Bethany Joy Lenz captured the hearts of fans while portraying Haley James Scott on One Tree Hill. However, her life off screen was very different, and she revealed she was a member of a cult during her time on the show.

Was Bethany Joy Lenz In a Cult?

The actress – who goes by her middle name Joy – first mentioned her past involvement in a cult during a July episode of the One Tree Hill rewatch podcast, “Drama Queens,” which she cohosts with former costars Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton Morgan.

She continued to open up about the experience during an August 2023 interview. Joy explained she became involved in the cult in her early 20s, which she said was “a year or two” after the WB-turned-CW show began in 2003. The Florida native said that she didn’t escape the organization until “shortly after” the teen drama ended in 2012.

What Cult Was Bethany Joy Lenz a Member of?

Joy was a member of the The Big House Family cult. She initially refused to name the cult, though said it was a “bible-based” group. After noting that she grew up in a Christian household, she explained it was common for her to attend “Wednesday night bible studies.” The Guiding Light actress said she would find new bible studies to attend as she moved to new cities and states to pursue acting.

“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 explained. “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.”

Joy added that she wasn’t “trying to make it a big deal,” though said rewatching the show for the podcast inspired her to share her experience.

“I was beginning to feel like I was hiding something because it was such an integral part of my personal journey while I was on One Tree Hill,” she said during the interview. “As we’re just talking about all the behind-the-scenes [moments], we keep talking about all the times everybody was hanging out. I keep saying, ‘Wish I had been there.’ Eventually, it started to feel like, ‘Why don’t you just be honest, Joy?’”

Bethany Joy Lenz Wrote a Memoir About the Cult

Joy will continue to share insight about the cult in her upcoming memoir, Dinner for Vampires. The book will break down “her decade in a cult and her quest to break free,” according to the Simon and Schuster website.

“An only child who often had to fend for herself and always wanted a place to belong, Lenz found the safe haven she’d been searching for in a Bible study group with other Hollywood creatives. However, the group soon morphed into something more sinister — a slowly woven web of manipulation, abuse, and fear under the guise of a church covenant called The Big House Family,” the description continues. “Piece by piece, Lenz began to give away her autonomy, ultimately relocating to the Family’s Pacific Northwest compound, overseen by a domineering minister who would convince Lenz to marry one of his sons and steadily drained millions of her TV income without her knowledge. Family ‘minders’ assigned to her on set, ‘Maoist struggle session’ – inspired meetings in the basement of a filthy house, and regular counseling with ‘Leadership’ were just part of the tactics used to keep her loyal.”

The “Feel This” singer eventually found the strength to leave the cult when she gave birth to her daughter, Maria, in February 2011. “After nearly a decade (and with the unlikely help of a One Tree Hill superfan), she finally managed to escape the family’s grip and begin to heal from the deep trauma that forever altered her relationship with God and her understanding of faith,” the description states.

Dinner for Vampires will be released on October 22, 2024.

Did the Cast of ‘One Tree Hill’ Try to Help Bethany Joy Lenz?

The mother of one – who shares daughter Maria with her ex-husband, Michael Galeotti – said her One Tree Hill costars helped her escape the cult.

Was Bethany Joy Lenz In a Cult? The ‘One Tree Hill’ Alum Recalls Experience With ‘Bible-Based’ Group
Rob Latour/Shutterstock

“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,” Joy recalled. “I was really committed to what I believed were the best choices I could make.”

She noted that the “nature” of her cult was “isolation” and they make members “distrust everyone around you so that the only people you trust are, first and foremost, the leadership and then, people within the group if the leadership approves of them.”

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