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One Tree Hill star was saved from a religious cult by the TV series

One of the stars from the One Tree Hill cast was saved from a religious cult by her decision to join the iconic teen TV series, and says it saved her life.

Hilarie Burton as Peyton, Bethany Joy Lenz as Hayley, and Sophia Bush as Brooke in One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill‘s ‘I Don’t Wanna Be’ opening theme was the soundtrack to many youths, its tale of two half-brothers battling it out on and off basketball courts worming its way into hearts. One Tree Hill‘s spirit, the likable motley crew of characters, and timing made it one of the best TV series for teens.

The One Tree Hill cast has been open about their mixed feelings — being both grateful and resentful of its success — for years, particularly after allegations concerning female stars being treated poorly on set. But between vocalizing their experiences and reclaiming the series in the lovely rewatch podcast, Drama Queens, stars Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton, and Sophia Bush still have fond memories of working together.

For Lenz (who portrayed Haley Scott and has appeared in multiple series and new movies since), joining one of the 2000s’ best drama series was a hugely important fork in the road of her life.

“One Tree Hill saved my life,” she told Variety, speaking about how she joined the series while still a member of a cult. “I grew up in a Christian home where Wednesday night Bible studies were very common. I think that there are a lot of people that can resonate with that. And I just went to another one. 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.

“But the friendships seemed deeper, more vulnerable somehow, as time went on. The person that was brought into the leadership position was sociopathic and most of us who were involved were in our early 20s.”

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Lenz reveals that there was a “whisper behind the scenes”, but her co-stars tried to help rather than simply judge her situation. “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,” she says. “But I was very stubborn. I was really committed to what I believed were the best choices I could make. Legally, I don’t think they’re allowed to be called cults, they’re ‘high-demand groups.'”

The time on set was really what made the difference, in her mind, because it prevented her from making the religion her entire life. “One Tree Hill saved my life because I was there nine months out of the year in North Carolina,” she states. “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.”

Lenz also revealed she felt she wanted to speak publicly about her experience to prevent it from becoming a simple “headline”. “My hope is that — and really why I wanted to talk about it — is because I think it can be really healing for a lot of other people.”

One Tree Hill is streaming on Hulu in the US. For more TV coverage, see our list of the best thriller series, best horror series, and everything new on Netflix, new on Amazon Prime Video, and new on Max. Our team also has plenty of small-screen opinions: Halt and Catch Fire is the best TV series you’ve never seenHenry Cavill’s final scene in The Witcher reminds us what we’ll lose; and Strange New Worlds just stole an iconic scene from Star Trek VI.