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Luke Perry and KJ Apa appeared at an event publicizing their TV series "Riverdale."

'Riverdale' Co-Star Still Struggles with Luke Perry's untimely death

Gettyimages | Dominik Bindl
By Brenda Neugent

It's safe to say the world was shocked when former "Beverly Hills 90210" heartthrob Luke Perry died last year after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 52. But perhaps none were more stunned than his co-star, KJ Apa, who plays Archie Andrews on the series "Riverdale." Perry played Archie's father on the show and according to Apa, was an inspiration to the younger actor. "I had never gone through anything like that before," he told Mr. Porter's The Journal in the Fashion section. "I've never lost anyone close to me, so it was a really hard time. It’s still hard."

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KJ Apa says work is less enjoyable after the loss of his TV dad, Luke Perry.
Gettyimages | Frazer Harrison

“Going to work, I can just feel that he’s not there anymore," said the New Zealand-born Apa with Samoan roots. "We had a really, really, really good relationship, me and Luke. He was just kind of a guy that kept us, especially me, grounded because he'd been through all of this stuff. I was so blessed to have him in my life to say, '‘Maybe don’t do that,' or, 'This is a good idea.' Just giving me advice. I miss him. I just miss talking to him. I miss listening to him."

The cast of "Riverdale" takes a moment to pose for photos at ComicCon.
Gettyimages | Frazer Harrison

"Riverdale," which is now in its fifth season, is based on the Archie Comics,, although the storylines - including a murder mystery which had the teens on a quest to find out who killed a classmate - are much different than the original comic books, which debuted in 1939. Perry was drawn to the show because he saw similarities between it and "Beverly Hills 90210," the show that made him a star. "It's the story of a ruggedly handsome young man who has to pick between a dark-haired girl and a blond-haired girl, right? That's where the similarity ends," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017.

KJ Apa stars as Archie Andrews on the hit show "Riverdale," now in its fifth season.
Gettyimages | Frazer Harrison

Because his relationship with Perry was so strong, Apa learned how to forge a gap between his personal life and his work life, creating a cocoon of privacy that he treasures. "I think privacy is everything," he told Mr. Porter. "I really do work hard on protecting my privacy, my home, my family, the people I love. Luke taught me that." Apa also grew contemplative about ways he could become a better person after Perry's suddent death. "It made me really think, 'What kind of man do I want to be?' And I’m still figuring it out."

Luke Perry died of complication surrounding a stroke. He was 52 years old.
Gettyimages | Fox Broadcasting

Perry died March 4, 2019, after suffering a second stroke. He had been on life support, but his family chose to remove him. His own son, 21-year-old Jack, also penned a tribute to his father. "He was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was always Dad," he wrote on Instagram. "He loved and supported me in everything, and inspired me to be the best that I could possibly be. I’ve learned so much from you, and my heart is broken thinking about everything you won’t be here for. I’ll miss you every day that I walk this earth. I’ll do whatever I can to carry on your legacy and make you proud. I love you Dad."

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