Sad Details About Lifetime Actors

This article includes references to substance addiction, eating disorders, and sexual abuse.

The Lifetime Movie Network produces a range of films, including cozy Christmas features, romantic romps, and heartbreaking biopics. The network has gifted viewers with beloved flicks like "Marry Me" and "Sundays at Tiffany's" while also chronicling the lives of everyone from British royalty to the likes of Amanda Knox, Brittany Murphy, and Marilyn Monroe. And, like its rival Hallmark Media, the Lifetime Movie Network has been able to tap into plenty of star power to bring its features to life.

Some stars, like Reese Witherspoon, Danielle Panabaker, and Zac Efron, marked their early career with roles in Lifetime movies, before taking on bigger movie and TV parts which would catapult them into the limelight. Meanwhile, there are stars like Vivica A. Fox and Rob Lowe, who make a habit of working with the network over and over again.

But perhaps life has imitated art too much for some of the network's actors. Because, as often as a Lifetime movie tells a heartbreaking story, there's often something equally sad going on behind the scenes. From addiction and sexual abuse, to cancer and shocking deaths, there are plenty of stars who haven't had it easy. Keep reading for the sad details about these Lifetime actors.

Lucy Hale's rocky journey to sobriety

Before she was Aria Montgomery in "Pretty Little Liars," Lucy Hale starred in a popular Lifetime movie. She played college freshman Katie Parker in "Sorority Wars," starring alongside Phoebe Strole as her best friend Sara Snow. The 2009 film was largely well received, adding to the upward trajectory Hale's career was on. The following year, the Tennessee native shot to fame playing one of Rosewood's titular liars, holding a starring role in the teen drama from 2010 to 2017.

By the time the Freeform series ended, Hale was a 20-something-year-old actor who'd been in the spotlight for 15 years, and it had taken its toll. She'd started drinking alcohol at age 14 and it became a problem shortly after. And things got worse for her as a young teen. "I struggled with an eating disorder because society makes it really freaking hard to like the way you look," she revealed on "The Diary of a CEO" podcast. Although she found a way to deal with her eating disorder prior to starring in "Pretty Little Liars," Hale continued drinking throughout the show's run. She admitted that she would often drink until she blacked out, forgetting everything after her second drink. She explained that her addiction stemmed from feeling like alcohol made her feel like her true self. "I just held onto that belief that real Lucy came out when she was drinking," she said.

Hale knew that she had a problem, though, telling Steve Bartlett that her journey to sobriety began when she was 20-years-old. In January 2023, at age 33, Hale publicly celebrated her first year of sobriety.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Alexa PenaVega severed her son's finger in a tragic accident

You might know Alexa PenaVega best as Carmen Cortez in the "Spy Kids" movies, the first of which debuted in 2001. By 2003 she'd finished up the original trilogy and followed up her movie success with a role in Lifetime's "Odd Girl Out," playing Vanessa Snyder, a young girl who was a victim of cyberbullying. However, the former child star has been vocal about her complicated relationship with Hollywood and the level of stardom she garnered so early on in her life. It ultimately pushed her and her husband Carlos PenaVega to leave Los Angeles and start a new life for themselves in Hawaii. "I needed a heart reset. I was the one trapped in the entertainment world and needed to take a step back," she told Fox News. At the time, she was willing to risk her career for the move, but she's ended up working more than ever.

Unfortunately, though, the PenaVegas experienced a serious trauma before they moved. The mum-of-three was sadly responsible for an accident that severed the finger of her middle child, Kingston James. "While getting the kids ready for bed, I shut Kingston's fingers in the hinge of the bathroom door. His first finger is bruised and a little bloody ... but his middle finger took the brunt of it and was severed from the first knuckle near the tip," PenaVega revealed on Instagram (via People). This was an understandably difficult time for the family, but the actor shared that Kingston recovered quickly.

Eric Roberts has dealt with addiction for most of his career

Eric Roberts has carved out quite a Hollywood legacy for himself and his family, which includes his sister Julia Roberts and his daughter Emma Roberts, both of whom are also successfully navigating the family business. With over 700 acting credits to his name, Roberts is easily one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. And part of what has made him so successful is his long-time relationship with the Lifetime Movie Network. His most well-known Lifetime movies come from the "Stalked by My Doctor" franchise, which debuted in 2015.

