Riverdale’s given us so many batshit scenes over the past four seasons that our list of WTF moments couldn’t possibly include them all. One of the weirdest from season four featured Jughead’s teacher Mr. Chipping (played by Sam Witwer) jumping out of a window, seemingly for no reason. The actor playing him was just as surprised as we were.
“As for why that character jumps out a window, I have no idea. But I read the script and laughed. I was like, ‘Right, of course. Of course he does,’” Sam Witwer told Gizmodo. “I’d love to say I had deep thoughts about the whole thing, but I don’t think that’s really the way they work over there.”
As part of a larger interview with Gizmodo, we asked Witwer about that infamous Riverdale moment when Mr. Chipping abruptly jumped through a stained glass window to his death. Fans everywhere were perplexed. The scene happened all the way back in November 2019, and it wasn’t until March 11’s episode that we actually found out why he did it: Turns out Baxter Brothers ghostwriters only get the job after they commit the perfect murder, and Mr. Chipping felt guilty that he couldn’t protect Jughead from that fate, so he died by suicide.
Look, I’m sure Riverdale wants to protect its spoilers, but these aren’t “Game of Thrones finale” level secrets here. You’d think an important character arc like this is something the actor playing him should know, for motivation and stuff. But…nope. “Riverdale calls me up and goes, ‘We want you to be on the show. We really need you to say yes and fly out tomorrow. Can you do us this favour?’ And I’m like, ‘…OK.’ That was the last communication I had with them. Any questions I had went, I’m sorry, sadly unanswered,” he said.
“I was a little bit relieved when I saw my character jumping out the window. I don’t have to wonder anymore whether I’m being made to look like a—” Witwer stopped himself for a second, before continuing, “Because I can’t. Maybe I’m just not a good enough actor, but I can’t do my job if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Witwer said one of the most important things for him as an actor is communication with the folks in charge, and that this was instilled early on during his time on Battlestar Galactica seasons one and two where he played Alex Quartararo (aka Crashdown).
He was encouraged to ad-lib some of his dialogue because the writers and producers trusted the work enough to let him and other actors experiment with it. It’s something he’s carried with him throughout his career—especially on his various Star Wars projects, which he said have been a treasure trove of collaboration and communication. Witwer told Gizmodo about what it’s been like working with Dave Filoni (under George Lucas’ supervision) when crafting the character of Darth Maul for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
“We talked for months before we recorded at all, to try to figure out how best to tell the story. We would go back and forth. Although I wasn’t the writer, we were discussing it and we were throwing out ideas for a long time before we even attempted to do it,” he said. “Even with Ron Howard and [Solo: A Star Wars Story], there were discussions. It wasn’t just a one-voice session, say these lines and out. There were discussions and there were many sessions and phone calls and emails and all kinds of stuff to try to get it right.
“Riverdale doesn’t work that way,” he added with a laugh.
It might be disappointing, but let’s be honest: It’s not exactly surprising that Riverdale’s production process isn’t meeting the standards of The Clone Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or other shows. This is a series that didn’t even know who its Black Hood villain was going to be until it was well in the middle of season two.
Also, don’t forget, they put their cult leader on a rocket. I bet there’s a chance the explanation for Mr. Chipping’s death didn’t exist at the time he was filming (it would explain why Mr. Chipping kept clearing his throat like he was poisoned).
In the end, the true mystery of Mr. Chipping’s brief but unforgettable time on Riverdale is one Witwer doesn’t seem interested in solving himself.