: That’s a whole entire day right there. Yeah,
Gabriel Correa: It’s a walk in the park. It’s just eight hours of-
Alex: Doing two things at once.
Gabriel Correa: But the thing about them is as hard as they are on you mentally and physically at the same time, I like that sense of let’s get this done. It’s almost like you’re quarterbacking and a big game and just give me the ball. Let’s just keep doing, there’s very little idling time.
Alex: But you’re quarterbacking for both teams in this scenario. You’re trying to beat yourself.
Gabriel Correa: Yes.
Justin: Pulling the Bugs Bunny.
Alex: I do want to ask you about a couple of specific episodes and let’s start with your first episode, which was the 50th episode of the series American Dreams, the FP birthday episode. What was the weight of responsibility like? You’re not just getting some random episode of the show, you’re getting a big anniversary episode right there.
Gabriel Correa: I mean the weight was huge. I grew up in Brazil. I moved to Canada in my twenties to attend film school, to pursue a life in this industry. And I think when you want something from an early age and you now have come to the other side of the globe and you’ve worked, started as a PA collecting garbage and parking cars and watching generators and doing everything, and then you get to that moment, the pressure is indescribable.
Gabriel Correa: And this is not necessarily true, but the way sometimes I took it is this is it. Your entire career is going to make or break on that first episode, which is never true. But that’s sort of the pressure you put in yourself, because that’s it, you’ve been given the chance. So I think more than even the weight of doing an important episode there is your personal pressure, you thinking that this is your moment and you can’t possibly fuck it up, you can’t do it.
Gabriel Correa: And then when it came about that, oh by the way, it’s the 50th episode so we’re going to make FP’S 50th birthday party. Of course that increased the pressure on the episode. All of a sudden the episode, they had a different weight in terms of its place in the mythology. But I think that’s great. I think that’s welcome because I also don’t think you want to get a pedestrian episode. If you’re guest directing and you have one episode to do, you want to make an impression and you’re not going to make an impression if you get an episode that is a perfectly fine episode, but it’s just a perfectly fine episode. So I think when that happens, okay, well game on. You want something that you could make a mark. What made it particularly challenging is that I didn’t have a script. I didn’t have the script for it.
Pete: Oh no.
Alex: Wow. You should blame the AD on that one.
Gabriel Correa: I didn’t have the script for a few days. So if prep is eight days of shooting, for four days, I didn’t have the script. And there was pretty intense. And then I remember our line producer, she got off the phone with the writers and she’s like, I got some information on your episode. I’m like, okay great. Do you have an outline? No, no, no, I have these notes. And then she had one of these. A piece of paper and it had four things, handwritten bullet point and it said FP’s 50th birthday party.
Gabriel Correa: Archie fight RPG players in the new El Royale. FP and Jughead going joy riding with the police car or whatever. Four things. And I’m like, “Great, what do I do with this?” Now I just freak out because now I know this episode’s going to be big, yet I have zero information about it.
Alex: You could start blowing up balloons, I guess.
Alex: This definitely emphasizes our theory that most of Riverdale is written through improv and that’s pretty much it. Instead of going on stage and being like, let’s get a suggestion. Okay, Archie gets into a fight with Hiram, now a bear. Here we go.
Gabriel Correa: Yeah. I think they do a good job, I’m sure. I’ve never been into the writer’s room, but I do know that there’s a part of their process that they call Blue Sky, which is exactly what you say. They just throw everything at the wall and-
Alex: Feels like that’s a big part of the process.
Gabriel Correa: And I think what they do is that they don’t self edit, which makes it hard for production. Because then we sort of have to figure out and then we got to bring it back to them and say this is sort of doable, this is not doable in this version, but we can do…. We can’t do a grizzly bear, we can do a black bear.
Gabriel Correa: It’s almost like you’re not in the business of saying no. We don’t want to be saying no about we can’t do this. I think as hard as it is sometimes for production because the scripts are really ambitious and so the process can be exhausting just because you’ve got to keep going back and forth until you get something that’s doable. The other hand of that is that you get this amazing show. Because I think it’s hard when they’re trying to be creative and if they need to self-edit from the start.