But, despite his obvious acting success, Roberts has never been seen as a "leading man" in Hollywood. This is, in part, due to his decades-long drug addiction, which involved cocaine and marijuana. He admitted to Vanity Fair that not only did it cause a falling out between him and his sister, but it hampered his career, too. "Woody Allen. I met him very stoned, and he dismissed me, as well he should have. I did that for about 10 years," Roberts said. Looking back, the actor realized this was a cry for help. "The whole point being I was asking for help, saying, 'You see where I'm at—now help me, because I'm worth helping.' I get it now. I just didn't get it when I should have." He managed to overcome his cocaine addiction privately, but it wasn't until he went on the fourth season of "Celebrity Rehab" in 2010 that Roberts started to address his issues with pot.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Christina Ricci struggled with the intense scrutiny over her body image

Christina Ricci has been a staple on screens ever since she portrayed Wednesday Addams in the 1991 feature "The Addams Family." She followed this up with the 1993 sequel as well as other fantasy flicks like "Casper," before taking on more mature roles in "Ally McBeal" and "Grey's Anatomy." For years she continued to make diverse acting choices which culminated in Ricci starring in Lifetime's eight-part TV series "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles," which aired in 2015.

Although the actor successfully made the transition from child actor to adult star, it wasn't easy. Ricci experienced intense scrutiny over her body when she was young. She revealed that the constant fixation on her body and looks, especially while going through puberty, led her to develop anorexia. "People would basically all get together and look at you and decide how to fix everything that was wrong with you. And I never enjoyed those days of everybody talking about my flaws," Ricci recalled to Today. This scrutiny began at a young age, but only got worse as she got older. "When I was 12 or 13 and started to have boobs, they would talk about how to make me look less womanly," she explained, noting that it was a very unpleasant experience. However, Ricci has taken strides not to continue the cycle and explained that she plans to teach her daughter about the importance of eating for nutrition and not attaching any unhealthy labels to food.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Jennifer Taylor almost quit acting because she couldn't make ends meet

The hit CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men" wouldn't have been the same without Jennifer Taylor's Chelsea Melini, who appeared on 36 episodes of the show between 2003 and 2015. Introduced as nothing more than one of Charlie's (Charlie Sheen) many one-night-stands, their relationship soon evolves and she becomes one of the few women he ever truly loves. Charlie and Chelsea's relationship, which culminates in them getting engaged and subsequently breaking up, is the main story arc of the tail end of the show's sixth season, and its seventh. However, had things worked out differently for Taylor, she may not have been the one to bring out this unseen side of Charlie.

Back in 2008, prior to getting the role in the Chuck Lorre-created series, Taylor almost walked away from acting because she couldn't provide for her family. "We were literally gonna lose our house. I was getting to the point where I thought, 'Is it really worth it for me to do maybe one or two guest stars a year and be so far away from our family?' It was a really, really hard time. I was literally face down on the floor pleading, 'God, tell me what you want me to do. I'll do whatever you say. Am I supposed to stop acting? Because I will,'" Taylor admitted, per Medium. She had resigned herself to leaving Los Angeles and moving to her Florida hometown to become a teacher when she got the role of Chelsea. This subsequently led to Taylor carving out a space for herself on the Lifetime Movie Network, appearing in dozens of made-for-TV-movies since 2013.

Hayden Panettiere's postpartum depression and drug use left her in 'a cycle of self-destruction'

After a few voice roles in animated movies and several recurring TV roles in shows like "Ally McBeal," Hayden Panettiere got her breakout role playing Claire Bennet in NBC's superhero drama "Heroes," which she starred in alongside her then-boyfriend Milo Ventimiglia. The show ran from 2006 to 2010, and it wasn't long before secured another part on another long-running TV show; she played Juliette Barnes on Nashville from 2012 to 2018. Between her stints on the two shows, Panettiere starred in Lifetime's true crime film "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy," playing Knox.

But, despite her career success, everything was not alright behind-the-scenes. Panettiere told People that she spent years coping with mental health and addiction issues, which began when someone who worked for her offered her "happy pills" at age 15. Things only got worse after her daughter Kaya, who she shares with ex Wladimir Klitschko, was born in 2014, though. The "Scream" actor was suffering from postpartum depression and continued using drugs. Reflecting on that time, Panettiere said: "I didn't want to be around me. But with the opiates and alcohol, I was doing anything to make me feel happy for a moment." But inevitably, it didn't last. "I'd feel worse than I did before. I was in a cycle of self-destruction." It took years for Panettiere to get out of that cycle, but she did, noting that all the hard work she put in gave her a second chance at life.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Anne Heche tragically died after a car accident

Anne Heche's career began in 1987 when she scored the Daytime Emmy Award-winning roles of twins Vicky and Marley in the soap "Another World." Her career continued to escalate and before the '90s were out, Heche had starred alongside the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Tommy Lee Jones, Don Cheadle, and Harrison Ford. Then, in 2004, she made her Lifetime debut alongside Kristen Bell in "Gracie's Choice." It was not her only film on the network. In between starring in "Everwood" and "Chicago P.D.," Heche starred in a handful of Lifetime features.

