By Jessica Radloff. Photos: Courtesy of The CW, Jessica Radloff.
From a young age, Riverdale star Lili Reinhart was determined to be a working actress, even if it meant recruiting someone else to help make that dream come true. "I was 14 years old, and my mom would drive me from our home in Cleveland to New York City for auditions," she recalls. "My mom was a trooper."
But when your kid is getting booked on shows like Law & Order: SVU ("My first TV role!"), you know it's not a fluke. "I was an entertainer since I was born," the 20-year-old remembers. "I would come up with these dances for my family and perform plays and make videos by myself with our home video camera. My parents just had faith in me, and thank God they did. They weren't stage parents in the slightest. I’m just lucky they believed in me enough to help me pursue. I couldn’t have done it without them."
Reinhart's parents also supported their daughter when she went through a difficult time and sought professional help. "It came to a point where I told my parents I wanted to see a therapist and a psychiatrist and see if there was medication I could [go on]," she tells us. "I was very proactive. It makes me feel stronger to be able to say that I was able to seek help when I knew that I needed it and not just suffer in silence."
It's those qualities that make Reinhart proud to play Betty Cooper on the CW series—which was recently renewed for a second season: "She's a passionate, strong woman who loves her family and friends, but she is also battling her demons, which I think is beautiful to watch." Something else that's pretty empowering? Watching Reinhart navigate her newfound fame and using her platform to speak up about mental health. Read on for more. (But warning: There are spoilers ahead if you aren't caught up on Riverdale.)
Glamour: Let's jump right in to Riverdale. In episode two, Betty tells Cheryl, “Get out of my house before I kill you.” Then, in episode four, we find out she has Ms. Grundy’s gun in her dresser drawer. My initial thought was that Betty killed Jason or maybe Betty’s dad did it and is covering up for her?
Lili: When I got episode two, I was like, "Whoa, this is a side of Betty we haven’t seen before!" It was used as a good foreshadowing of Betty’s explosion in episode three. I think it was a nod to Betty’s dark side. It comes out when Betty’s buttons are pushed, especially when it comes to Polly.
Glamour: Did the cast come up with their own theories about who killed Jason Blossom?
Lili: We all definitely had our own theories. Cole [Sprouse] has an extremely elaborate one about how he thought Jughead was the killer. Madeleine [Petsch] thought it was her at one point. We were all just tossing around ideas. But once we all started talking about it, we nipped each other’s ideas in the bud. We’d say, "No, that can’t work because of this," or "No, that can’t work because of that." I feel like no matter who we thought who was the killer, there was also a reason why they couldn’t have been. Eventually I just gave up! [Laughs] I was like, "I’ll just find out when I find out" instead of torturing myself to figure out who the killer was. [Now that I know], I’ve literally told no one. I haven’t told my mom. No one knows except for the cast and the people working on the show, which is wonderful. We’ve all been really good at keeping it a secret.
Glamour: Last week’s episode was a big one: Polly is pregnant with Jason Blossom's baby. Was that a shock to you?
Lili: That was something that [executive producer] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] was talking about when we were filming the pilot. I’m really happy that our fans weren’t exposed to that secret and everything was very under wraps. Any time Tiera [Skovbye], who plays Polly, was on set, we’d have to hide the belly because sometimes there’d be paparazzi or fans nearby. If someone got a picture, it’s ruined.
Glamour: We find out Polly had been kept against her will and had no idea that Jason is dead. And it looks as though Polly’s parents are brainwashing her—but still, you'd like to believe the parents are good-intentioned. Who should we trust?
Lili: As an audience member, you’re struggling with whether to believe Polly or Polly’s parents. You’re going on that journey with Betty because Betty doesn’t know either. She questions whether Polly is crazy, her parents are crazy, or even if she’s crazy. She’s questioning herself, her sister’s mental health, and her own mental health. It’s her parents that are telling her this! As much as she doesn’t want to believe them, it’s like, "Why would her parents lie to her?" As an audience member, I’m a big advocate for mental health awareness, and I would say you don’t take those things lightly. We know at this point that Betty’s parents are pretty manipulative and willing to twist the truth in order to keep their daughters safe—or what they think is safe. Don’t trust any of the parents in Riverdale. That’s maybe a solid underlying piece of advice. Or don’t trust anyone! You don’t know who’s lying.