Gabriel Correa: I don’t think you can have as good a show. As hard as it is on the production side it’s also maybe part of what makes Riverdale great. Because if the writers are sitting there and every time somebody says, “What about a bear?” Somebody said, “How are we going to shoot a bear?” And then they can get lost into stuff then maybe they shouldn’t.
Gabriel Correa: I think that’s the beauty of it. And it was a great episode. It turned out that I, obviously, I did get a script. When I did get a script, it was a big script. It was even bigger than what made it to the screen. But Roberto was really supportive. I remember he phoned me, I was freaking out inside but cool as a cucumber on the outside and he said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to wrangle this script. Give me the week and I’m going to do a pass on it and you’re going to have something manageable on Monday. I know, it’s crazy. I know it’s crazy.” And he did it. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. He reigned it in a little bit and we did it. And another thing about that episode was the Choni love sequence.
Gabriel Correa: Which I always joke that’s what sort of made my TV directorial career because that was a risky thing to do. The way we shot it, I had them out. If the network or the studio had a problem, I had coverage to of tame that. But I knew that the fans wanted something more that pushed the air a little bit with those two characters.
Gabriel Correa: I knew that there was a sentiment that maybe the, let’s call them heterosexual couples, were maybe getting more screen time as far as the making out scenes were concerned. And by the way, that was not intentional, there was no plot of making them bigger. Sometimes it truly just is the role of the dice. Regardless, the fans were aching that because Chonis, as you I’m sure you know, those fans are crazy. I wanted to service that and Madeline wanted to service that and Vanessa too.
Gabriel Correa: So I think the three of us kind of got together and said like, this is it you guys, we got to make this. We got to make a meal out of this. Because on the page it was just a one eighth of the page. It was something like, and the girls make out hot and heavy all over the speak easy or something like that. And Roberto sort of gave permission for that to be intercut with the fight.
Gabriel Correa: He sort of went there. And my mind was already going there when he said it. So that minute he says, I’m glad you said this because I was already going there. So then I fully embraced that vision and then I came up with the idea of doing those little vignettes. It was almost like little vignettes. And if you think of it, this is the CW for crying out loud. So it was very risque.
Gabriel Correa: If this was an HBO show, then of course that would be nothing. But for the CW, I mean there was implicit oral sex, there was implicit lap dancing, and fetish, and blindfold, and sort of nuanced things that were, I think, very sexy yet elegant. And they made the cut because there’s no point in me to being so risky that everything goes into the Alex’s secret ball [inaudible 00:34:08].
Alex: Been here for a half hour and you get us.
Gabriel Correa: That was the point of that. Nobody can watch it. So I wanted it to be hot, but I wanted people to watch it. The girls were absolute troopers. And by the way, that was my very first shooting day. So that was on the very first day that I’ve directed in my life, professionally. I’d done short films, professionally.
Gabriel Correa: When you watch that scene, you have to have a big level of trust between your actors and a director to shoot something like that. And I’m very grateful for them, for Madeline and Vanessa, for trusting in me and for the bond that we created over those years. That started when I was an AD. That trust isn’t built overnight. That trust was built before I even got the chance to direct. It’s by being good at your job, but also being authentic and honest and having each other’s back, catering to bullshit or hidden agendas.
Gabriel Correa: It’s just being transparent and honest and be there for each other. So when all of a sudden you get that scene handed to you, that could be this really challenging awkward moment where everybody’s uncomfortable ,where it’s just a pain. Or it could be a joy to shoot. And that was a joy to shoot. We had so much fun and I think it paid off.
Gabriel Correa: I remember watching that episode and being on Twitter at the same time, not participating, just checking the fans’ reaction. And they were freaking out. They were freaking out. And then to me it was like, fuck yeah, we did it. When I delivered the episode, I said, “Roberto, please don’t be mad at me. I have coverage if it’s too much.” But I told him, I said, “My goal is for you to get a call from the CW and say, what the fuck are you guys thinking? I want you to get a call, I want you to get a call. I want you to get a call like, guys, you can’t do this.” And that means you’re pushing it. But evidently every single frame of that sequence made it.