However, tragedy struck in August 2022, when Heche was in a serious car accident. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was behind the wheel of the car which crashed into a house. The accident, which occurred in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles, left Heche in a coma for a week. During that time, Lifetime Executive VP and Head of Programming Amy Winter issued a statement of concern for the star and gave an update that the movie she's been filming, "Girl in Room 13," was finished. he movie, which is about human trafficking, was particularly important to Heche, according to Winter. "We all sought to make a film to shed light on this important issue," she added. Heche, unfortunately, didn't come out of the coma and died from injuries relating to the crash. "Girl in Room 13" was released later that year, dedicated to Heche's memory.

Kristen Wiig said her IVF struggle was the worst time of her life

Although she's been known to take on more serious roles in movies like "The Martian" and Lifetime's "A Deadly Adoption," Kristen Wiig is best known for being a comedic actor. Her hits include movies like "Bridesmaids," "Friends With Kids," and "Ghostbusters." Unfortunately for Wiig, though, her life outside of work hasn't always been a barrel of laughs. In August 2020, the actor opened up about her incredibly painful fertility journey and her and her husband Avi Rothman eventually becoming parents.

The couple, who got engaged in 2019, spent years trying to have a baby. "We've been together for about five years, and three of them were spent in an IVF haze. Emotionally, spiritually, and medically, it was probably the most difficult time in my life," she revealed to InStyle. Wiig continued: "I wasn't myself. There are so many emotions that go with it — you're always waiting by the phone and getting test results, and it was just bad news after bad news ... There was a lot of stress and heartache."

Although typically very private about her personal life, Wiig explained that she wanted to share her story because she felt IVF wasn't talked about enough when she was going through it. She told the outlet that she hopes sharing her experience can help someone else in the future. Thankfully, there was a happy ending to Wiig and Rothman's story as the couple welcomed twins Shiloh and Luna in January 2020 and tied the knot the following year.

Sarah Paulson tries not to share much about her 'complicated' childhood

Sarah Paulson has starred in a handful of made-for-TV movies during her career. Peppered in between her stints in "Jack and Jill," "Grey's Anatomy," and "12 Years a Slave" are movies like Lifetime's "A Christmas Wedding" and Hallmark's "November Christmas." Having then gone on to spend the better part of a decade starring in the horror anthology series "American Horror Story," it's very likely that Paulson will pop up on your screen in something or another.

However, for the most part, the "Ratched" actor has always been very private, keeping particularly quiet about the earlier years of her life, so her fans may feel like they don't know too much about her. The reason she's kept her past under wraps is perhaps because she doesn't have the fondest memories of her childhood. In 2016, she gave a rare glimpse into her past, revealing to The New York Times that she had a "complicated" home life. The outlet reported that at the age of five, her mom moved Paulson and her sister from Florida to New York without their father, in order to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. There, they lived together in a small apartment in Queens, which saw the actor sleeping on a mattress on the floor for long periods.

Melissa Joan Hart was almost fired from Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Although she has a ton of credits to her name, Melissa Joan Hart will always be everybody's favorite teenage witch, Sabrina Spellman. She played the witch from 1996 until 2003, but time on the hit show almost ended in 1999. It was a big year for Hart. Not only was she filming "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and the spinoff movie "Sabrina Down Under," but she appeared in Britney Spears' music video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy," and starred opposite Adrian Grenier in "Drive Me Crazy." The movie, which is now a cult-classic high school romantic comedy-drama, led to a nude photo scandal which almost cost her the role of Sabrina. Thankfully, she didn't lose the role, but it was a difficult time for Hart. She opened up to USA Today about it, explaining: "Archie Comics had a contract that I would never play (Sabrina) naked. But then I did the cover of Maxim magazine, and for some reason — no idea how this happened — Maxim had the cover say 'Sabrina' instead of 'Melissa." According to the outlet, the headline read: "Sabrina: Your favorite witch without a stitch."

The cover shoot and interview for the article, which included explicit references to a Playboy party Hart had attended, turned into a huge scandal. It came to a head at the premiere of "Drive Me Crazy" in New York. "My lawyer comes up to me on the red carpet and basically says, 'Don't talk to the press, you're being fired from your show,'" the actor recalled to E!

