Bethany Joy Lenz Talks New Thriller So Cold the River, One Tree Hill Podcast (Exclusive)

Bethany Joy Lenz Talks New Thriller So Cold the River, One Tree Hill Podcast (Exclusive)

The actress also shares what it was like reuniting with her "One Tree Hill" co-stars and "Drama Queens" podcast co-hosts Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton on Bush's series "Good Sam."

Bethany Joy Lenz is opening up about her latest project, “So Cold the River.”

The psychological thriller — which is based on Michael Koryta’s bestselling novel of the same name — follows a documentary filmmaker Erica Shaw (Lenz), who is hired to profile a dying millionaire. While researching her subject and his mysterious hometown, Shaw unearths an evil force, creating a dangerous turn of events.

While speaking with TooFab from the West Baden Spring and French Lick Resort in Indiana, where “So Cold the River” was shot, the actress spoke about the project, including what was the most difficult scene to shoot.

Lenz also opened up about hosting the popular “One Tree Hill” rewatch podcast “Drama Queens” alongside her former co-stars Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton. She explained to TooFab how she believes the podcast has created a “shift in the narrative” about “One Tree Hill,” and reflected on the podcast’s success and how she’s seen the “OTH” fandom evolve.

Meanwhile, Lenz also shared what it was like reuniting on screen with Bush and Burton on a recent episode of Bush’s series “Good Sam.”

Check out the video above, and the full Q&A below!

What drew you to this project? Were you familiar with the book beforehand?

I wasn’t familiar with the book. I became familiar very quickly when I was cast, of course, but, no I hadn’t. I love murder mysteries too, so I’m surprised that I didn’t come across this one yet. But it definitely had a long-standing fan base here in Indiana as does Michael Koryta. So I’m just thrilled too that they trusted me with this project. So many people … it’s such a beloved property that it’s a big deal here.

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What was it like filming at the West Baden Spring and French Lick Resort in Indiana? Is it the first time you’ve been back at the hotel since filming?

It is my first time back. We were here in January of 2020 when we filmed. So it’s been two years in the pandemic in the middle of it when everybody was just like, “What are we doing? Do we release it? Do we wait? Do we, you know, what should we do?” So it was really a treat to be here and film in this place where it has such a rich history. There [are] so many people that have built their lives around this place. I mean, it provides jobs for an entire community and again, you know, the property of the book itself was such an important piece to this community that to be trusted with that story, to be the face of it, you know, the one carrying that burden was a really, [I] took very seriously and it seems to have been — I’ve been welcomed in with open arms by this community. So that’s been really lovely.

Now, after shooting the film and seeing the film, do you have a different perception of it now?

I saw it in my living room a year ago, no, six months ago. And it was really great to see. It was great to see everyone’s hard work come together. I’m excited to see it a second time. Because the first time you watch a film that you were in or a TV show or something, all you’re thinking about is all the memories that you had on the set and everything that was behind the scenes. And now I’ve been away from it for long enough that I think the second time around I’m really gonna be able to be objective. I’m excited. We’re watching — the premiere is tomorrow night.

This film has so many twists and turns but the last 10 or so minutes are SHOCKING. What was your first reaction when you read the script?

I read the book. … Well, I read the script first and then I read the book so I knew what was gonna happen, but I think that’s why it’s such a great payoff. It’s a slow burn. So it really fits squarely into the psychological thriller genre. I don’t know if they’re marketing it as horror or psychological thriller, but horror fans should go expecting a thriller, not a horror movie.

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There are some scary parts, though.

There are, but you know, when I think horror, there’s a certain expectation level that people go into. So if you think it’s a horror movie, you’re gonna leave kind of feeling disappointed. If you go in expecting a psychological thriller, you’re gonna get what you want.

… Because I knew what was gonna happen and I knew [of] the slow burn, it just really helped — I think it helped me knowing what our end goal was so that I could really measure the marks of where Erica’s character starts to change and continues to change along the way.

What would you say was the most difficult scene to film? Which scene did you enjoy filming the most?

One of the most difficult physically was there’s a scene in a bathtub where my eyes are open underwater. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to lay back into water, but it’s different than going straight down because water rarely goes up your nose … if you’re swimming forward, but when you lay back into water, all of it rushes up your nose and into your sinus cavity. So it was very difficult for me to lay back in this tub, like sink back into the water and then just lay there relaxed and then open my eyes. It seems like such a simple thing to do. You can see why Paul Shoulberg our writer or director, excuse me, and writer when he wrote that, why he thought, “Oh, that’ll be so that’ll be cool looking.” It was very, very difficult. And it took probably 15 takes and I just I couldn’t … every time I would go back, water would fill my nose. I was, like, spiting it all up. I mean, it was really tough. Finally I said, “Gimme one more. I went through labor, dammit. I can do this. I can muscle up,” So that’s the shot that made it into the movie.