Justin: Yeah, there it is. Great job.
Alex: Not to pivot into something more serious, but there’s another episode you directed pretty soon after that, which is another enormous responsibility, which was In Memoriam, the episode that was paying tribute to Luke Perry, while still being a Riverdale episode. And I know that was something that wasn’t just Riverdale fans. I think the entire world of entertainment and fans of Luke Perry were looking at how is the show going to pull this off? And I think we agree, you completely pulled it off. But without prodding too much, what was the feeling like on set when you were trying to put that together?
Gabriel Correa: So that episode, I mean you talk about real pressure, that was real pressure. Because it was the first episode I directed in this new role as now being a director and a producer. So this is yet another one of those amazing opportunities to show what you’re made of.
Gabriel Correa: But then your first episode is In Memoriam. And with so many layers to it. The first one, obviously being Luke, the person that he was. He was exceptional. Luke was exceptional. And Luke, he would come to me when I was AD and he would say, “Man, you’re a director. We’re going to get you one of these. Just stay cool. Stay cool. It’s not going to happen this season, but you got it. You got it. We’re here for you man. And when you do it, you’re going to be great.”
Gabriel Correa: And he was that type of guy. And he was alive, obviously, when I directed my first episode and there was a little scene, he was only in one little scene. Actually that scene was added. He wasn’t even in FP’s birthday party. And then he got put on. They come, they do a little moment. It’s a very short scene.
Gabriel Correa: So I directed him for very little that episode, maybe it was a couple of hours that he was on set and we did it. And then he was wrapped and he didn’t go home, he stayed back there and then he just stayed back there and he try to peek, you feel he’s just in the background. And then before he went home, he came to me, he is like, “I’m watching you bro. I’m watching you. Just do your thing.You’re doing great, you’re killing it.”
Gabriel Correa: And that’s Luke. You know what I mean? What can you say about somebody who is there when he doesn’t need to be there to support people? And he is generally watching what’s what you’re doing and supporting. That right there tells everything you need to know about Luke. So that to me was very emotional. I knew what Luke represented as far as helping me get that opportunity. Not just Luke, all the cast, but Luke being of course a big presence on that roster. And then I’m in prep, I’m like, okay, we got this. And then Roberto sends out a tweet saying that this was the most important episode of Riverdale ever.
Gabriel Correa: #NoPressure. And then it was like, okay, fuck my life.
Gabriel Correa: I have to honor Luke. I can’t screw up everybody’s expectations. You got to get it totally right. And it was a season opener. Anyway, it was just a lot. And it was a lot for everybody because it was very real. It was very recent, was very raw. And some of the scenes were really intense. The funeral was extremely hard to shoot. He had the site of the accident that was really hard to shoot. And then the kids praying together with Shannon. It’s full of these moments and we made it through together. And as a director was very hard because it’s not like you can push people to rock through these feelings. It’s a very delicate act. The unfortunate reality is that you have to deliver an episode of television.
Alex: Well, and plus both the actors and the characters are experiencing this grief, but it’s not the same. So that’s such a hard acting challenge you have to do.
Gabriel Correa: It’s very hard. But to me, what one of favorite memories of Riverdale is directing that. Because when people like Robin Gibbons, who’s a pro and a sweetheart, and she wasn’t there every day. When they would come to you and you’re directing a big scene and KJ’s having a super hard time because he was so close to Luke and it’s the funeral. And you’re navigating that with finesse and sensitivity of the subject and what it means to everybody. When that older cast, they’ve seen it all. When they come to you and they’re like, “That’s the best thing Roberto ever done. You directing this episode, there’s nobody else that should be here. We should be amongst family and this is it. We’re all glad you’re here. We see how you handling this and thank you.” When they come to you with that, to me, fuck everything else.
Gabriel Correa: Nothing else matters anymore at that point as far as accolades. That’s the accolade. When you’re dealing with something that real and the people that are affected by that come to you and thank you for the way you’re steering that ship. That to me is the biggest compliment you could ever have.
