KJ Apa and comic character Archie Andrews have a lot in common.
The average boy next door? Check. A keen musician and athlete? Check.
A shock of red hair? Well, with a bit of bleach and dye, you’d never know that KJ wasn’t ginger. And, just like Archie, the actor also has a habit of being thrust into new adventures—even when he doesn’t plan them.
Known for his starring role in the Netflix Original series Riverdale, KJ Apa never set out to be an actor. As a teen he divided his time between his music, sport and school; but when the opportunity to audition for the New Zealand sitcom Shortland Street came up, his life changed course dramatically.
“I never actually wanted to act, it’s something that crashed into my life when I was at school, and I was asked to audition for Shortland Street and got the part. It was hard at the time,” he said in a 2015 interview with Big Mouf.
After making a name for himself in New Zealand, other opportunities began to come up for the now 20-year-old. He acted in the Kiwi TV series Cul De Sac and scored a role alongside Dennis Quaid in A Dog’s Purpose, but his big break came when he took on the mantle of the famous comic character Archie Andrews.
With this has come a huge amount of support from the media and fans alike. He has been described as a ‘young Tom Cruise’, and labelled a heart-throb for his mysterious portrayal of Archie. But he doesn’t want to be defined by these labels, which is why he must rely on his faith in God to maintain his values.
“I need God everyday!” KJ tweeted earlier this year. He also shared similar sentiments on his Instagram page, where he said, “My source is in the cross”, highlighting his dependence on God.
Labelled as a sex symbol, KJ walks a fine line between Hollywood fame, fortune and his faith. He concedes that his character was unequivocally going to be objectified after reading the script, but hopes people see beyond this when they watch the show.
“As soon as you get used to becoming a sex object, that can be dangerous,” he said to Vulture.
“I think you just need to come back to the heart of it. There’s more to Archie than abs and his body and getting with girls and stuff like that. He’s a humanised character, and people should see past that.”
KJ’s Christian upbringing and cultural heritage means he values more than industry hype, and this gives him grounding in the superficial world of stardom.
“My father’s Samoan and my mother’s European. I grew up in a Christian family, I am a Christian,” he said to Big Mouf.
Named after his father Keneti, KJ’s full name is Keneti James Fitzgerald Apa. His Samoan upbringing is an important part of his life; he even got a traditional tattoo when he was 17 after his father became a chief.
“I’ve got hundreds of family on my dad’s side that live in Samoa and in New Zealand. I’ve just been surrounded by the culture ever since I was a kid,” he said to Vulture.
On the surface, KJ Apa is living the Hollywood dream. But dig a little deeper, and you realise the source of his integrity and success comes from something far greater than his looks or ability. It comes from his faith.
Something he owns to himself when he said, “Everything happens for a reason and I’m definitely living the dream.”