Mark Consuelos’s right arm vein scares the hell out of me. It’s just sitting there, about three feet high, snaking out of the underside of a skin-tight T-shirt, trailing the length of his arm, staring me right in the face. How did it even get there? It could be genetic, I guess, but it looks like something this man worked for. Push-ups or chin-ups or some sort of compound movement, maybe. He doesn’t strike me as a concentration curl kind of guy.
I want to touch it.
I’ve known about The Vein for some time, mostly because of Consuelos’s recent rise to Instagram fame as a certified thirst trap. His wife, the television host Kelly Ripa, often posts shirtless pictures of her husband and his veins, which both galvanizes a thirsty audience and appalls their children. Parental precedent, 10/10.
But Consuelos is more than the sum of his aerodynamically gifted veins. Anyone can build physical strength; it’s much harder to create a mental and emotional foundation. Consuelos, 48, has spent more than two decades strengthening both his professional and personal lives, slowly, steadily, and strategically. His current gig as Hot Dad Hiram Lodge on Riverdale thrust the actor into a new world of young, rabid fans raised on binge watching and Instagram. Consuelos, an actual hot dad, has lived enough life, raised enough kids, and played enough good guys to feel prepared for a shift, and to make this new world work for him.
When I meet him in a quiet hotel bar on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, he is even-keeled and hyper-engaged and apparently not at all concerned about rabid teens. As the third season of Riverdale comes to an end on May 15, Consuelos unpacks being a dad, his rise to becoming an Instagram thirst trap, and why his wife, his friends, and the entire internet like to call him daddy.
Consuelos is best known for playing Mateo Santos on the daytime soap opera All My Children from 1995–2002, for his marriage to Kelly Ripa, and for his current role on the CW’s teen soap based on the Archie Comics series. He owns a production company, Milojo, with Ripa, to whom he’s been married for nearly 23 years. He and Ripa have three children-Michael, 21; Lola, 17; and Joaquin, 16-who fly pretty under the radar, as far as celebrity kids go. He works out five days a week, meditates for 15 minutes most mornings, and wants to learn how to speak Spanish. He could be a human man but it's more likely he's an android, shaped specifically for fame.
He’s self-aware, too, listing his flaws like ingredients to a box cake: he’s a control freak, competitive, and selfish. How brave, I think. How brave of this hot, strong, successful man to know where his fractures to perfection are. If “my biggest flaw is that I care too much” could be a person, it would be Mark Consuelos.
Of course, a subset of the internet already knows about Mark Consuelos and his whole being the hot dad thing. Riverdale might have introduced him to a new type of audience, but it’s Kelly Ripa who feeds the fandom. Those hot pictures she posts of him? She always hashtags #daddy.
I ask him why-why does his wife call him daddy?
“Well,” he says. “My friend group actually calls me daddy.”
“They’ll be like, ‘What's daddy doing?’ or: ‘Is daddy going to say it's OK?’”
All this daddy talk, he explains, started 10 years ago, when Consuelos was away shooting, and Ripa was at home with their friend Andy Cohen.
“During one of my breaks, I called and Andy answered and I asked: ‘Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you make sure a certain door is locked?’ People always forget to lock this door, and I wasn't home. I was kind of being…”
A dad? I interject.
“Right. A dad. Andy said, ‘Sure, OK, daddy.’ And that's where it started, and it stuck. It was pre-whatever daddy represents on Riverdale. It’s hilarious. It's totally hilarious.”
But Consuelos isn’t just daddy to Ripa and Cohen. The internet also calls him daddy, thanks to a combination of Ripa’s comments and because he plays Hiram Lodge on Riverdale, where Hiram’s daughter, Veronica, exclusively calls him daddy. Creepy, sure. But so is Hiram Lodge.
You see, part of Consuelos’s character on the show is that he is evil and the other part is that he is hot. It’s confusing as shit, and that doesn’t even have anything to do with the interwoven plot lines. His villainous character elicits confusion because he looks so good. Does being objectively hot make a bad character harder to hate?
The internet’s consensus would be a resounding yes. Sure, Hiram is pure evil in a skin-tight suit. He’s manipulative and spiteful and intensely involved in high school drama, which is weird. But there’s something primal about a man who knows what he wants, who expresses no fear. There is no better way to say it: He is a daddy.
Hiram Lodge cracked open a new side to Consuelos. Lodge, who doesn’t appear until the second season, was built up to be a malicious mafioso guy before his character ever appeared on screen.
