Wednesday night’s episode of “Riverdale” was an immersive family experience for the Consuelos family.
Mark Consuelos, who stars in the series as billionaire antagonist Hiram Lodge, shared central billing with his son Michael Consuelos — who took on the role of young Hiram for the character’s “origin story.” (At one point on-screen, the older Consuelos stepped into the role of his own character’s father.)
“I have a hard time watching myself; I saw a little bit of a rough cut, but it’s going to be a total surprise to see the finished product when everyone else does,” the 24-year-old actor said a few days before the episode’s launch; his parents (his mother is Kelly Ripa) hosted a family watch party for the occasion. “I’m excited for it, but I’m also a little bit nervous for it. I’m not worried that they’re not going to like it; I think they’re gonna love it.
“And even if they don’t love it, they’re going to tell me they love it,” he adds.
Those post-filming nerves weren’t present when he was on set in Vancouver this past February; Consuelos felt right at home. He made a cameo as young Hiram in the series several years ago in season three, but his latest episode gave him ample time to shine on-screen.
“Not to sell myself short, but I think it got better as an actor in the time in between,” said Consuelos from his home in downtown Manhattan. “But it was a whole different story altogether — being center frame was an undertaking and I had a season’s worth of stuff to do in an episode. But it was a total gift, because there’s so much to explore.”
Luckily, Consuelos has been keeping up with “Riverdale” all along, so he was already familiar with his character as a fan. And while the young actor had special access to his screen partner, his father advised him to make the character his own.
“He told me, what’s important right now is that Hiram the character is very different as a kid as he is as an adult; he’s not going to be like me. So make it your own thing,” says Consuelos. “You see what kind of guy [Hiram] was, and it makes the eventual person he becomes all the more tragic — and a bit poetic, I think.”
As the son of an actor and famed TV host, it’s not all too surprising that Consuelos has gravitated toward the screen himself. But until recently he had his sights set on roles behind the camera. Consuelos graduated from NYU last year, and while he majored in directing and writing, he’s since reevaluated his goals in the industry.
“I realized that I like the creative in-front-of-the camera side better,” he says. “With being in the scene and acting, it was easier to reset mentally and do the scene again — and fun to do it again and again, try out different ways, put a different spin on it. Be a little more hands on and creative with myself rather than the whole technical element of cameras and lighting.”
For now, his focus is on continuing to hone his craft through weekly acting classes and auditioning, while writing his own projects on the side. “The name of the game is growing and learning about acting,” he says. “Acting class, auditions, writing, exercise — that’s always an uphill battle.”
And while he’s open to whatever genres and characters might come his way, he’d love to continue following in his father’s footsteps.
“Hiram just solidified the point that I love playing a bad guy,” he says. “A bad guy who is also kind of good, and has a good heart.”
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