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If the original One Tree Hill cast didn't wanna be anything other than what they had been trying to be while on the show, it does not seem to have worked out that way. Stars such as Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush have gone onto act in movies and TV shows that have proved to be a vast departure from the long-running coming-of-age drama since its final curtain in 2012 on The CW (after first debuting nine years earlier when it was still called The WB). The following is a look at the successes that this cast has achieved since departing from this successful series, starting with one of its greatest success stories.
Chad Michael Murray (Lucas Scott)
Recurring roles on the Gilmore Girls cast and Dawson’s Creek cast led Chad Michael Murray to score the lead on The WB’s next hit One Tree Hill as his film career was taking off with the 2003 Freaky Friday remake, the Hilary Duff-led A Cinderella Story in 2004, and another film based on pre-existing work of fiction: House of Wax in 2005. Since leaving One Tree Hill after Season 6, the former model most notably played a cop in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, a spy on Agent Carter (one of ABC’s pre-Disney+ Marvel TV shows), and returned to The CW with a recurring role on the Riverdale cast in 2019. Murray will next star in the movie Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman as the titular serial killer and is currently working on his second, third, and fourth action movie co-starring Bruce Willis.
James Lafferty (Nathan Scott)
Like Chad Michael Murray, his onscreen half-brother from the One Tree Hill cast, James Lafferty also has a bit of a Scream King reputation after starring in the 2009 Donnie Darko sequel S. Darko, appearing in Mike Flanagan’s terrifying mainstream debut Oculus, and the filmmaker’s acclaimed Netflix miniseries The Haunting of Hill House in 2018. Between those thrillers, the actor, writer, producer, and director (who even helmed a few One Tree Hill episodes) took roles on short-lived series like Crisis on NBC and Underground on WGN and acted in films that range from comedies like Waffle Street to dramas like Small Town Crime. In addition to playing Scott Carpenter on Disney+’s The Right Stuff in 2020, Lafferty would later team-up with fellow One Tree Hill alum Stephen Colletti to create and star on Everyone is Doing Great: a comedy series loosely based on their own lives since leaving The CW hit.
Sophia Bush (Brooke Davis Baker)
Positively doing great since seeing One Tree Hill to its end is Sophia Bush, who is best known these days for playing Detective Erin Lindsay on Chicago P.D. and the hit NBC series’ other spin-off procedural dramas taking place in the Windy City until 2017. The following year, she would also play a cop in Bruce Willis movie (Acts of Violence) and lent her voice to the Pixar sequel Incredibles 2 as an aspiring superhero named Voyd. In addition to small guest spots on otherwise huge hit series like Jane the Virgin or This Is Us, Bush has a recurring part on the Love, Victor cast, starred in the A24-produced horror movie False Positive (another Hulu original) in 2021, and was cast in the title role of the upcoming medical drama Good Sam, which will be on the 2021 Fall TV Schedule on CBS.
Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley James Scott)
The daytime soap opera Guiding Light was Bethany Joy Lenz’s big break before she was cast on the primetime soap opera One Tree Hill as Nathan’s eventual wife, Haley. Her next big TV role was a recurring spot on Dexter Season 8 before appearing on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a Hydra devotee in 2016, Thora Birch’s replacement on the USA sci-fi drama Colony the following year, and becoming a series regular on the short-lived Suits spin-off Pearson in 2019. While Hallmark movies seem to be Lenz’s main claim to fame lately, she also has a horror movie called So Cold the River in the works.
Paul Johansson (Dan Scott)
As the biological father of both Lucas and Nathan Scott on One Tree Hill we have Paul Johansson, who also broke out on a daytime soap (Santa Barbera) before starring in a film that makes fun of them (Soapdish) and then appearing in a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210 (the precursor to another CW hit) in the early 1990s. Following the death of his character in One Tree Hill’s final season, Johansson would go on to join the Mad Men cast for three episodes, appear in the 2016 coming-of-age period drama Dear Eleanor, and play a bloodsucking antagonist from SyFy’s modern-day take on the legend of Van Helsing during its first two seasons. The actor is currently filming the crime drama God is a Bullet from The Notebook helmer Nick Cassavetes, who also directed Johansson in John Q opposite Denzel Washington in 2002.