Glamour: Speaking of mental health, I think it's a topic that deserves to be explored more in depth.
Lili: We definitely address it with Betty in the latter half of the season. Episode 10 specifically is a good one for Betty’s darker side and Betty battling her demons, which I think is beautiful to watch. You don’t usually see a character come to terms with what’s “wrong” with them...what’s not socially acceptable with them or what’s considered “normal.” Roberto and I have already talked about doing that in season two, possibly Betty seeking treatment or seeking help. Because it’s not something you brush under the rug. Certainly for me, I came to a point where I told my parents I wanted to see a therapist and a psychiatrist and see if there was medication I could [go on]. I was very proactive, and I think showing a strong young woman who is willing to seek help…you don’t see that.
Glamour: Right. It's underrepresented.
Lili: Exactly. I think that’s important. I would love to see Betty take ownership, which she does later in the season. She comes to terms with digging her nails into her hands and [that] kind of self-harm and her journey to discovering that she needs help and it’s OK to seek help. I want to see more exploration into these people’s demons.
Glamour: I’d love if they'd introduce a therapist because every one of these characters could benefit from it. And it helps break down the stigma that some people still feel.
Lili: It’s perhaps in the works. [Smiles] Some people think that seeing a therapist is admitting weakness; it’s such an old-fashioned way of looking at things. It makes me feel stronger to be able to say I was able to seek help when I knew that I needed it and not just suffer in silence. What’s the point? I was actively trying to make myself feel better, and that’s what I did. Honestly, therapy was a life saver. The same with medication. I did what I had to do, and I don’t think it’s weak. Saying that you’re sad or you’re hurt is not saying that you’re less than or that you’re [admitting weakness](http://www.glamour.com/story/riverdale-star-lili-reinhart-opens-up-about-betty-cooper). It’s the opposite. I wouldn’t be able to be here without therapy and without my medication that helps me. It takes the edge off and makes me not feel anxiety for no reason. I don’t know why people have a stigma against medication.
Glamour: I agree. I'm on a low-dose myself, and there's nothing wrong with it. You have to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.
Lili: Yeah, it’s a chemical in your brain. I was afraid to go on medication at first. This is a very common worry—that it was going to change me and make me less of a goofball than I was or make me feel less like myself. I quickly learned, though, that is so not the case. It’s just a matter of helping alleviate the unnecessary anxieties so you can be happy and be yourself.
Glamour: Was there anything in particular that caused anxiety and depression for you?
Lili: School was a big source of anxiety for me. I hated school. I have social anxiety, and it developed when I was a kid. I had trouble going to birthday parties. It was always there. I begged my mom to let me be home-schooled at one point for a semester because I was so miserable at school. I wasn’t being bullied—there was no particular reason—but depression runs in my family. That’s something that can be hard to come to terms with. There wasn’t a particular reason why I was feeling this way, but you don’t need a reason—it’s depression. It’s a chemical in your brain that can be helped with medication, so that’s what I did. I didn’t really need someone’s approval to be like, "OK, it makes sense why you’re unhappy." You don’t need validation from someone like that. You don’t need validation to feel like it’s OK to be sad. As long as you try to figure it out and solve it to make things better, that’s all that matters.
Glamour: That's why I love the scenes with Betty and Jughead. They are emotionally each other’s buoy.
Lili: They are pulled together because Betty keeps her darkness on the inside, and I think Jughead wears it on the outside. They are slowly drifting together because she’s attracted to his darkness and his ability to come to terms and live with his dark side, whereas she pushes it away. He doesn’t necessarily try to push his bright side away; it just doesn’t come out very often. I think Betty brings out that side in him. They are very much on the same page, intellectually. Emotionally, I think they’re very deep, passionate people. When you put two passionate people together like that—especially when they’re trying to find Polly—a very intimate relationship comes out of it, and that’s what you see happens. In last week’s episode, Jughead was all about helping Betty. In tonight's episode, Betty is all about helping Jughead. It’s a give and take, not one-sided, which may have happened in a less mature relationship.
