‘Riverdale’ Actress Lili Reinhart Reflects on the Success of the Show and Navigating the Entertainment Industry
Lili Reinhart’s first performances were much smaller than the ones she does now. They mostly involved her trying to get a laugh out of her family as she frolicked around her childhood living room. “I grew up performing little skits for my family. I was such a goofball as a kid.” These little performances were the building blocks to Reinhart’s career. Now, she stars in the popular TV show Riverdale which is watched by millions across the world.
Reinhart grew up performing wherever she could. Acting was a way for her to have fun and express herself; “It was very natural. I was really born with a want to entertain. There was always a part of me that was a performer, but I think I really harnessed the craft doing theatre.” Plays were the first “official” acting jobs that Reinhart ever had. Theatre was a way for her to explore her ability to act and perform outside of her living room. As a child and as a teenanger, Reinhart had roles in many different plays, but the one that stayed with her was her role as Alice in Alice in Wonderland Jr. when she was 12. Reinhart recalls, “It was pretty amazing, as a twelve year-old, being the lead in a show. It rocked my world; I felt like a little star! It encouraged me and my parents that I had enough talent to pursue something bigger.” And so she did.
When Reinhart and her parents realized her full potential, they decided to start looking for representation. “At first [acting] was for fun, but then I started looking for an agent, someone who could help me really get out there.” Reinhart and her mom began their quest for an agent. They found a local agency in Cleveland, but soon realized it didn’t have the capability to get Reinhart the work she wanted. Unable to find anyone in the area that could fulfill their wants, Reinhart and her mom took the matter in their own hands and began looking for parts themselves. Reinhart’s mom has been one of the most supportive and influential people in Reinhart’s career. She maintained full hope and support for Reinhart, including driving her from Cleveland to New York for auditions whenever she could. These long trips often produced nothing for Reinhart. “I spent most of my career not in LA, being in Ohio or North Carolina, trying to make my career work by doing self tapes at home with my mom. People are always going to want to book someone that they see in the room versus a video taped audition. So, I was struggling for a really long time trying to get work and feeling really discouraged by never booking anything and not making any money.” The stress and continuous rejection often made Reinhart question what she was doing. “It was hard. I had to ask myself, do I want to have an unsure career my whole life? I was really grappling with the idea of going to college and studying something else. I didn’t know if acting was something I could really handle.” These feelings of uncertainty and confusion lived in Reinhart for a couple of years as she continued to do self tapes at home to try to book a role. Eventually, Reinhart decided to move to Los Angeles alone to pursue her acting career more seriously. This didn’t go exactly as planned for her as the stress only intensified when she left home. “I moved home from LA after five months because I was so depressed and I didn’t have any money. But then I wanted rebuild myself, get back into my passion and grow more as an artist because that’s what I wanted to do. So, I didn’t go to college because I didn’t want a plan B. I didn’t want to have something to fall back on. I didn’t want to settle for anything else.” The new and improved Reinhart went back out into the world auditioning, and this eventually led her to land the role of Betty Copper in The CW’s Riverdale.
Riverdale is one of the most popular shows on TV today. The show is based on the famous Archie Comics, which revolve around a group of teenagers. The show follows the lives of Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, and Veronica Lodge and their reactions to the death of a beloved classmate. The roles are all played by incredible up and coming actors, and the cast has become very close because of the show. Reinhart remarks,“We’re very close as a group, which is amazing! I can’t imagine working on a show for this long and not liking the people that I work with. I never really had a huge group of friends growing up. I always had the same friend for most of my childhood, and all of a sudden I was gifted these 10 new friends! And my relationships with them keep getting stronger, and I’m so grateful for that.” Riverdale is the perfect blend of mystery and drama, keeping viewers on their toes and engaged through every minute of it. The show has received tremendous praise along with a giant fan base. Since its premiere, it has become one of the most successful shows on The CW. While the incredible response to the show has been overwhelming, it certainly did not surprise Reinhart. “The attention that comes with the show is surprising, but the fact that the show is doing so well is not. We all kind of knew that it was something special when we were filming the pilot.” With the success of the show has come a lot of attention for Reinhart and her life.
With her newfound fame, Reinhart is still trying to find a a way to keep the parts of her life she wants to maintain private as such. With social media, there is more pressure than ever to put every detail of our lives out to the public. For celebrities, this pressure is heightened as people are interested in anything and everything about their lives. Reinhart has no problem drawing the line between what she keeps personal and what is public; “I don’t have a problem sharing pictures of my niece and my dogs and the things I love online, but I’m not going to show me hanging out with my parents or sisters. That stuff is more private. I also don’t want to talk about my personal relationships, ones that I’m in or that I’ve had. I think it’s good to keep my private life private. For me, it’s what I need. I don’t want the world to know when I break up with someone or get into a relationship. I want people to see me as a human and to recognize me for the work I’ve done, not by whom I’ve dated.” Her confidence in knowing where to draw the line has caused some controversy with fans of the show. Fans sometimes equate Reinhart to her character, Betty, off the show, not acknowledging that she has a personal life. Reinhart remains set about what she wants to remain private. She’s learned that “what you give is never enough. People will always want to know more, and if you can learn how to draw the line, then hopefully people will realize that and respect your boundaries, eventually.” Having said that, Reinhart has been very open about many issues she has faced throughout her life, particularly pertaining to her own mental health.
Riverdale delves into a series of complex and much needed discussion of issues that affect adolescents today. For Reinhart, a lot of these issues are extremely relatable. Reinhart has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her life. She is very open about her experiences and never shies away from them. In her words, “talking about mental health has always been a very natural thing for me to do, so I didn’t realize that people were going to take so much from me talking about it. To me, it’s an essential part of who I am and to see how people have reacted to me talking about it really highlights how little we talk about it. And even now, with filming season two, I’ve experienced depression, and people keep telling me I have everything I could possibly want, so why am I depressed? But if people are still asking that question then we obviously still have to educate people about mental health. It’s such a big part of my journey and how I got to be where I am. I had to combat depression, and it’s something that I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, probably.” Reinhart’s willingness to speak about her own experiences with mental health issues is incredibly important in helping destigmatize depression and anxiety in society. And while Reinhart is open about her problems, she refuses to let them define her. “I try to let it be a part of me but not all of me. I’m so much more than my depression. My struggles are a part of me, but they don’t define me.