Nathalie Boltt plays one of TV’s worst mothers on Riverdale – Penelope Blossom, a character we love to hate! Penelope Blossom has had some intense story-lines in Season 3 and we couldn’t wait to ask Boltt all about the new twists Penelope’s story has taken.
Pure Fandom: How much fun is it to play such a devious character?
Nathalie Boltt: It’s all the fun! I’m getting that question a lot lately and I’m so glad that people realize that it’s really a twisted, kind of quirky character who is not just purely evil and dark. And I think that especially this season has revealed that part of Penelope, because I am not just being evil to Cheryl all the time, which basically had the fans just hating Penelope. And now Penelope has her own little world with the Maple Club and we can see what a nut case she is.
I love it! Speaking of the Maple Club, I have noticed that Penelope’s fashion has really evolved. What has it been like going from that buttoned up look in Season 1 and 2 to this?
It’s been awesome – in a sentence. I think for any actor, you want your character to evolve, you know? And, it being Riverdale, people change very quickly. Riverdale moves so fast with everybody’s stories. I love the fact that in Season 1 the Blossoms were like the royal family of Riverdale in there sort of British royalty way, with the tweeds and kind of like the equestrian look. I had my tight French roll, the corduroy pants and the conservative look.
And once Cheryl burned the house down and that whole life was lost – I spoke with the show runner and said “Okay, what is she actually qualified for? What can she do, other than terrorize people as a socialite?” And then this idea came forward about her possibly running a Bordello. With Riverdale being the dark place that it is, there’s always the marrying of casinos, bars and brothels in the history of mankind.
We have a wonderful wardrobe stylist, Rebekka Sorensen-Kjelstrup. She’s really open to ideas and she loves what she does. We started with the high collar dress, with the long skirt, a quite sort of corseted look, because Penelope is sort of held, right? Definitely got this stiff upper lip feel to her, which makes sense because she was brought up in the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.
The thing I loved was Gretchen Mol’s character in Boardwalk Empire because I’ve always had a weakness for that flapper era look. So I cut my hair quite short going for that bob. That tight to the head, flapper look. I think that sort of pinged [Rebecca’s] imagination along with this Bordello Madame to continue her vintage look to go more into the sexy, lace material. And moving away from purely red into these luscious plums and black and figure hugging and one glove with everything.
We love the glove!
Yes, it kind of goes with the imagination of the Dominatrix with whips and fluffy hand cuffs. I always want to go there! I said to Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa], “Okay, so Thornhill burnt down and they discover among the ashes, the Fifty Shades of Grey pain room! Come on, let’s do it!” But then the Maple Club happened so I was like “Oooooo!”
I wanted to ask you, is there a story to the glove?
The story to the glove was in Season 2. We ended Season 1 where Cheryl burned the house down, but it appears that Penelope makes it out unscathed. But when we start Season 2, we see Penelope completely bound in bandages in the hospital. That’s when we discovered that she ran back in the house to save a hideous family portrait and that’s how I burned myself.
But, it being Riverdale and TV land, where anything can happen, I recover incredibly quickly. All of the facial burns heal, but the arm did not. It’s just a short scene early on in Season 2 where Penelope has the glove off and she’s sneering at the burns on her arm. I still have all of the burns and prosthetics on my arm at that point. It was dealt with very quickly, but the idea is that my hand is so badly burned and that is why forever more, I will have the glove. And we will love the glove.
I love that! It really highlights her mysterious side!
Yes, and I love that no matter how cold it is, she only wears the one glove.
Yes! So, is Penelope really as bad as she wants everyone and the viewers to think she is?
I think, no. We got to see a bit of her backstory and it’s a very tragic one. She was adopted, lived in the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. She was an orphan and was very disturbingly adopted by the Blossom Family and groomed to be Clifford’s sister and then wife.
So even though she’s not a sister by blood, it’s a very twisted and strange background. So you get that Penelope is a very twisted, strange person for that reason. And she’s done decent things, like in Season 2 with the Sugar Man, when she tried to protect Cheryl and Jason, her twin babies from Clifford, who was a drug dealer. She would tell them stories to keep them away from this very dark business that her husband had.
So she’s done that and she called Cheryl at the eleventh hour with the Gargoyle King and told her to keep her bow close and to stay home. She forbade Cheryl from doing the musical, Carrie, where Midge died. So every so often, Penelope does something to help somebody. She helped her daughter and even helped Betty this season, which has been quite delicious to watch.