Gabriel Correa: And KJ had a really hard time as expected. So did everybody, but KJ in particular. You have to understand, these kids became famous really quickly and they would pair up in the story with these actors who had success in a different era. And so they become these natural mentors. Madchen relates to Cole and Luke to KJ. It just happened naturally because they’re in scenes together, so they pass on all that knowledge. So inevitably they grow very close. And KJ being from New Zealand, he’s very far from his family too. It’s not like he can go to LA on the weekend and hang out with his family.
Gabriel Correa: This is a very young kid that is now super successful on another side of the globe. And so Luke became a father figure to him. And so he’s having a hard time. He was putting a lot of pressure on himself and I remember having this conversation with KJ where he’s like, “Man, I really don’t want to be here. This is so hard.” And I’m like, “It’s okay. We’ll do it together, we’ll breathe.” And he says, “I feel this expectation that everybody looks at me when the camera is rolling that I should break down uncontrollably because they know what Luke represented to me.” And he’s talking about us on set, the crew. He’s worried about, am I grieving enough? Am I sad enough? He’s putting all these pressures, and I said, “KJ, stop it.”
Gabriel Correa: And I told him I lost my father six years ago like that, in an instant heart attack. 63 years old, very, very healthy otherwise. So not that different from what was going on with both the character and with Luke and his stroke. And I told KJ, I’ve been through this man. And I said no two human beings grieve the same way. Some people can cry and control it, some people get really angry, some people become quiet.
Gabriel Correa: And I said, “I don’t give a shit about what anyone wants from you. You are who you are and I want you to be authentic. I’ll take an authentic beat from you when you’re there in the moment from you trying to cry or try to do something because that’s what you think people would expect from you. I am officially liberating you from that. You’re free. You’re now unshackled. Be yourself and I’m here for you. I would not let you look foolish ever. I’ll protect you. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Human beings are different.” And so we did it together. So you see how many layers come into play, right, with an actor that prevents him from being in the moment, a very tough moment. But KJ was phenomenal and as hard as it was for him, he conquered. And I’m very proud of him for doing it.
Justin: That’s amazing.
Gabriel Correa: That scene on the side of the road when they were praying. After we wrapped that up, we were on the field and I called all the crew to come to that spot. And I said something about Luke. I’m not a religious person, but I’m spiritual. But nonreligious, if that makes any sense. But to me, I was like, “That’s Luke right there. He sent us that. Luke was that, an open field with a sunset.” It was very beautiful.
Justin: It’s very rare when I cry on this podcast and I just did. So thanks.
Pete: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Alex: I mean, I know we’ve covered a bunch of the episodes here. You’ve mentioned some that are your favorites, but do you have one that we haven’t mentioned that particularly jumped out to you for any particular reason? I know we haven’t, for example, mentioned Graduation Day. You directed that as well, which was fantastic.
Gabriel Correa: Yes. I think Graduation jumps at me for sure. And the Paradox, the 100th episode.
Gabriel Correa: The moment that Roberto said, “Okay, they’re graduating.” And that was meant to be our season finale. I’m like, I love it. What a fun sort of end of an era. And what happened is that I was about to start prep on that episode and the pull got plugged because of COVID. We had a four day shutdown because of a COVID scare, but then they were never filmed again. And so that season was cut short and what was meant to be the season finale of season four, that became, I think the third episode of season five.
Gabriel Correa: Maybe I’m fucking this up, but I think that’s right. It was the third episode in, but it was very much like a season finale and it was beautiful. I loved every second of it. And there’s a sequence in particular that I just love and I put a lot of thought into it. And I think it paid off. It’s when Archie’s going out of town in the bus. I think that looks phenomenal. Oh my God. I hate commenting on myself.
Alex: We’ll help everybody say it instead. I think that looks phenomenal. There’s something about that sequence where the filming, the lighting, the way that it’s paced out and everything, it almost feels like this dreamlike quality to it.
Justin: It had a dreamlik quality, but also touched sort of the Archie history in the same way. It just encapsulated so much at the same time.
