One Tree Hill star Bethany Joy Lenz speaks out about her 10 years in a cult

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Sep 17, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

When it comes to the world of celebrities, some stories are so captivating and unexpected that they could rival the most dramatic plot twists in our favourite TV shows. Bethany Joy Lenz, best known for her role as Haley James Scott on the beloved series One Tree Hill recently found herself in the middle of such a story. In this article, we’ll delve into the astonishing journey of how Lenz became involved in a cult, the circumstances surrounding it, and the dark cloud of sexual harassment allegations that have haunted the creator of One Tree Hill, Mark Schwahn.

Where was One Tree Hill filmed?

Production for One Tree Hill began in 2003 near Wilmington, North Carolina and nearby island beaches, and drew to a close with its final season in 2012. The narrative unfolds within the fictional backdrop of Tree Hill, a town centre in the heart of North Carolina.

How did Bethany Joy Lenz join a cult?

Lenz’s career took off when she was just a teenager portraying the lovable Haley James Scott on the hit series One Tree Hill. With her warm smile and undeniable talent, she quickly won the hearts of fans worldwide. However, in August 2023, Lenz made headlines when she disclosed on her podcast, Drama Queens, that she had spent a decade as part of a cult.

The actress also revealed that she has been writing a book about her entire experience, a project she began during the pandemic and has recently resumed. Currently, some details, including the cult’s name, are being withheld. However, Lenz emphasised that it originated as a home group bible study in Los Angeles. This news unsurprisingly sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry.

Lenz’s journey to the cult remains shrouded in mystery. The little information we have was revealed in a recent interview with Variety. The actress revealed that she became involved through a close friend who was already a member. This friend allegedly introduced her to the group, promising spiritual enlightenment and personal growth. Lured by the allure of self-discovery, Lenz decided to explore this uncharted territory.

The cult, which has managed to remain largely anonymous, reportedly preaches a mixture of New Age spirituality and self-help ideologies. Members are encouraged to cut ties with their previous lives and embrace a new, more enlightened existence. As previously mentioned, the extent of Lenz’s involvement in the group and her reasons for joining remain uncertain.

During the interview with Variety, the actress also shared her reason why she wanted to open up about her experiences within the cult, revealing: “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.”

Lenz continued, elaborating that she had turned her back on everything she had trained for and all her childhood dreams that were beginning to materialise. Instead, she chose to reside with a secluded, tight-knit group of individuals, firmly believing that she was embarking on a virtuous and spiritually significant journey.

The actress did, however, give these words of warning: “I’ll tell you, any group that requires you to believe every detail of what they believe in order to be loved without condemnation… Please run the other way. Just run.”

@othlovers_

#bethanyjoylenz on living in a #cult for ten years #foryou #onetreehill #haleyjamesscott #healing #dramaqueensoth

♬ suono originale - weloveOTH

Why did Chad Murray Michael leave One Tree Hill?

The actor, renowned for his portrayal of the main character and narrator, Lucas Scott, on the series, reportedly departed from the show due to unresolved contract negotiations. According to reports, Murray had requested a salary increase for season 7 of the popular series, but his terms were not agreed upon. Subsequently, he expressed his frustration, commenting, “I won’t be returning next year… It’s all about budget cuts… Time to vent and voice my displeasure.”

What are the sexual assault allegations against Mark Schwahn?

While Lenz’s journey to the cult was a surprising revelation, the scandal that transfixed the One Tree Hill community was of a different, even more sinister nature. In 2017, multiple cast and crew members accused the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, of sexual harassment. The allegations were truly shocking and reflected the pervasive issue of powerful men abusing their positions of power in Hollywood.

I distinctly recall the shock I felt when I learned about the revelations from the 18 women who had been part of the show. They bravely disclosed the various degrees of psychological and emotional manipulation they had endured. These allegations first emerged after a former writer on the series accused Schwahn of harassment on Twitter.

Mark Schwahn’s predatory behaviour

In a collective letter republished by Variety, the 18 women described how some of them were still receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress. They detailed how they found themselves in uncomfortable situations, necessitating them to learn self-defence, even resorting to physical means, as it became evident that those in positions of authority failed to protect them.

Notably, several female actors, including Lenz and her co-star Sophia Bush, courageously came forward to share their own experiences of harassment and misconduct on the set. When considering what Lenz had to endure, it becomes easier to understand her vulnerability and the reasons behind why she might have decided to join a cult.

Schwahn’s misconduct allegations ultimately led to his removal from the show’s production, but the scars of those experiences have definitely lingered for the cast and crew.

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