"I want people to see me as something other than Betty Cooper," the Riverdale star tells EW of her new movie Chemical Hearts.
Chemical Hearts
Credit: Amazon Studios

Lili Reinhart is so much more than Betty Cooper.

The 23-year-old actress has portrayed the iconic Archie Comics character on Riverdale for four seasons now, but she's taking on a much different, darker kind of role in the upcoming Amazon movie Chemical Hearts. And she's ready to show everyone what she can really do.

Based on Krystal Sutherland's YA novel Our Chemical Hearts and adapted by director Richard Tanne (Southside With You), the movie stars Reinhart as mysterious new girl Grace Town, who shows up to school wearing baggy clothes and walking with a limp. After she joins the school newspaper staff, her new classmate Henry Page (Euphoria's Austin Abrams) can't stop thinking about her. As he grows closer to her, he'll learn more about first love, heartbreak, and loss than he ever imagined.

Chemical Hearts
Credit: Amazon Studios

Along with taking on a new role behind the scenes as executive producer of the film, Reinhart feels that she's really getting to highlight more of her talents by bringing Grace to life. "People haven't really seen what I'm fully capable of," she tells EW. "Maybe they only see me as being on a commercial television show, and I hope that this shows people that my heart is really in film. I want people to see me as something other than Betty Cooper. It's hard to break out of that mold."

She adds that she was thrilled to be able to "act without limitation" on a movie set after enduring the breakneck pace of a network TV series. "That was really important to me, having silence [in scenes] and not being so pressed for time and trying to truncate things and edit the crap out of scenes to make them shorter for time," Reinhart says. "There was no pressure or rush, and which gave me an opportunity to just feel and act."

Reinhart has racked up movie roles in the past like with Hustlers and Miss Stevens, but having greater creative control on Chemical Hearts as executive producer opened her eyes to how much more she could be doing in the future. "It was a lot of work and it was cool to be an executive producer, to actually have a say in things," Reinhart says. "It's something that I wasn't used to, having that influence. But it was an incredibly collaborative experience."

Tanne agrees, telling EW that working with Reinhart on the film creatively was "fantastic." He adds, "[We] were partners from the start… I even chose one of the most important songs in the film, 'Where's My Love,' by SYML, after hearing it on a playlist that Lily made for Grace's character."

Chemical Hearts
Credit: Amazon Studios

As Reinhart and Tanne worked together to bring Grace and Henry's story from the page to the screen, they ended up making a movie that's more than just one genre. "On the one hand, it is a romance, but it's not a traditional romance because it's not a meet-cute or a will-they-won't-they," Tanne says. "They get together really quickly. We have a character with a physical disability and we had to make sure that that was respected and treated appropriately. We also had to juggle this mystery structure; Grace remains an enigma throughout much of the movie, and Henry is trying to understand and get to the bottom of her history and her past. And it also has elements of a movie about trauma and the way that people deal with trauma."

That's why, although it's a YA story, Tanne hesitates to classify the film as just a teen movie. "I wanted to approach it as a film that just happens to be about young people," he says. "We wanted to tell a story about the darkness and the lightness of life in general, and its ebbs and flows and transitions and hardships."

Reinhart was especially drawn to playing someone dealing with so much grief and heartache. "I knew Grace was a troubled, beautiful soul," she says. "The impression is that someone who's grieving is depressed and there's a gray cloud over them all the time, and adapting this book is a beautiful opportunity to show the fact that you can also have many, many other colors happening in your world when you are grieving. You do have moments of happiness and you have moments that are carefree. It's a misconception that you can't feel a million things at once. It's just a very confusing time, and it's incredible to look at anyone's journey through grief or heartache."

Chemical Hearts debuts Aug. 21 on Amazon Prime Video.

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