And we also discover that she hasn’t just been willy-nilly hurting and poisoning people. That she has a specific type and that is men. So, I think in the post #MeToo world where a lot of sadness and bitterness and stories of abuse have come out in the world of entertainment, Penelope may be an expression of that. She’s not just a one level villain. She’s a person – a very twisted person with an obsession with serial killers and a soft spot for Hal Cooper. But she is not a one level villain and I think that’s much more interesting.
Let’s talk about Hal Cooper! Penelope and Hal keep falling back together. Will we get to see more of those two together before the season is over?
I think so! You know, Hal – played by Lochlyn Munro – is in jail like the Hannibal Lecter of the show. He’s so brilliant, I don’t know if you agree, but I think he is just riveting in that role. And the fact that Betty keeps going back to him. [She says] “I’m never going to see you again!” and then she’s back. Because he’s so useful as a deliverer of information and helping [Betty] unravel her mystery.
So, I think we will see more of him. That fact that he and Penelope have this sort of common ground of – I suppose darkness is the best word for it. Their connection to serial killers and their brilliant but twisted minds does bring Hal and Penelope together. I think it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw them just before the end of this matter and the build up of who the Gargoyle King is because surely they will be helpful.
Yes, and I agree about Hal. He looks so all-American and then he starts speaking and it’s so creepy! I totally see the Hannibal Lecter comparison.
Yes! It’s really chilling and I love what he’s done. He’s gone from being the “apple pie Daddy,” who was very much a boy scout – fixing his car and talking to his girls, trying to get his wife to love him to now, he’s very still and chilling. Beautifully written and executed.
Agreed! So back to Penelope. Penelope has a very strong and unnatural fixation on Cheryl’s sexuality. And Penelope spent time at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and we know their history of conversion therapy. Is there any chance we will get to see more exploration into Penelope’s sexuality? It seems like there is more to it.
God, I hope so! Yeah, I mean she’s expressing a sexuality now by being a dominatrix and Madame at the Maple Club, but it’s very vengeful and reeks of suppression and oppression. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the next kind of love that Penelope found was not a man, but a woman. That would be a great reveal and a great relief, I guess for Cheryl and her relationship, not only with Toni, but just with her sexual preferences.
There are so many stories that we know of with the most homophobic people actually being homosexual themselves. And the railing against it is really a way of trying to suppress your own feelings and your own sexuality. A film that comes to mind that does this is American Beauty. […] Sometimes the things that anger us the most are the things we most desire, but are ashamed of or just afraid of. And Penelope is ripe for that kind of story-line.
Right, and hopefully after all is said and done we will get to see her love herself a little bit. Like you said, she’s had a lot of trauma growing up. Will we get to see more of her childhood?
I think we need to! I don’t know that we will see much more of her childhood, unless they go into the details of how cruel she was treated by the Blossom family. [It] would be interesting because she and Nana Rose Blossom clearly do not have a lot of love for each other. That could be revealed, and it would be really interesting.
Wouldn’t it be good to see Penelope love herself, just a little bit and see what actually got her to that point. Sometimes it is the love of somebody that’s very compassionate and non-judgmental and then to see if she can use that love for herself to find some redemption or whether it’s too hard.
A tragedy is a character that does not reform and continues in their previous ways. She is currently quite a tragic character, but she’s fun to watch because she’s a villain. But once her true nature and the potential love for herself and her forgiveness for herself is revealed, it would be interesting to see what Penelope does with that. Whether she can rise above and let her past go, or not.
I love that. Will we get to see Penelope in the Heathers themed episode?
Penelope is in the that episode – I won’t reveal how, because that episode is still to play and it won’t be disappointing. But I will tell you that it’s very much an expression of the frustrations of the teenagers in Riverdale. The Heathers lets them shine. We will see Penelope, but it’s very interwoven with what’s going on with current story-lines and how much the teenagers are suffering. How they need to express their hurt, as teenagers who all have very twisted parents need to!
They really do have twisted parents – except maybe Archie, but yes. Those poor kids.
Yes, Archie has found a way to become incredibly tortured without having bad parents! He’s been very successful at that.
Yes, he really has! Thank you so much for chatting!
Thank you so much for your lovely questions. And thank you to the fans for really sticking with Penelope and going from sheer hatred of the character, to a fascination, to a love and amusement of where Penelope is going. I promise you won’t be bored with what’s coming up. Really, thank you to the fans!
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*Updated to correct the spelling of Rebekka Sorensen-Kjelstrup