EXCLUSIVE: After a four-month worldwide talent search, 18-year-old New Zealand-born actor KJ Apa has been cast as Archie Andrews in Riverdale, the CW pilot from producer Greg Berlanti. Also cast in the pilot, based on the Archie Comics characters, is Ashleigh Murray as Josie of Josie and the Pussycats fame.

Set in present time, Riverdale is a subversive take on Archie (Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small-town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.

Apa’s Archie Andrews is an intense, conflicted teen, a boyish high school sophomore who got pumped up over the summer working construction and is now juggling the interest of several girls, as well as trying to balance his passion for writing and performing music — against the wishes of his father and his football coach.

Ashleigh Murray JosieMurray’s Josie is a gorgeous, snooty and ambitious girl who is the lead singer for popular band Josie and the Pussycats. She has zero interest in recording any songs written by fellow teen Archie.

Also cast in the pilot are Luke Perry who will play Archie’s dad Fred Andrews, and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones.

While the search for a young actor to play Archie went on for months, I hear Apa only auditioned on Friday, landing the role just days later. He just wrapped A Dog’s Purpose, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and produced by Steven Spielberg. Apa is repped by WME, Luber Roklin Entertainment and New Zealand’s Red 11 Management.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chief creative officer of Archie Comics, wrote Riverdale and is executive producing with Berlanti Prods.’ Berlanti and Sarah Schechter as well as Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater for Warner Bros TV and studio-based Berlanti Productions.

Murray is with Innovative Artists and Jago Ciro Entertainment.