Gabriel Correa: I thought it was phenomenal is because it’s amazing when different members of the creative team come together to do something that turns out so good. That sequence, by the way, almost got cut off because the episode was big. We’re dealing with challenges of COVID and Roberto’s like, “Okay, let’s start with the bus.” And we’re trying to wrangle this episode and at one point we sort of look at each other and almost at the same time said, “We got to bring that sequence back.” It’s just so cinematic.
Gabriel Correa: And then we brought it back, which I’m glad we did. So it started there. And then they show up in the jalopy. And this was a concept meeting and I think I made the stuntman sort of faint, maybe. I threw the curve ball. And I told Roberto, “I’ve always saw Veronica standing up.” I said, “There’s no way, to me, that she would be waving to Archie sitting in a car, to me.”
Gabriel Correa: I said to Roberto, “If this feels like we’re in the French Riviera in some 1950s movie with a scarf blowing in the wind, and she’s waving her love.” And he says, “Of course.” And then it’s like, oh, so you mean we have to harness her? They’re like, “No, it’s not dangerous.” And they figure it out. But so it started with this, we’re all in sync with the iconographies of that moment that your lover in the wind in a convertible car waving you goodbye. Sort of these iconic moments in film history that you draw upon.
Gabriel Correa: So that was very nice. And then in editing, It was a beautiful day, we shot it, we got it by the skin of our teeth because it was all daylight dependent. So we shot to the brink of daylight. That bus was a vintage bus. Of course it broke down in the middle of the shoot. It broke down you guys. So it was like leaking oil. I’m like, “Oh fuck my life. We’re not going to make it.” And all of a sudden like, okay, we could do it, but they can’t steer the bus because there’s no power steering anymore. Thank God it was a straight road. The bus could only drive straight and then you had to back up [inaudible 00:50:12].
Alex: Pain in the ass. Time consuming.
Gabriel Correa: So it was really hard to shoot. But then it was a beautiful day. We shot it. I story boarded that sequence too. So it was very well planned. And then Adam, our editor, who’s phenomenal.
Alex: Got to be.
Gabriel Correa: He’s so good. He’s so good and a pleasure to work with. So Adam presented me, it was this thing where it was the first COVID season. I was shooting back to back to episodes all the time. So I’m shooting an episode the very next day I was prepping the next episode while I was editing the previous episode. So a bit crazy. I can’t even remember what episode I was prepping anymore, but I was prepping an episode and Adam was editing and sending me sometimes just one sequence, you know what I mean? To work at a time.
Gabriel Correa: So he sent me that sequence and I got on the phone with him and I said, “Adam, I don’t think we got the song yet. I don’t think this is it. I don’t think this is the song.” We talked, what is the emotion we wanted to convey? And he is like, “I gotcha, I gotcha. Give give me a few days.” And then he came back and presented the sequence with that song. And not only is a great song for the sequence, the way that he manipulated the song and spliced it together, the way that song works with the emotional peaks and valleys of the scene. And there’s things like, there’s like a drum beat and a high pitch the moment that Archie reaches that back window and puts his hand up. It’s almost like the song was composed to the cut, and that’s all Adam and editing.
Alex: Oh. I thought for sure it was. But it was just editing.
Gabriel Correa: It was edited. I mean, of course the song lends itself these moments. But he also faded the song out and then spliced it into a beat. So he manipulated so all these things could match. And I think of the result and that last image of the three friends coming to the road. Do you know? With Veronica in front, and you had the Riverdale sign in the back. I mean that’s right there is an image that you never forget. Right? Imagine if that was truly the season finale and then you had to wait months to find what the fuck happened.
Gabriel Correa: That’s what it was meant to be. It would’ve been even more powerful. So that obviously was the big thing. And then the hundredth episode. I joked to a Roberto, I said, “I’ve never asked you anything. I never said I want to direct this or that. You tell me jump. I say, how high, But there’s no fucking way you’re going to give the hundredth episode to anybody else. I’m doing this motherfucker.”
