BEST IN SHOWS

Lili Reinhart Is a Sucker for a Period Piece

Naturally, she felt a kinship with The Queen’s Gambit’s Beth Harmon.

by Lynn Hirschberg

Lili Reinhart as Beth Harmon from ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’ Photographed by Lili Reinhart. Reinhart wears a Los Angeles Apparel turtleneck; Giorgio Armani skirt.

For W’s second annual TV Portfolio, we asked 26 of the most sought-after names in television to pay homage to their favorite small-screen characters by stepping into their shoes.

Last year, the actress Lili Reinhart told W magazine that lockdown was a time to reconnect with the people in her life and, most importantly, herself. She passed the time by painting the canyon behind the Southern California Airbnb in which she’d found refuge, writing in her journal while listening to music on Spotify, and taking care of her dog, Milo. She also, like so many, watched TV. Reinhart is known for her role as Betty Cooper on Riverdale—the very popular, very dark interpretation of the Archie comic book universe—but during quarantine, she turned to an even darker series for entertainment. The actress says she loved The Queen’s Gambit, and decided to channel Beth Harmon, the complicated chess prodigy at the center of the Netflix limited series, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Below, Reinhart expounds on her lockdown activities (which included self-help books and a trip to Mount Shasta), and her appearance on Law & Order: SVU.

Why did you pick this character and show?

I’m a sucker for a period piece. And I liked watching a young girl become an adult—have her life completely change in just a few years. I relate to that.

Do you play chess?

I don’t play chess! I don’t think I have the skills to play chess, but I admire it. I am good at some games—my family plays Scattergories, where you have to actually use paper and pens. I’m pretty good at that, but I can’t do chess.

What did you do during lockdown? Any new hobbies?

I read a lot of self-help books and dove into the self-discovery path. I went up to Mount Shasta; I work with a healer there. I deal with a lot of stress, and I found that journaling helped me. At home, I started doing jigsaw puzzles, and I also started to paint, mostly landscapes and flowers. Painting is a great stress reliever. But I did not bake bread. I think that would have made me nervous.

Other than The Queen’s Gambit, did you watch any shows during quarantine?

Besides Queen’s Gambit, I stayed away from dramas. I binge-watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It is so funny, and I wanted to laugh.

During lockdown, I was obsessed with Law & Order: SVU. You were the guest star on an episode!

Yes! It was one of the first big shows that I booked. My character was evil and nasty! In general, I have never auditioned for evil and nasty young girls. Betty is definitely the good girl on Riverdale, although she’s getting darker all the time. I need to play more villains.

In real life, are you more like sweet Betty or her opposite, Veronica?

Growing up, I was a Betty. And now, I’m more of a Veronica: spicy rather than sugary.