‘One Tree Hill’ star Bethany Joy Lenz says the show ‘saved my life’ while she was in a cult

The actress spent a decade committed to an abusive religious group –– but the cast and crew of the show “were all trying to save me and rescue me.”

Last month, Bethany Joy Lenz revealed she had been in a cult for 10 years on the podcast she co-hosts, Drama Queens. The actress divulged more details about her time with the group, and shared about how her time on One Tree Hill possibly helped save her life.

Describing how she first joined the group “within a year or two” of One Tree Hill‘s first season in 2003, Lenz says she thought it was just another typical Bible study. “But the friendships seemed deeper, more vulnerable somehow, as time went on,” the actress explained. “The person that was brought into the leadership position was sociopathic and most of us who were involved were in our early 20s.”

She said that her involvement in the group gave her a warped view of the show’s cast and crew that “built a deep wedge of distrust between me and my cast and crew,” she continued, “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.”

But due to her shooting schedule, she was physically distant from the group since she had to film in North Carolina. “A lot of the people in that group lived there, and were in it day after day,” Lenz explained. “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.”

Bethany Joy Lenz

Bethany Joy Lenz

| Credit: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

Noting that her castmates were aware of her involvement with the group, Lenz admits they tried to support her throughout the process. “It was open with them — it was the whisper behind the scenes, like ‘You know, she’s in a cult,'” she said. “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.”

“I squandered so many opportunities because I prioritized this group,” Lenz further explained. “I was at the height of my career, getting offers for huge movies and Broadway shows. Everything I’d trained for, all my childhood dreams were coming true and I said no to all of it so I could go live with this remote, small group of people, convinced I was making a noble, spiritual sacrifice.”

Lenz got out of the group “very shortly after” One Tree Hill ended in 2012. The actress recently began speaking more openly about her experiences in the name of transparency and is currently working on a memoir about the experience.

“I just want to squeeze every ounce of help out of this experience,” she said. “I want this experience to just be the f—ing biggest lemon I ever had. I can just f—ing squeeze out all the juice for everybody else — we’re gonna make some lemonade.”

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