Glamour: Do you want to see them explore a physical or sexual relationship?
Lili: There is more than just a friendship there. It’s more than just platonic. But I think sex and being sexual is the last thing on both of their minds because they both obviously have a lot of family issues they’re dealing with. And even being sexual teenagers—again, they are more mature, while Archie is still stuck in that headspace. It just shows the different levels and the different maturities of the characters. At this point, Betty and Jughead are taking their time. That’s so much more satisfying to me as an audience member because it makes when they kiss so much more special.
Glamour: K.J. [Apa, who plays Archie,] was hinting to me that Betty and Archie are endgame. Will we see a love triangle develop between these three?
Lili: K.J. is such a Betty and Archie [fan]! He wants them together!
Glamour: Why is he such a die-hard Archie and Betty fan?
Lili: Because he loves me. [Laughs] He wants to make out with me is all.
Glamour: Who could blame him?
Lili: [Laughs] No, I feel like when he was introduced to the Archie story he was told Betty and Archie are endgame, so I think that’s what he sticks to and thinks must be the right thing. But you do see maybe some flares of jealousy; it comes with the territory when your best friend is with someone else. It’s like, "Who is this person?" It’s this territorial thing for your best friend.
Glamour: Fans love you guys on social media. What is that like for you?
Lili: It’s awesome. It’s very interesting and funny to see how invested people are in these characters, but it makes it so worthwhile. We’ve invested six months of our time in Vancouver, so to see that people are actually invested and care makes it so worth it. Twitter is more intense than Instagram, for me at least. They think Cami Mendes, [who plays Veronica,] and I are in love. They think that we queer-bait them…
Glamour: To make it look like you guys are an item?
Lili: Yes. Honestly, we are so goofy with each other and are really close friends. That’s what girls do. Like, "I’m obsessed with her. I want to marry her. I’m in love with her." It’s just because we’re in the spotlight and playing girls that people want to see them sexually together. They kind of pin that on us which is…you can’t get mad about it. People want Veronica and Betty to be together! Cami and I are goofy together and when we get close, like girls do, people see what they want to see. The love that you see between Cami and I is totally real. We love each other, and we’re really close friends. So, if [people on Twitter] want to call me a lesbian, that’s fine. It’s not an insult.
Glamour: How are you most like Betty and how are you least like Betty?
Lili: I'm least like Betty in that Betty is the person who is friends with everyone. I’m the kind of person if I don’t like you, unfortunately you know that. Everything I’m thinking in my head goes onto my face, so you can see right through me. Even as an actor, I can't hide in real life how I feel about people. I live my life [by the rule] that if you don’t want someone in your life, they don’t have to be there. I think Betty doesn’t live by that rule. I’m like her in the sense that [I do have a lot of love to give](http://www.glamour.com/story/riverdale-star-lili-reinhart-opens-up-about-betty-cooper). She cares so much about her family and friends, and that’s how I am. Even though I may be a little harsh and blunt, I’m still loving!
Glamour: Lastly, this is so trivial, but I have to know: Does the ponytail hurt? Because that is one tight ponytail you sport on the show.
Lili: It’s kind of like a face-lift! But it’s not as tight as it looks. We try not to use a lot of hairspray. We actually use a lot of water to dampen it and keep the fly aways down. For some reason, it doesn’t look greasy on camera. I was worried I’d be struggling because I get migraines and headaches, but it actually wasn’t a problem. I had to battle with Roberto, our show runner, though because I’d be like, "Can Betty have her hair down for this scene? Or maybe half-up?" People on Twitter would ask that too, but I was like, "Just be patient! I’m fighting for it!" But when Betty does have her hair down, it’s more of a significance behind it. In season two, we could explore how Betty’s mood and what’s going on in her life affects her outward appearance. You never know.
A new episode of Riverdale airs tonight on the CW and is also streaming on Netflix the day after.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
More from Glamour: