20-year-old Lili Reinhart might have gotten her big break early in her career, but that doesn’t mean it came easy. Before she charmed audiences as Betty Copper on the CW’s hit TV show Riverdale, based on the “Archie” comics, Reinhart had hit rock bottom.
The actress told W magazine that after “the worst panic attack” of her life, she had to leave Los Angeles and her dreams of becoming an actress behind to move back in with her parents in North Carolina. It’s the only thing she could do to get a handle on her mental health.
When Reinhart was just 18, she left her home in the South to go live in L.A. on her own. Reinhart was auditioning all she could, but she was also living paycheck to paycheck. The stress of never knowing where rent was coming from next, the expense of not owning a car, and “Ubering everywhere” took its toll on the young woman.
“I remember looking at my bank account and seeing all of this money that I had saved [from] acting over the course of many years just gone,” recalled Reinhart. “I had so much anxiety booking work, and I spent almost five months holed up in this bedroom in this house just feeling anxious, waiting for my next audition, and not doing anything else. It was the most miserable time of my life.”
She made the logical decision to take control of her finances by working a part-time job at a restaurant on Universal City Walk. Even though it would help her money-related stress, Reinhart was concerned that the job might make her anxiety flare up—something she had experienced working restaurant jobs in the past.
“I had had to quit a few jobs in North Carolina because of how anxious they made me,” she explained. “My anxiety was so bad that I had to keep quitting jobs because I physically could not work.”
Her boss asked her to go out and buy a button-up black shirt and slipless shoes for the job. Reinhart went out shopping, but she was unable to find what she needed.
The hopelessness quickly turned into panic for Reinhart, the pressure and loneliness overwhelming her. It would turn out to be her breaking point,” described People Magazine.
A combination of carsickness and a panic attack caused her to throw up in her Uber. Then she knew she had to do something; she couldn’t continue living like she was.
“I get home, lock the door in my room, immediately Skype my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m not okay.’ I had to get a brown paper bag and breathe into it, which felt so dramatic, but I really could not breathe,” recalled Reinhart. “I felt like my world was crashing. I didn’t want to admit defeat, but I was like, ‘I need to come home. My mental health is suffering, and it is making me physically ill.’”
Once she returned home, Reinhart was able to see a therapist and regulate her anxiety with medication.
“She really helped me build myself back up again,” said Reinhart.
At that time, the role of Betty Cooper popped up. Reinhart filmed a video audition, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.
“I got my first audition for the show during that period of my life when I was rebuilding myself, and in between meds,” Reinhart said. “I went on a medicine that gave me the worst mood swings — I felt like a monster. My mom was like, ‘I can’t even be in the same room as you.’”
She didn’t get the role, but obviously, it was meant to be hers. Months later when she was back in Los Angeles, the role came back up again. This time, Reinhart got the role, and the series immediately got picked up by the CW.
“I felt like, ‘We did it,’” she said. “All my money problems went away in that moment, and I just felt like a successful working actress. I was so excited to be working and to wake up and know that I had a job.”
Have you or someone you love experienced anxiety? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments.
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