‘Katy Keene’: Does Pepper Smith Have a Big Secret? Actor Julia Chan Thinks So!

Riverdale fans have only had three weeks to meet Katy Keene (Lucy Hale) and her New York friends on the Archie spinoff series. There’s already high drama for Katy in her fashion job, and her friends Josie (Ashleigh Murray) in music and Jorge (Jonny Beauchamp) in dance. Pepper Smith (Julia Chan) is a gossip blogger getting the scoop on it all.

Julia Chan and Lucy Hale
(L-R): Julia Chan and Lucy Hale | Peter Kramer/The CW

Even though Pepper purports to be a journalist chronicling the world of Katy Keene, Chan believes she has her own secrets. Chan spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet in August. Even back then she suspected Pepper was going to reveal some secrets. Katy Keene airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.

Julia Chan loved Pepper Smith as soon as she read ‘Katy Keene’

When Chan read the audition script for Katy Keene, she knew it would be a juicy part. So far the role has not disappointed her.

Julia Chan as Pepper Smith
Julia Chan | David Giesbrecht/The CW

“When I saw the script, she really popped off the page for me and I just loved her immediately,” Chan said. “I loved her sort of crackling dialogue. I really love her enthusiasm and the love she has for her friends, her effort to always make sure that people are occupied and having the best time possible. She is sort of the social glue of the group. Do I identify with her? I have a sort of unhealthy obsession with fashion so we shared that for sure.”

Pepper Smith talks like Julia Chan on ‘Katy Keene’

Chan was born in the U.K. but grew up in Hong Kong. She developed a unique accent as a result. That’s the voice you hear on Katy Keene.

“At the time, Hong Kong was still a British colony,” Chan said. “My brother and I both went to British schools. A lot of my friends ended up in American schools. I was also born in the U.K. and went to Hong Kong when I was four. My accent now is a weird mid-Atlantic Katharine Hepburn dead accent. It’s just osmosis I think when you’ve moved around a bit.”

Katy Keene
(L-R): Julia Chan, Lucy Hale and Ashleigh Murray | Peter Kramer/The CW

The creators of Katy Keene decided they liked that dead accent, so Pepper speaks in Chan’s natural voice.

“I think in many ways, our way of speaking isn’t dissimilar so that’s been really fun,” Chan said. “I came in with a very particular accent and they let me keep it. It’s really fun. I think if we were at school you’d call it estuary. It’s a strong British accent. I do identify with her.”

That voice suggests Pepper’s secret 

Whatever accent they decided on, Pepper Smith was always going to have a lot to say on Katy Keene. Chan believes that is covering up her own secrets.

Julia Chan in Katy Keene
Julia Chan | Barbara Nitke/The CW

“She’s got quite a set of lungs on her,” Chan said. “Some good one-liners but I’m curious to see that character teased out because there’s a bit of a redacted past. I’m curious to see what she’s really up to and what’s driving her. I’m not as secretive. I’m much more of an open book and I’m not remotely a con artist of any kind, I assure you but I do identify with her spirit a lot.”

Pepper Smith’s ‘Katy Keene’ mystery will have to make sense

At this early stage in Katy Keene, the possibilities for Pepper’s mysterious past are wide open. Whatever they may be, Chan hopes they are realistic.

Katy Keene: Julia Chan
Julia Chan | Eric Liebowitz/The CW

“I think what will be my hope and I think what will be interesting about this character is how we ground her,” Chan said. “I think when somebody has that much mystery and that much, I don’t want to say artifice, but there’ a way that she moves around the world. I think there’s a lot of protective mechanisms going on so I’m curious to know how we’re going to balance that with how we ground [her].”