Lili Reinhart isn’t just Betty Cooper from Riverdale—although that role on the CW hit, now entering its fifth season, made her a household name for a generation of fans. Reinhart, who also appeared in 2019’s Hustlers, is ready to make a broader mark in the entertainment world through work as a producer and an author. But during her pandemic-related downtime, Reinhart turned to her public platforms to focus on something else: elevating Black voices and educating herself.
“If you haven’t learned a lot during this time, then to be honest you’re being quite ignorant,” she told TIME during a TIME 100 Talks conversation. “I want to do what I can in my power… to make this industry more racially diverse.”
Reinhart has been hosting regular Instagram conversations with Black activists and creators, broadcast to her 24 million followers. “It was right after we did the collective blackout, everyone posted a black picture in support of BLM — and I was sitting there thinking, what is this actually doing?” she explained. “I’m very cognizant of this movement and also of the part that I’ve played, as a white woman, and not understanding my privilege,” she said.
Reinhart will soon be returning to the Riverdale set, where the complications of COVID-19 mean there will be necessary safety and health precautions. “I hope we can still find joy in what we’re doing,” she said. “I’m sure we will — just with masks on our faces, basically.”
But in between filming seasons, she also produced and starred in the upcoming Chemical Hearts, out Aug. 21. Her choice to get involved behind-the-scenes comes, she said, from wanting to have more control over the decision-making: “As an actor, you’re not really making any executive decisions,” she said. “That’s something that I’ve always really wanted to do. I’ve always put my opinion out there, whether it’s wanted or not.” She hopes to continue producing, and is eager to try to diversify the stories Hollywood tells and not look at Black characters as “stereotypes.”
And she’s also finding new ways to explore her creative side. The latest: a book of poetry, Swimming Lessons, which will be released in September. “I wanted to bring comfort to people who were looking for it,” she said of her writing. “I know as a young girl I started reading poetry because I felt lost, I felt depressed and misunderstood and like I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it.” And while sharing this side of her is “nerve-wracking,” she said, it’s also a new way for her to connect with the fans who turn to her.