Protective mom mode! Vanessa Morgan‘s Riverdale character, Toni Topaz, welcomed son Baby Anthony with Fangs Fogarty (Drew Ray Tanner) during the show’s fifth season. While the actress was starting her motherhood journey off camera along with her character, Vanessa never wanted her real-life son, River, to play her baby on The CW show.

“I always said no, I wouldn’t cross those lines and those boundaries,” the Riverdale star, 30, exclusively tells Life & Style while promoting her partnership with Gold Bond’s My Scar My Story Campaign. “So, Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] — our showrunner —  kind of knew not to ask me that.”

While there have been times on set where the Canada native thinks, “damn, I kind of just wish it was River,” keeping him offscreen was the best decision, in her opinion.

“I’m spending so much time with this other baby and my baby is on set. I would just rather it be my baby. He would be so well behaved with me,” Vanessa explains. “So, there has been times when it just would’ve been easier and he would’ve just loved being with me, but I think it’s best. I want him to make that conscious decision when he gets older of being on camera as something he wants to do.”

Vanessa Morgan Son River
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The Shannara Chronicles alum welcomed her first son, River, with estranged husband Michael Kopech in January 2021. She reveals that being a mom in real life has “definitely helped” her ability to be a mom onscreen.

“There have been scenes where I have to play like I’m not sleeping and the baby has colic, and like, I don’t even feel like I’m acting that. I just come to work after not sleeping all night. I’m just playing myself,” Vanessa shares, noting that she assures the “to the moms of any of the babies” that their child is “safe” in her hands.

Becoming a mom to River has also allowed Vanessa to realize that she’s “so much stronger” than she ever thought.

“Motherhood is hard and I feel like a lot of people sugarcoat it. You know, it’s a lot of sleepless nights,” the mother of one gushes. “Your heart almost it’s outside your body. You have this little person, who’s like an extension of you. Who’s watching everything you do. And who’s a sponge absorbing everything. So, it’s just made me so much more conscious, and I’ve just grown so much as a person, and I’ve become 10 times the woman I was before I had him. So, he is my greatest teacher. And I love him for that.”

As a way to honor her son, Vanessa teamed up with Gold Bond to launch their My Scar My Story Campaign, which is “encouraging people to embrace their real skin.” While the actress is no stranger to tattoos, the ink design she got with the brand’s help — and using their Gold Bond Healing Lotion, Gold Bond Advanced Healing Ointment and Gold Bond Pure Moisture Daily Body & Face Lotion — is super meaningful.

“Our skin is this beautiful canvas and it tells a story, and I just want people to be able to embrace their imperfections because that’s what makes us real and beautiful. That’s what this campaign is all about. With that said, I decided to get a tattoo to honor my [C-section] scar and Gold Bond helped me facilitate that,” Vanessa shares. “I got the tattoo, Kintsugi, a form of Japanese pottery that you repair the broken pieces of pottery with gold, and it’s considered more beautiful for having been broken. I’ve always loved the meaning behind that, for years now. So, I thought that was the most beautiful way to honor my C-section scar. Just getting that beside the scar just is like a beautiful memory.”

Vanessa Morgan Tattoo
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Gold Bond

Vanessa says that her latest tattoo means just “equally as much” as having her son’s name inked on her wrist.

“I would say that’s just as important because that’s what brought him earth side and going through my battle scar, you know, my surgery,” she shares. “I look at it and I just feel like a warrior every time I see it now.”