In an interview with Variety, Bethany opened up about the “painful” time when she was in a cult while filming the popular CW show.
It all started with joining a Bible study group in Los Angeles. “I moved to a new state, moved to a new city, and I went to another Wednesday night Bible study, and that’s all it was to me,” she said. Since Bethany had grown up in a “Christian home,” this kind of fellowship was familiar. But, “the friendships seemed deeper, more vulnerable somehow.”
But then, the person who was brought in to a leadership position was “sociopathic,” she said. Bethany compared the leader to Keith Raniere, the disgraced leader of NXIVM, who was sentenced to “120 years in prison.”
When asked if the cast and crew knew, Bethany answered, “Oh, yeah. It was open with them — it was the whisper behind the scenes, like ‘You know, she’s in a cult.'” Bethany added, “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.”
At the time, Bethany explained, she felt really “committed” to what she believed in. “I don’t think anybody could have said anything. I wanted to do what I wanted to do,” Bethany said.
Bethany explained how the cult created a sense of “isolation” and “distrust” of everyone around her. “It built a deep wedge of distrust between me and my cast and crew,” she shared.
“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 said.
Bethany says that “motherhood” eventually led Bethany out of the cult, despite the “fear of leaving and not knowing what will happen.” She left shortly after One Tree Hill wrapped in 2012.
Bethany added that filming “nine months out of the year” in North Carolina also made a difference, and possibly “saved [her] life.” Bethany said, “I think that spatial separation made a big difference when it was time for me to wake up.”
“It’s been a very hard lesson, and it put me in a place where I really stopped trusting a lot of people,” Bethany said of her experience. “I’m sure it affected my work. I’m sure I had strange tendencies. I have overreactions to not trusting people in scenarios that are trivial.”
Today, Bethany is focusing on living as “authentically” as possible while she finds new meaning with her faith. “It took 10 years so far of unwinding and following the guideposts that I see and studying, researching, being thoughtful,” she said. “I feel so much more free now, so much happier, so much more authentic in my life.”
You can read the full interview here.