It’s been a big year for Vanessa Morgan. She’s joined two of television’s biggest shows and is quickly becoming a household name among young adult viewers. This year, she joined Riverdale, as Jughead’s new Southside friend, Toni Topaz. But just before coming to the Southside, she joined the cast of The Shannara Chronicles, which made the switch from MTV to SpikeTV. Morgan’s character, Lyria, isn’t found in the original book series. But upon joining the show, Lyria is making a big impression with fans of the show.
At this year’s New York Comic Con, we sat down with Vanessa to discuss her new role on The Shannara Chronicles, and what her character means for the LGBT community.
Young Entertainment Mag: Tell us about your character.
Vanessa Morgan: I play Lyria. I am Eretria’s love interest. And I’m a princess! What little girl didn’t want to be a princess growing up? So I got to be like, “Mom, I get to be living my childhood dream!”
YEM: Do you and Lyria have any similarities?
VM: I’m biased but I love my character! I think we’re really similar. We’re strong, independent women. Me for example, I moved far away from home myself to Los Angeles from Canada to pursue my dream of acting. Lyria moves away from her home. She wasn’t happy with her situation being the princess under her mother’s strict control as the queen. So she moves away with hope of finding a better life emotionally.
YEM: Were you familiar with the books?
VM: I wasn’t familiar with it at first. But when I got cast, I went to the store like a nerd with my mom and bought every single one. I was looking for my character but then I found out that my character was not in the books. (laughs) But I did love the series. I was so pumped to be a part of it. And knowing that we were going to be filming in New Zealand, and be in this apocalyptic world, that’s awesome. Now I’m a big fan of the book series. But the show is very different from the books.
YEM: What has the reception been like from the LGBT community?
VM: I’ve been getting a lot of support for playing this character. I’m actually on two shows right now where I play a character who is bisexual (her other bisexual character is Toni on Riverdale). So I’m getting so much love from the LGBT community. I’m so happy that I get to represent this community on television. It’s so important in 2017 to show that you can love somebody for their personality. You can fall in love with their soul and not what’s written down as their gender. That’s great.
YEM: Were you surprised when you first got on set? Was it difficult to be a part of a show that has so much fantasy and action, and takes place in a different timeline?
VM: There are several things that surprised me. The training was insane. I’ve never been on a show with this much physical training. We trained for one month straight every single day—so intense. So that was a shock, I wasn’t expecting that. And the sets! The sets were so grand, I felt like I was in a Lord of the Rings movie set. Basically just walking out in New Zealand you feel like that, but the sets themselves were so grand. They felt like a real palace. You really saw the fantasy aspect and I really felt like I was in the fantasy world, truly. Instead of some sets that are in a studio where you really don’t get that vibe. It was awesome.
YEM: How long were you in New Zealand filming?
VM: Six months. It was a long time away from home. But my parents came to visit, that was nice.
YEM: What is it like to have so many action scenes throughout the season?
VM: It’s so fun as an actor to do something like that. And you know that when they edit the show and you see it on camera, you’re going to look like a badass! As an actor, you’ll go over to the writers and editors and be like, “So, are you gonna put that fight scene in the show?” (laughs) Obviously, Eretria’s character gets the most because she’s that tough, dagger throwing character, so that’s awesome. But I had my moments of working with the sword and I loved it. When you see it all come together on the show with the sound effects and everything, you’re like, “Wow. That’s cool.”
YEM: Did you hang out with the other cast members on set?
VM: Yeah! We did! Obviously the work load is a lot, but on weekends we would go have fun. We didn’t have the distractions of our LA friends, we really just had each other. So we did a lot of bonding on the weekends. Had some good times, went out dancing, so that was nice.
Stay tuned to our website and social media for more from New York Comic Con and the cast of The Shannara Chronicles.