Grant Show felt completely lost after Melrose Place

"Dynasty" actor Grant Show rose to fame playing the tough but kind-hearted teen heartthrob Jake Hanson on "Melrose Place" from 1992 to 1997. Although the "Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff was well received, the years after it went off air were not kind to Show. He struggled to move on from the iconic character both professionally and personally.

"A few years after 'Melrose Place,' when the luster of 'Melrose Place' wore off and what was left was just the stink and I was just doing bad TV movies, that was a personal low point," he recalled to The New York Times. Those "bad" made-for-TV movies that he referred to included the 1998 natural disaster film "Ice," which premiered to negative reviews. The situation got so bad that Show admitted that there were even periods of time where he wasn't working at all.

Eventually, he was able to find a way forward and leave Jake behind, though. It took a few years, but by 2003, Show was back in leading roles, playing Alex Lofton opposite Danielle Panabaker and Gail O'Grady in Lifetime's "Sex and the Single Mom" and its sequel.

Nancy McKeon lost two close family members in quick succession

You probably recognize Nancy McKeon as Jo Polniaczek from NBC's sitcom "The Facts of Life" or as Jinny Exstead from Lifetime's police procedural "The Division." If you're a Lifetime fan, then you've probably also seen her in the network's made-for-TV movie "You Light Up My Christmas."

Family is important to McKeon, who lives out of the spotlight on a ranch in Texas with her husband Marc Andrus, who she met on the set of "A Mother's Gift" and their two daughters. Her extended family also included her brother and fellow actor Philip McKeon and their parents Donald and Barbara. Unfortunately, the Lifetime actor suffered a double tragedy at the end of 2019 when she lost two family members within two months.

McKeon's father died in October and the following month she shared a post on Instagram, celebrating her brother and thanking him for his support. "A huge happy birthday to my big brother!! It's been a tough time lately... but as we've always said...we'll get through it you Dude," she wrote. But sadly, the McKeon family was struck with tragedy once again, when Philip died in December as a result of an ongoing illness. During this understandably hard time, a source close to McKeon told People that she and her family were getting through it together.

Vanessa Williams was sexually abused as a child

Vanessa Williams is a triple threat in the entertainment industry. As a singer, actor, and dancer, she has had an impressive career thus far. With eight studio albums to her name, and acting credits in everything from the 2002 Broadway production of "Into the Woods," ABC's hit comedy-drama "Desperate Housewives," and Lifetime movies like "The Courage to Love." However, much of Williams' life has been overshadowed by a trauma she experienced as a child.

When she was 10-years-old, Williams tagged along on a family friend's summer holiday to California. It was there, while staying with their family friends, that she was sexually abused by their older daughter. On "Oprah's Masterclass" she explained that she felt conflicted about the girl performing oral sex on her without her consent. She added that she didn't fully understand what was happening at the time. "I knew it felt good, but also something that was not supposed to be happening," she explained. Ultimately, she decided not to tell anyone about it, but the experience haunted her for years to come. "At that young age, having that happen to you in your body, it awakens your sexuality at an age where it shouldn't be awakened ... I think [that] it made me more sexually promiscuous and more curious at a younger age than I should have been," Williams said.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Shannen Doherty got a devastating breast cancer diagnosis

"Beverly Hills, 90210" alum Shannen Doherty has been the subject of many media headlines during her career, from scandals about her onset feuds to opinions on her relationships, like her short-lived marriage to bad boy actor Ashley Hamilton. Nevertheless, the "Charmed" star has managed to forge a successful career as an actor and director. Doherty's passion for her craft is clear, even after decades. She even revisited one of her most iconic roles, Heather Duke, from the 1989 movie "Heathers," when she played one of the mothers in Paramount's 2018 TV reboot.

However, this was also a difficult time for Doherty, who announced that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. Two years later, the actor, who had chronicled shaving her head on Instagram, happily announced that she was in remission. Unfortunately, this didn't last, and in 2020, Doherty announced that her cancer had returned and progressed to Stage 4. Now, it's something she has to live with for the rest of her life. And, she plans to do a lot of living, telling Elle that she feels like she's got at least a decade if not more left in her. "It's like anybody with Stage 4 faces this sort of thing, where others want to put you out to pasture. I'm not ready for pasture."

So, Doherty is continuing to do what she's passionate about; acting and directing. And she recently found some symmetry in her diagnosis in the 2021 Lifetime movie "List of a Lifetime" which saw her play a woman with breast cancer.