Gabriel Correa: He’s like, “Of course you’re doing it.” But that was great. There was also a beautiful idea with the sort of universe is the metaverse and then the comic books. Again, that encapsuled a lot of what Riverdale is about, which is this craziness and multiverse heroes, yet this very tiered and vintage iconography. Right?
Gabriel Correa: That’s the paradox at Riverdale. You are that crazy, but yet you are grounded in these very iconic moments. Whenever we choose a prompt on Riverdale, it’s almost like if I say we need an ax, like a fireman’s ax. You close your eyes and think of what that is the archetype of an ax with the little wooden handle. And maybe the tip has a little red on the wood. That’s the ax you’re choosing. Whatever I say, if I say a horse, you think of that. I mean, it’s almost like [inaudible 00:54:11]. It’s like you’re in the cave and you have these archetypes of what these things are. Those are the bumps. Everything is like, it’s the milkshake. We want the milkshake in the classic cup that everybody thinks of it. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Alex: Let me throw just a couple of things out there to you. As a director who’s directed a lot of episodes, who do you ship?
Gabriel Correa: Ooh. Okay. You want me to get death threats is what you’re saying?
Alex: This is the end of you, Gabriel.
Gabriel Correa: Wow. This is the end of me.
Alex: And just to follow it up, when you’re directing your favorite ship, do you give them a little extra love? A little extra sugar on their-
Justin: A sparkle in the eye.
Gabriel Correa: Choni is my thing. I will always give them extra love. They know that I’m all about them. I will always give them extra love. It’s so hard because let’s say it’s part of my history in Riverdale. It’s a no brainer. The other ships, each of them has these very iconic moments and you can’t deny that Bughead has been this remarkable unexpected… It’s almost like the anti-hero couple.
Pete: Discovery. Yeah.
Gabriel Correa: It’s the anti-hero couple is what I think. When I was young, I probably would identify myself with Jughead versus an Archie. Versus like a jock or an athlete. That person rarely gets the beautiful all American blood girl in a ponytail. So in many ways that was a beautiful anti-hero ship that was so iconic. I really liked that story.
Gabriel Correa: Yet when that was over, and they evolved different things, I never longed for them to get back together. I thought it was great for what it was in their moment of youth and that type of love. Because I also say that Jabitha has evolved into a beautiful cut with different layers. Now we’re talking about an adult couple, right? One which has Jughead struggling with addiction and whatnot. So now there’s different layers. And I love the two of them on screen. I really love the two of them on screen.
Gabriel Correa: And then you have Barchie and they had some phenomenal scenes together this season. Phenomenal scenes, head to head, beautiful. And these two guys crying and very genuine and very emotional. You’re talking about two characters that put a lot of pressure on themselves, right? Archie, his hero complex, trying to be the man he thinks he should be because of what Fred Andrews was.
Gabriel Correa: And then you have Betty with the big trauma package of her family history. So these two guys, they don’t forgive themselves. And then now they’re together and they’re both trying to appreciate them for who they truly are and not trying to be someone else. And that was beautiful. And then Varchie is this raw, sexy couple that is, I think, in that sort of era is unlatched about how powerful and sexy they were and how impromptu those scenes were.
Alex: So your answer’s all of them.
Gabriel Correa: -a different way, but I’m going with Choni. I’m going with Choni. That’s my final answer. And I gave a little bit of love for everybody.
Alex: All right. I love it. I did want to ask you, right behind your head there is this Archies things that seems to be signed by a couple of people. What’s going on with that?
Gabriel Correa: So behind me, I have this beautiful… It’s like the bass drum art, right? For the Archies, and it’s signed by everybody. So the story behind this, this was used for the Hedwig musical, right? I think they were playing Midnight Radio in the speakeasy. Which was a beautiful musical number. There was the art on the bass drum, and I thought it was beautiful. And I’m a drummer, and so I went to Andras, who’s our incredible props master. I say Andras. I have a lot of shit here you guys, by the way. Everything that-
Alex: Oh, so you’re, You’re the vault. Your house is the vault. Okay, I get it.
Gabriel Correa: I have little casino chips from [inaudible 00:58:52]. I have a Riverdale High School diploma with my name on it. Like I graduated.
