Former Teen Show Star Says Creator Was "Misogynistic and Creepy"
Sophia Bush just shed more light on the misconduct that occurred during One Tree Hill.
It's no wonder that the most successful teen shows are so important to their core audience. They're tied to a formative, complicated time in their viewers' live and are often looked back on with a lot of fond nostalgia. Unfortunately, when it comes to the 2000s drama One Tree Hill, there's also now a shadow hanging over it. In 2017, Variety published an open letter signed by 18 women cast and crew members alleging that One Tree Hill's creator Mark Schwahn engaged in a pattern of sexually harassing and threatening his colleagues and that it was an "open secret" on the set. In a recent podcast interview, actors Sophia Bush and Craig Sheffer opened up further about Schwahn's alleged behavior, with Bush stating, per Variety, that the showrunner was "controlling and gross and misogynistic and creepy." Read on to find out what else the former co-stars revealed.
Accusations didn't come to light publicly until after One Tree Hill ended.
One Tree Hill ran for nine seasons, from 2003 to 2012. And while the open letter about Schwahn (pictured above center) claims that his alleged misconduct was common knowledge on the set, his women colleagues didn't come forward until a few years after the series finale. The cast and crew who signed the letter were motivated to speak out in support and solidarity after one of the show's writers, Audrey Wauchope, made harassment accusations against Schwahn (though, without naming him) on her personal Twitter account.
The letter claims that women working on the show were "manipulated psychologically and emotionally" by Schwahn, "were put in positions where [they] felt physically unsafe," and were discouraged from coming forward because it "would result in our show being canceled and hundreds of lovely, qualified, hard-working, and talented people losing their jobs."
Some detailed the harassment and misconduct they experienced to Variety, including stars Hilarie Burton, who claimed that Schwahn assaulted her on several occasions, and Danneel Ackles, who recounted instances in which Schwahn came uninvited to her hotel room and her home and demanded to see her. Male and female writers reported Schwahn making inappropriate, demeaning jokes, as well as sexual advances, in the writers room.
Schwahn was fired from his new show.
At the time that the accusations because public, Schwahn was working on another show he created, The Royals, an E! drama revolving around a fictional royal family. A few days after the open letter was published, the companies behind the show issued a statement that Schwahn had been suspended to allow for an investigation. About a month later, Lionsgate circulated another statement announcing, "We have concluded our investigation and Mark will not be returning to The Royals."
Amid the suspension, Royals actor Alexandra Park responded on social media. "I am devastated to admit to myself, to my colleagues, and to this industry that I too, have been exposed to this reprehensible behavior," she tweeted, as reported by Variety. Another open letter, this time from the women working on Schwahn's new show, quickly followed. It read, in part, "It became all too apparent reading [the One Tree Hill cast and crew's] statement earlier this week that the betrayal and anger so many of us had experienced during our time on The Royals is not exclusively ours. And we were angry then, and we are angry now."
Schwahn declined to comment on any of the accusations or his firing at the time, and he hasn't worked on any shows or movies since The Royals.
A male cast member claimed Schwahn threatened to fire him.
Still, it appears that there's more to talk about. Another conversation about Schwahn ensued when Craig Sheffer, who played Uncle Keith, was on the April 4 episode of the Drama Queens podcast, hosted by One Tree Hill co-stars Burton, Bush, and Bethany Joy Lenz. Scheffer's character was shockingly killed off early on in the series, and the actor claimed that Schwahn blindsided him with that news after ensuring him that his position was safe.
"I go, 'OK, so I'm dead? Does that mean I don't get paid anymore?'" Scheffer said, recalling a phone call he received from the showrunner. "He was like, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'Dude, you told me.' Not only was it cheesy, but the way it was handled. You don't call me and talk to me about it?"
Scheffer also said that he felt like Schwahn nitpicked his personal needs, like requiring time off to see his daughter, and his appearance, because for him, "it was so about control."
"'We want your hair combed back, we want you shaved, we want this.' It got to a point where they're calling my agent like, 'If this power struggle is going to continue, we're just going to get rid of him,'" the actor explained. "That kind of stuff, they break down your soul."
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Bush shared more insights into Schwahn's behavior.
Bush (pictured above left) corroborated Scheffer's claim that Schwahn was fixated on controlling the appearance of the actors in the show, having had her own issues in that area. When she decided to change her hair between seasons, Schwahn "lost his mind on [her]."
"You know what he said to me?" Bush continued. "A grown man who was my boss. I was 22, 23. He goes, 'Who the [expletive] told you you could cut bangs? You know who had bangs? All the [expletive] cheerleaders in high school who never wanted to have sex with me.' I was like, 'What's happening?' Craig, it was so controlling and gross and misogynistic and creepy for us. He'd yell at Hilarie and I if we put our hair in ponytails during cheer practice."