“Hiram is so far away from who I'd ever be,” he says. “I don't think I've ever played anybody this evil, and it's so fun. I’ve played a good guy for so many years. But with the last four or five roles, the good guy wasn’t so one dimensional. Each character was getting a little douchey or flawed, so I think that’s really what prepared me for this role. Of course, nothing really prepares you for something quite like Riverdale.”
That’s in part because of the intensely loyal fanbase Riverdale has amassed. They’re dedicated not just to the show, but to the actors themselves. According to the cast, the fun-and the love-is real.
“Mark is an absolute legend,” says Riverdale star KJ Apa, who plays Archie, the show's central protagonist. “I love working with him because he’s always got a lot to say and I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn from him. He’s just an all-around good guy. The best part about working with Mark is that he is so ripped that he inspires me to be more ripped. He’s a 40-something man and he is way more ripped than anyone on the show.”
Hiram Lodge puts Consuelos’s ripped-ness on full display, too. Although Apa promises some joint shirtless scenes between Hiram and Archie soon enough, Consuelos is normally dressed in tight-very tight-suits. If he inhales too deeply, he might fully transform into the Hulk kind of tight.
“Sometimes if I drop something, I couldn't pick it up. Some episodes you can see that I'm losing consciousness because my collar is so tight. I’ll be nodding off and producers are like, ‘What are you doing?’ I have to say, ‘OK, fine. I had pizza last night.’ It really keeps me in check. But the suit is part of his look. It helps me physically and mentally feel like, OK, I could be that guy. It's just so precise and tight.”
The actors, on purpose or not, fuel the fandom by documenting life on set via social media. Cole Sprouse posting a photo of real-life girlfriend Lili Reinhart or KJ Apa posting a photo with Consuelos captioned, “Happy b day wifey” is enough to ignite the fans, who crave knowing the people behind the characters.
Consuelos often compares the Riverdale fanbase to that of All My Children.
“[They both] feel really personal. Soap fans were really invested-super invested in the story, super invested in the couples,” he says. “Fans wanted to bring couples together or rip them apart. It was shipping before shipping.”
Riverdale devotees might have a parallel attachment (re: obsession) to the show, but they’re able to express it and connect with other fans on an unprecedented scale.
“The interaction of our fanbase was something that didn’t exist before. They couldn't really interact with each other. They were talking within their family, or maybe with fans at an autograph signing,” he says. “Now, fans can talk to everyone about it, and they reach out to us immediately. You know, you used to have to fax us complaints.”
Does he miss physical fan mail? I wonder. Was that better than a DM?
“Well, actually,” he backtracks. “Anybody can log in an email or a text, and it's much easier. I do that, too. But a handwritten letter takes time. So in that way, I guess I do miss the fandom because someone took time to write it and they probably wrote it three times, if they're anything like me.”
Consuelos credits his wife for bringing his attention to the value of a handwritten note.
“My wife always hand writes thank you notes. When I asked her why, she said, ‘It's what separates us from the animals,’” he says. “So, I’ll write thank you notes or just little notes for her.”
Consuelos weaves stories from his personal life into his professional one when he talks. But when it comes to his role as a fatherly figure, he's careful to differentiate between his role of internet daddy, of being an actual dad, and of playing a dad on Riverdale. Although he is full of paternal wisdom, he saves his dad-isms for home life, rather than set life.
“I immediately realized when I got to the show that it is a really young cast, and they're very sophisticated. They really have their shit together. I don't impart any unsolicited wisdom on them, and if they do ask a question, I'll always say: ‘Just you know, I'm not telling you what to do. I’m just telling you what I would do.’ I'm not trying to be [their dad]. I wouldn't have wanted somebody to have done that to me when I was their age.”
There is one moment in particular though, which Consuelos recalls with only the sagacity of a dad. The cast was filming the “Big Fun” episode during Season Three, in which the characters replay Heathers: The Musical.
“There’s this moment where all of the kids were standing on stage holding hands, and it was this kind of magical moment. I thought back to when I was their age. This is a moment in their lives, a chapter, a page in their careers. At some point, they're not going be on the show anymore. I wanted to say to them: ‘Remember this. You will look back on this moment and see: Oh, that was a special show. That was a special moment.’"
Riverdale is catapulting its young cast members to fame, and they’re rising together. But they bonded over loss, too, when Luke Perry, who played Fred Andrews on the show, passed away in March after suffering a stroke.
“All the great things you've heard about Luke?” says Consuelos. “They're all true. That's who he was. He was an amazingly generous, kind person. You can't fake that. He was one of the good ones.”
Follow Perry’s death, Consuelos didn’t immediately comment, and Riverdale fans looked for something-a quote, an Instagram post-from Consuelos. I ask what it was like for him, to both lose a colleague and deal with criticism for his own grieving.