Gabriel Correa: Oh yeah, I’ve got stuff. So I went to Andras and I said, “Dude, that I need that art. Like that bass drum art, I want it.” And then he’s like, “Yeah, no problem, dude.” He gave it to me and then I brought it to the kids and I said, “Will you sign that for me?” And they did. And it’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite pieces that I have. And I have many things. And Roberto and I, there was this joke that I told him that I was going to take the jalopy when the season was over and he said, “Over my dead fucking body.” He said, “You get to keep the soggy, moldy body of Jason Blossom. I’ll take the jalopy.”
Alex: Wait. Do you actually have Jason Blossom’s body?
Gabriel Correa: I don’t. I don’t think that I’m allowed to have that yet. The show’s still going. But that was the thing like, look, you take Jason Blossom’s body, I’ll take the jalopy. But I don’t have it. You know, have the Julian Doll. Right?
Pete: Oh my God.
Gabriel Correa: Which is brilliant. It’s incredible looking. It’s very expensive.
Pete: So creepy.
Gabriel Correa: It’s very creepy. Custom made. There’s some behind the scenes where I’m sitting with the doll and Madeline, and I’m doing the little doll’s voice off camera. We never made a cut to see if I could make her laugh. “I just want to play with you.”
Gabriel Correa: Mads and I, and Tammy, had this idea and I said, “Guys, Roberto’s obsessed about the doll and he wants us to send a doll to him.” And I said, “We should make a Roberto doll in the vein of the Julian Doll.” So he got this photo of him off the internet with this classic like bow tie and his glasses and took it to our props master and we had a sculpture and put it in a suit with his initials. So we made a Roberto doll. And then he was visiting the set and we put the Roberto doll on his chair with a little script.
Pete: That’s amazing.
Gabriel Correa: He freaked out. He loved it.
Alex: That’s fantastic. Before we let you go though, what is next for you? What projects do you have lined up, if anything, that people could check out?
Gabriel Correa: So next for me, it’s a bunch of freedom and time off that I’ve been spending with family, which is great.
Pete: Congratulations. Nice.
Gabriel Correa: Yeah, it was very nice. And now moving on to new things. So as I mentioned, I’m Brazilian, and I would love to do some projects in Brazil. I’m currently in development with two feature films. One for Netflix Brazil, and one for Amazon Brazil.
Justin: Oh, cool.
Gabriel Correa: The one for Netflix is this very fun story of a scam artist. I don’t know if you watched an Argentina movie called Nine Queens, it was very good movie, very famous. It was about these Argentinan scam artists. So to me it’s Nine Queens meets James Bond or Oceans Eleven. So it’s more elevated and it’s in the sort of high society, but a scam artist. And he has this actress named Larissa Manoela, who is a powerhouse and an absolute global phenomena. She has like 50 million followers on Instagram. She’s a superstar and she’s attached to that.
Gabriel Correa: The Amazon feature, it’s more of an international story. It’s a rescue mission in Africa that’s dealing with a natural disastrous cyclone based on a real story. So it’s a bit of an action movie that involves a rescue mission, political corruption, touches a bit on climate change, and some issues there are very important. So I got these things going on and I’m also developing a couple of TV series that I can’t talk too much about it right now, but they’re fun and hopefully they’ll be coming to you someday soon.
Alex: Awesome. Sounds like a cake walk compared to running between splinter units, so that’s great.
Alex: Well, listen, Gabriel, we are going to miss you on this final season of Riverdale, but we have loved seeing your work and we really appreciate-
Justin: Thank you so much, man.
Alex: -taking all this time to chat. The stories have been phenomenal. Good luck with everything coming down the road.
Gabriel Correa: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure, guys. Always love chatting with you.
Alex: And if you’d like to support our podcast, patreon.com/comic book club. 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 @RiverdaleDark on Twitter, @RiverdaleAfter on Instagram, Riverdale After Dark on Facebook. Until next time, we’ll see you after Dark.
Justin: That’s when Alex asks all his Choni questions to his pillow.