And then I guess emotionally the most difficult scene — one of them was the interview scene with Andrew West when Erica interviews Josiah. … There was a lot of minutiae, emotional manipulation of minutiae in that scene to get it exactly right. It was like, I felt like emotionally trying to balance a toothpick on top of another toothpick. It felt really hard to get exactly where Erica was at there. I found it — I think, I hope — but it felt good to me.

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That scene was really, really powerful. It was really intense too. Like, definitely very intense.

Yeah. And so interesting, I thought, just to see these psychological dynamics playing out between the three of them. And then there was one scene where I just had to stare into the camera and Paul just said, “Run through the gamut of your emotions. Let’s see what happens.” I was like, “Okay.” And to just let myself really let go and be that raw and vulnerable. It was pretty wild.

Switching gears a bit, what was it like reuniting on-screen with your “One Tree Hill” co-stars and “Drama Queens” co-hosts Hilarie Burton and Sophia Bush on Bush’s series “Good Sam?” Did it feel like no time had passed since you had shared the screen together?

It 100% felt like no time had passed. It was great. I think we all assumed it would ’cause we’d been talking so much, you know, with the podcast, we were interacting all the time as a group text. We talk every single day. So yeah, I think we all kind of assumed it was gonna be easy, but there is always that question. We’ve all changed so much in our lives and approach our professional acumen — as you go throughout your life, you learn and you pick up different things and people adjust to what feels comfortable for them. So I think we’re all a little bit like, “Is this gonna be the same, or will it be different?” And it wasn’t. It just felt like coming home. It was easy.

As mentioned, you three host the “One Tree Hill” rewatch podcast “Drama Queens.” What has been the most exciting part about reliving and discussing past episodes of “OTH?”

Oh my gosh. The most exciting part has been that it’s not a disaster. … We were all a little scared that it was just gonna be so cringy and so full of bad memories. As many as there are good, there were also a lot of hard memories. And so I think we were all nervous. Like, “Is this gonna hurt?” And the more that we walk down the road, the more we realized, “Oh gosh, no, it actually feels great. It feels great.” For all the things that do hurt, there’s so much healing and it’s such a safe place and a safe space here among us as sisters and friends and professionals that it’s just been better than any of us could have dreamed.

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Have you been surprised by all the press pickup the podcast has received and have you noticed a shift in the narrative around the show now that you’ve reclaimed it?

There is a shift in the narrative. Isn’t there? Oh boy, it’s good. That’s the poetic justice. Like, that’s the thing where, you know, it’s just what you always hope for when you’ve been, and I hate to harp on it because we really do move, move so far into … “Drama Queens” is so not about the hard things in the past, but we do bring them up on occasion. So I don’t wanna harp on it. But when something, when you’ve been wronged in life in some way, it always feels good to see things turn around and kind of have the recompense that you deserve and that long for, and not just to get paid back, but to see it turn into something even better. Wow. That’s just a dream. So that’s been really cool.

The press pickup definitely has been something that we knew. It’s always surprising when it really works, you know? You take a big swing in this business all the time and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and we all had a feeling …. You know, it got leaked. The podcast got leaked the day before it was supposed to air. ‘Cause we were telling our platform iHeart, we were like, “Guys, this is gonna be bigger than you think it is like be cautious with [it.] They were like, “No, no, no it’s fine. It’s fine. We do this all the time.” And then we got the call, you know, midnight, like, ‘Ah! we told you. Our fans love ‘One Tree Hill.’ ‘One Tree Hill’ fans are just the best and they’re so committed. They’ll dig and dive and find.” So it was kind of fun that they did that. Yeah. And iHeart’s been awesome to work with and so supportive and they’re just keeping the machine going. It’s all great. It’s gravy right now. I’m like, I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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Have you found that the “OTH” fan base has grown and evolved over the years due to streaming?

Yes, I have. And I’ve been amazed at the age range too. We’ve got new 13, 14, 15-year-old girls watching, and boys. Some of them I’m like as a mom, I’m like, “Oh you’re so young, shouldn’t you be watching this? I know. So topics are kinda kind of mature. Yeah. But you know, whatever, they’re not my kids, not my circus. So yes, there is a new audience and that makes me really happy.

I was saying the other day on our, we did a “Drama Queens” live before the “Good Sam” episode. And we were talking about just that, how there’s a new audience. And I think a lot of them are watching it out of irony, you know, because like so many things, you know, the mom jeans are back in now, but it’s ironic. It’s not like it was when it was serious in the 80s and 90s. It’s hipster. You know, it’s irony, but I don’t care how they get into it. Irony or not. The nostalgia hits you and the stories are real and the kids are real and the emotions are real. And even though it’s a drama and there [are] moments that are heightened, this is one of the only shows on TV and currently even available on streaming platforms that really deals with very real teen feelings. Just teens feeling their feelings. There [are] no vampires, there [are] no superheroes or major genre stuff. There [are] plenty of those out there and they’re all great. But if you wanna find something, that’s just gonna feed your soul as a teenager, I think “One Tree Hill” is a great place to go.

“So Cold the River” is available to rent or buy on demand now and is out in select theaters.

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