Bethany Joy Lenz is sharing new details on her time in a cult — and the role her One Tree Hill co-stars played!
Last month, the 42-year-old made a startling revelation on iHeartRadio’s Drama Queens podcast: she was “in a cult for 10 years.” At the time, she didn’t offer much in terms of details but did share she’d one day love to write a tell-all book about her experience. (WOULD READ, FWIW.) But in the meantime, she’s sprinkling in a few new details about how it all affected her during her run on the CW show.
During an interview with Variety published Thursday, Bethany revealed that she was just 22 years old when she joined the cult, which she says was “within a year or two” of when the fan-favorite series kicked off. But according to her, all her co-stars, which of course included the likes of Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton Morgan and more, were well aware of her situation. She explained:
“It was open with them — it was the whisper behind the scenes, like ‘You know, she’s in a cult.’”
But Bethany says the chatter didn’t have a sinister undertone. Far from it, she knows now her OTH fam were actually attempting to “rescue” her! She continued:
“For a while, they were all trying to save me and rescue me, which is lovely and so amazing to be cared about in that way. But I was very stubborn. I was really committed to what I believed were the best choices I could make.”
That’s so tough! We’ve all heard stories about how persuasive cults can be — and how hard it is to deprogram people. So we’re not necessarily surprised to hear she stuck with it despite the concern of her peers… However, she did admit the “nature of a group like that is isolation,” which made her “distrust” everyone and feel “lonely.” She explained:
“It built a deep wedge of distrust between me and my cast and crew. As much as I loved them and cared about them, there was a fundamental thought: If I’m in pain, if I’m suffering, I can’t go to any of these people. So you feel incredibly lonely.”
So sad. But it’s so sweet to hear that her co-stars were always there for her, and that there was just so much love in that group.
It may have been One Tree Hill itself that saved her, in a way. Bethany explained that her physical removal from the cult to be a part of the TV show helped more than she ever realized at the time:
“A lot of the people in that group lived there, and were in it day after day. So in a lot of ways, One Tree Hill saved my life, because I was there nine months out of the year in North Carolina. I had a lot of flying back and forth, a lot of people visiting and things like that, but my life was really built in North Carolina. And I think that spatial separation made a big difference when it was time for me to wake up.”
As for what finally did help her to “wake up,” she believes there was nothing anyone really could have said or done to get her out of it — it was a decision she needed to come to herself:
“Somebody’s walking into it, they’re walking in for a reason. There’s something that’s filling a need, it’s filling a void and the best thing that you can do is just build a trust with that person. Build a trust that feels unbreakable for them. Be the person that calls to check up on them.”
“Sometimes, it’s a long haul and you’ve just gotta keep showing up and you cannot give them a reason to cut you out of their life, because they will in a second. But as far as anything you could say, no. I don’t think anybody could have said anything. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”
So scary to think about a loved one in a position like that. Though frankly a lot more of us are starting to go through it lately…
As for why she’s opening up now, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress shared that for the longest time, “shame” held her back, but that she’s ready to overcome that:
“Shame, I believe in my experience, naturally causes us to close up and not want to expose that part of ourselves for fear of being seen and then being further shamed by outside sources. What I came to realize was that there’s actually a lot of power in exposing that shame to the light and allowing new information to come in. And there’s not just power in that for me, but my hope is that — and really why I wanted to talk about it — is because I think it can be really healing for a lot of other people. I know I’m not the only one. What good are our painful experiences if we just lock them away and pretend like everything’s perfect? That’s not doing anybody any good.”
How inspiring. Bethany definitely has our love and support!
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