“I commiserated with my cast, we spent time together, we had meals over it. I reached out to the family and said what I had to say to them. That's all that was important to me. You know, about [grieving in] the public eye, sometimes it becomes about something else and I don't necessarily like that. It's not about me; it's about Luke.”
Consuelos met Perry more than a year ago, right before Consuelos started working on the show. In that time, it’s Perry’s generosity and perspective that Consuelos remembers most.
“One thing about Luke that always struck me was the way he talked about his life. He had so many good stories, and he saw them as chapters in his life. He recalled them with such fondness, even if it was a shitty time. He always found the wit and humor in these crazy situations. He always found the beauty in it. I knew him for such a short time and he had such an impact on me, and everyone around him. I feel grateful that maybe I was a passage, a page or two, in a chapter of his life.”
It’s not just the heavy moments-like the untimely death of a colleague-that inspire Consuelos to reflect and feel grateful for what he has. Sometimes it's the lighter ones, especially when he talks about his family, which he does a lot. He references them and credits their ideas and tell stories unprompted. Where so many celebrities tend to be guarded about their personal life, Consuelos opens up. He’s not just an internet daddy, after all. He’s also a real-life dad-and a dad dad at that.
“My kids absolutely do not think I’m cool,” says Consuelos. “[My wife and I] have always been on TV or doing something in entertainment. So they really, really are so unimpressed by it.”
Consuelos doesn’t need humbling, but if he did, his kids gladly provide a wealth of groundedness that not even Mark Consuelos can surmount, especially his 17-year-old daughter, Lola.
“Right before I was starting Riverdale, one of Lola’s friends in homeroom asked her, ‘Hey, is your dad on Riverdale?’ Like, she knows I'm on Riverdale. But she answers, 'Um...I don't know?' She didn't want to cop to it. Her friend was like, ‘You don't know?’ Lola was like, ‘Well, kind of, OK?’ She's a piece of work.”
There’s nothing quite like the gravitational pull of a teenager daughter’s sass to pull you right back down to earth.
But not even playing a hardass on Riverdale is enough to sway his kids’ opinions, although they watch and love the show. At 16, 17, and 21, they’re at peak Riverdale fandom ages. They hang out with the cast members, too. The Consuelos and Ripa home is oft referred to as the “Riverdale dorm,” where the actors will come to stay in the extra bedroom while they’re in New York. Their oldest son, Michael, was even on the show, coming in to play a young Hiram Lodge in a flashback episode.
“Working with my son was probably one of the most exciting things I've gotten to experience,” he says. “It was emotional for me, to see him practicing his lines and coming to set. He was so earnest about it. It really was a bucket-list moment for me.”
There's another important moment coming up: May 1 marks his 23rd wedding anniversary to Kelly Ripa. The two met on the set of All My Children in 1995. Ripa was on the show already when they cast Consuelos. They started dating later that year and eloped in 1996.
I wonder if he has any advice to give other couples. Twenty three years is no short time, especially for a high-profile couple that has maintained a fun, loving, public-facing marriage in an industry that rarely cultivates stable relationships.
“I'm an incredibly slow learner, so I feel like I'm just getting it. Like ‘Oh, this is what you're supposed to do,’ or, ‘OK, sometimes yes means no.’ After 23 years, I'm just learning that-so no, I don't think I could give anybody advice. I guess sometimes you see these public marriages end and you wonder, ‘Really? You're going to quit now? It's just been a couple of years. Maybe you should try to stick it out.’ It's kind of great to have a life together with someone. Of course, I'm not supporting staying in a horrible marriage. I'm just saying, if you can, maybe wait until it calms down a little bit. Wait until the magic happens.”
The magic? I ask. What does the magic look like for you?
“It happens throughout, I think. It's the simple moments-the really simple, not extravagant times. I'm just looking at this life that we created together. In a movie, it would be that moment where the husband kind of looks around and is looking at his wife and kids and you're here, you're in this beautiful place. And you think, ‘I'm just a kid from Southern Illinois and Tampa. How did I get all of this?’"
But anyone with a handful of working brain cells can see he got all of this because he worked for it. Consuelos has built a real life, not a celebrity life, with unconditional relationships and perspective and depth.
It’s hard to build a concrete life like his. That’s because it starts inward: by admitting your own fractures to perfection. It starts by seeing the things that make you weak.
It’s what makes Mark Consuelos so strong.
Photo by Allie Holloway • Styling by Nico Amarca • Shot at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City
('You Might Also Like',)