The actress notes that it's 'lovely and so amazing to be cared about in that way.'
Bethany Joy Lenz is opening up about her time in a cult. In a new interview with Variety, the 42-year-old actress reveals that her castmates on One Tree Hill tried to get her out of the cult she was a part of while starring in the teen drama.
Lenz, who joined the unnamed cult "within a year or two" of the show's 2003 premiere, notes that she was "open" with her OTH co-stars -- who included Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton Morgan, Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty -- about the group with which she was involved, a topic she first discussed on her Drama Queens podcast in July.
"It was the whisper behind the scenes, like 'You know, she's in a cult,'" Lenz recalls. "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."
The actress explained that because "the nature of a group like that is isolation," it makes "you distrust everyone around you," the situation "built a deep wedge of distrust" between Lenz and the show's 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," she says. "So you feel incredibly lonely."
Looking back, though, Lenz credits One Tree Hill, on which she starred as Haley James Scott, with saving in her in many ways.
"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," she said. "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."
That decision to wake up isn't one that Lenz believes anyone else could have convinced her to make when she was in the thick of her involvement in the cult.
"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," she says. "... 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."
The series lasted until 2012, and Lenz got out of the cult "very shortly after" she wrapped.
"I mean, it was like a secret life. I'm on this TV show. I'm living this glamorous, celebrity life -- as people see it -- and I have a total secret life going on. It was so painful," she admits, before sharing why she's coming forward with her story now.
"I really do want to share so anybody who reads this book is going to be able to go, 'Oh, I recognize that,' 'This is happening to me,' 'My pastor just said that the other day,' 'My boyfriend keeps doing all the exact same things, that's so strange,'" she says. "I feel like there's so much. I just want to squeeze every ounce of help out of this experience. I want this experience to just be the f**king biggest lemon I ever had. Let me f**king squeeze out all the juice for everybody else -- we're gonna make some lemonade."