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Katy Keene: What You Need to Know About The CW's New Riverdale Spinoff

The Archie comics gang takes Manhattan in the new Lucy Hale-led series.
  • Lucy Hale stars in Katy Keene. (Photo: JSquared Photography/The CW)
    Lucy Hale stars in Katy Keene. (Photo: JSquared Photography/The CW)

    With The CW launching one of its most anticipated new projects this TV season, we asked our resident pilots expert Jean Maxime Renault (who previously reviewed the show's pilot script) to give us the lowdown on what to expect from Katy Keene.

    Few things are as closely identified with The CW's youth-oriented brand as Riverdale, so after Netflx won the rights to the show's first spinoff (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), the CW was determined not to let another show from the Archie Comics world slip between their fingers. They got their wish last year, when Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa agreed to develop another Riverdale-verse show for the network, based on Katy Keene, a character who got her own comic for 12 years beginning in 1949 before a revival in the 80s. The link with Riverdale is made through Josie McCoy, who leaves her hometown to pursue a solo career in New York City. 

    Here's what you need to know before diving into this new world:

    A Different Tone

    Katy Keene is a very different beast from Riverdale. Forget murders, mysteries, teen spirit and the city atmosphere. Tonally the show is more of a soapy dramedy -- think Gossip Girl meets Glee with a smattering of The Carrie Diaries and Pose thrown in for good measure. 

    Inspired byRoberto Aguirre-Sacasa's own experiences living in New York City as a young playwright, the show centers on a group of talented young characters from different backgrounds who form their own family as they chase their twentysomething dreams in the big city. 

    Meet the Group

    Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars) stars as Katy Keene, an aspiring fashion designer who works by day as an assistant to luxury personal Gloria Grandbilt (Katherine LaNasa). She's joined by Ashiegh Murray's Josie, who's made her way to New York City to try to make it big. The two are surrounded by a band of diverse and creative twenty-somethings, including Jorge Lopez (Jonny Beauchamp), a failing Broadway dancer who performs in drag as Ginger Lopez at The Ballroom nightclub, and Pepper Smith (Julia Chan), a seemingly affluent and well-connected young socialite whose dream is to create a twenty-first century version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Katy has a boyfriend, KO, a professional boxer, played by Zane Holtz, while Josie meets Alexander Cabot III (Lucien Laviscount), the heir of a media empire, who discovers her busking in a subway station. Alex's sister, Alexandra Cabot (Camille Hyde) does not approve and works quickly to try to squash Josie's hopes of dating her brother.

    Yes, There Will Be Crossovers

    Although the team behind Katy Keene initially said crossover episodes between Riverdale and Katy Keene would be impossible because the events depicted in the spinoff were to take place after Riverdale's high school years, apparently they've found a way. This Wednesday night, Lucy Hale guest-stars on Riverdale, introducing the heroine to the viewers.  The episode will see Veronica (Camila Mendes) return to her old stomping grounds in New York City. Executive producers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Michael Grassi said in a statement that they "thought it would be super-fun to do a crossover that took Veronica to Katy’s world and established Katy in the Riverdale universe." And it appears this won't be the last time the two shows cross paths, with the executive producers referring to Wednesday night's episode as "our first Riverdale/Katy crossover".

    Famous Guests

    Setting the show among the performing arts in New York City appears to have also opened the door to casting some fun and recognizable names for guest appearances on the show. Among them: D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, best known for competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race and her scene-stealing role as Lady Gaga’s drag mother in movie hit A Star Is Born, is set to appear in episode 6. She'll be playing Devereaux, the pageant rival of Ginger Lopez/Jorge, described as an A-list drag queen.  Other guests include Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent, In the Heights), who'll be playing Ginger/Jorge's mother Luisa, and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters as Ms. Freesia, Pepper Smith’s eccentrically elegant surrogate mother and mentor who taught Pepper in the art of the con.

    Katy Keene premieres Thursday February 6th at 8:00 PM ET on The CW.

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    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom

    TOPICS: Katy Keene, The CW, Riverdale, Ashleigh Murray, Bernadette Peters, Camila Mendes, Camille Hyde, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jonny Beauchamp, Julia Chan, Katherine LaNasa, Lucien Laviscount, Lucy Hale, Michael Grassi, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Shangela