Hilarie Burton (Peyton Sawyer)
Like a few of her co-stars, Hilarie Burton previously starred on Dawson’s Creek, which also saw her debut before becoming a series regular on One Tree Hill and later the White Collar cast following her 2009 exit. In addition to recurring spots on series like the Halle Berry-led sci-fi drama Extant or her guest appearance on The Walking Dead as Lucille (the late wife of her real-life husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Burton also shares common appearances in Hallmark movie roles with some of her One Tree Hill castmates. Plus, she, Sophia Bush, and Bethany Joy Lenz recently go together create a podcast called Drama Queens, on which they recall their time together on the series.
Lee Norris (Mouth McFadden)
Starting off as a recurring character on the One Tree Hill cast before being promoted to series regular in Season 3 is Lee Norris, who had previously experienced the reverse (well, just barely) on the Boy Meets World cast as Stuart Minkus, a role he would reprise on Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World years later. In between then, the actor appeared in two David Fincher movies (namely Zodiac in 2007 and 2014’s Gone Girl) and had a recurring role on AMC’s The Walking Dead in 2017 before Hilarie Burton made her first guest appearance. Speaking of Hilarie Burton, she and Norris starred in the Lifetime original holiday movie A Christmas Wish (along with fellow One Tree Hill alum Tyler Hilton) a year before Norris shared the screen with Tom Hanks in the Apple TV+ exclusive Greyhound in 2020.
Moira Kelly (Karen Roe)
Another recent One Tree Hill castmember turned Lifetime movie star is Moira Kelly, who first rose to stardom as the female lead of the romantic sports movie The Cutting Edge in 1992. That same year, she replaced Lara Flynn Boyle in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (a prequel to David Lynch’s groundbreaking series) and played Charlie Chaplin’s wife in a biopic starring starring Robert Downey Jr. as the silent film legend before voicing Nala in the original animated Lion King in 1994. Kelly recently landed a recurring role on Fox’s hit medical drama The Resident and also stars in the Amazon Prime original series Panic, inspired by the thrilling young adult novel.
Barbara Alyn Woods (Deb Scott)
Another One Tree Hill alum who starred in the aforementioned 2019 Lifetime movie A Christmas Wish is Barbara Alyn Woods, who has appeared in everything from a guest spot on the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast to the Demi Moore-led movie Striptease to the series adaptation of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as Diane Szalinski. Her other major roles following her One Tree Hill exit in 2012 include two episodes of the hit ABC comedy The Goldbergs, the 2019 Netflix original movie Walk. Ride. Rodeo., and the SyFy original horror-comedy (Future) Cult Classic from that same year. Speaking of horror-comedies on SyFy, Barbara Alyn Woods will also appear on Chucky, an upcoming series that continues the legacy of the classic slasher Child’s Play form 1988.
Craig Sheffer (Keith Scott)
Craig Sheffer has also done a Lifetime movie and Hallmark movie in his day, in addition to the highly eclectic career he has led before and after playing Keith Scott on One Tree Hill. Some of his best known early roles include the 1987 John Hughes-penned classic Some Kind of Wonderful, Clive Barker’s cult favorite horror flick Nightbreed from 1990, and A River Runs Through It, a Robert Redford directed period piece in which he played Brad Pitt’s onscreen brother. Outside of his smaller role in the Apple TV+ exclusive drama Palmer, Sheffer has continued his reputation as B-movie royalty in the movies like the upcoming thriller Sarah, which will reunite him with his Fire with Fire co-star Virginia Madsen.
Antwon Tanner (Skills Taylor)
Not only does Antwon Tanner have a few recent holiday Lifetime movies on his resume, but he also appeared in A Christmas Wish with his former One Tree Hill castmates in 2019. Some of his most notable work outside of becoming a series regular on the hit series include a recurring role on the Brandy-led sitcom Moesha, The Wood starring Taye Diggs, and Coach Carter, a fact-based sports drama starring Samuel L. Jackson from 2005. Tanner’s most notable work after One Tree Hill includes the Adult Swim original series Black Jesus, BET’s series sequel to the Eddie Murphy favorite Boomerang, and the upcoming music drama Packz, which is filming now.
Well, with the exception of a podcast about their experiences on the show, a TV shows about the experiences after leaving the show, and one Lifetime movie in common, it appears to me that the One Tree Hill cast has indeed managed to be nearly anything other than what they had been trying to be during the drama’s 2003-2012 run.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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