There’s going to be a whole lot more Fangs Fogarty in the upcoming season of the CW’s teen drama Riverdale; Aldergrove actor Drew Ray Tanner has just been promoted to a series regular.
Tanner landed the role in the Archie Comic revamp back in 2017, but said that his character wasn’t meant to be part of the program for long.
“I wasn’t supposed to last more than two episodes, but I found myself being brought back more and more until the character became part of a major arc in the past season,” Tanner told the Aldergrove Star.
Now, 39 episodes later, fans of the hugely popular mystery series can guarantee that they’ll get a lot more of Tanner given the major expansion of his role – the announcement was made as shooting starts for season five.
“It has been a life-changing experience,” the 25-year-old actor assured, noting that his quick rise in the business as humble roots that are grounded in a modest upbringing in the Fraser Valley.
“My love for Aldergrove runs deep,” Tanner said, who’s mother still resides in the home where he grew up in Cedar Park Estates.
Though he was born in Victoria, Tanner’s father left when he was just two years old – prompting his mother to make the move to Aldergrove for a better life.
He noted his path as an actor was not a straight forward one; Tanner stressed that he was bitten by the “entertainment bug” rather than the acting bug.
“I was enamoured with my grandfather who was a real showman that performed magic tricks,” he said.
It was the look of wonderment on people’s faces that led Tanner to seek the stage.
Auditions in Vancouver were so far out of reach, however, that Tanner’s mother was unable to take him and further his interest; his outlet became a local improv group that he joined in grades eight and nine.
Tanner described himself at the time as a rather rambunctious teenager who sought extra help from his teachers at Aldergrove Community Secondary School.
“I was a bit of a prankster at odds with homework and authority,” he admitted. “We didn’t have rec centres or theatres or much to do when I was growing up in Aldergrove, so we had to get creative. But the school saw that I could do better if I was shown the right way.”
Tanner said he began to excel with help from the newly instituted Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, and found an outlet playing football in Abbotsford.
At the same time that was happening, he landed the lead role of John Proctor in the Arthur Miller classic The Crucible.
“That lit a fire in me to be better,” Tanner said. “They were tough. The first few rehearsals, I was not off-book. It was an inspiration to do better and to not let classmates down.”
The former Aldergrove resident said until that role, he thought about pursuing a football scholarship; an opportunity that ultimately did not come his way.
“My friends knew me, but didn’t really know this side of me – so I feared there would never be a chance for self-reinvention or to fully explore that side,” he explained.
But Tanner felt he had found a home in acting, so after graduation, he nabbed a job at a local tire retread plant so he could support himself while heading out to Vancouver for auditions.
He landed work quickly – appearing in bit parts on American TV shows being filmed around the Lower Mainland including iZombie, Supernatural, Supergirl, and Arrow.
“It was great,” Tanner said. “Every actor wants to have great parts, but the truth of the matter is that Vancouver is home to the journeyman actor; people who come in for day-parts and small roles.”
Despite those limited opportunities, Tanner felt if he could just land one part a year, he would keep going for his dream and auditioning while working odd jobs in Aldergrove.
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A big break came when he landed a small role in the 2017 remake of Power Rangers.
“I’m a 90s kids, so I loved that show,” the actor assured. “I had this small part as a guy picking out engagement rings and it involved squibs and blood packs and this really intense shootout sequence.”
Tanner didn’t tell a soul because he wanted it to be a surprise.
When the movie came out, he invited everyone he knew to come see it.
“You could see me for a microsecond, but they cut my stuff out,” Tanner laughed. “I wasn’t in the movie. It was the worst.”
Shortly after recovering from what he felt was a huge but humorous embarrassment, Tanner landed his career-launching role on Riverdale.
“Getting to see a character you play grow over multiple episodes – seasons – is the dream,” he said, adding that he was able to incorporate much of his own life into the character’s back-story.
Riverdale’s shoot was stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but briefly resumed during the summer.
Tanner said he had moved to Los Angeles one day before the Canada-U.S. borders closed.
“I quarantined with friends and I think it was just a good time for me to take a pause,” Tanner said.
Now, three seasons into the show, the actor said he’s been recognized on the street a few times, but that mostly comes when he’s out with the rest of the cast.
Besides, fame isn’t something that interests Tanner.
For him, it’s the community.
“It’s the family you develop. The relationships that I have made will be something that I’ll have for a long time,” Tanner explained. “I’ve seen relationships start and engagements happen because of this show.”
It’s an important aspect that he is sure his close-knit upbringing in Aldergrove had prepped him for.
“We had a large sense of community when I was growing up. Pick an avenue or a street in Aldergrove, and I’ll be able to tell you a friend I had who lived in that neighbourhood,” the actor said.
Beyond the popular Riverdale role, Tanner said he is working to bridge gaps by supporting movements like Black Lives Matter and help to expand inclusion and representation for minorities.
Tanner will be speaking virtually at the YOUNGA Bridging the Gap Forum on Oct. 24, and invited anyone interested to check out the event at https://youngaforum.com.
A busy acting and advocating career doesn’t mean Tanner has forgotten about his hometown either; he said filming an episode of Riverdale in is old high school and getting to walk through those hallways again is something he won’t soon forget.
As for any budding actor in Aldergrove thinking of pursuing a career in the arts, Tanner compared his journey to kids who ran off to join the circus.
“You fall into this safe community of people that support all walks of life,” he said. “My approach to it all has been ‘let’s have fun’,”
People can find more on Tanner at www.imdb.com.
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