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Sophia Bush And One Tree Hill Co-Stars Share Emotional Reason Why They Were 'Scared' To Open Up About Negative Set Experiences

Sophia Bush as Dr. Sam Griffith on Good Sam.
(Image credit: CBS)

One Tree Hill was a teen phenomenon back in the early 2000s, following the rivalry of half-brothers Nathan and Lucas Scott (James Lafferty and Chad Michael Murray, respectively) on and off the basketball court. A trio of leading ladies — Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz — were also among those who came to fame on the soapy series, but while the drama was sumptuous (if not stereotypical) for its angsty audience, it wasn’t a very healthy environment for the young women and others working on the show. 

In 2017 — five years after One Tree Hill came to an end — Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz were among 18 women from the show who signed a letter validating accusations made by former writer Audrey Wauchope against creator Mark Schwahn. The letter said they were “manipulated psychologically and emotionally,” and “put in uncomfortable positions.” When the actresses decided to start a rewatch podcast, Drama Queens in 2021, they told Variety that they were a little apprehensive about being honest about their on-set experiences, because of how beloved the series was to its fans. According to Bush (who played Brooke Davis): 

We were so scared to break hearts. This thing that people love so much, how could we taint it? And what we realized is it’s us inside of the show that they love. They love our characters, they love our experiences. They love the boys’ characters. It isn’t the architecture that was built by some people who weren’t good to us as young entertainers. It’s what we as young entertainers did inside of it. I think it’s made us closer to our fans than ever to be honest with them, and it’s also just been such a nice opportunity for us to clean house. We’ve been able to throw out the trash and hold on to all the good stuff. What a gift that is.

Not only did the fans not turn against the actresses for speaking their truth, but they embraced them even more. Hilarie Burton left the role of Peyton Sawyer in 2009, later crediting co-star Moira Kelly for convincing her to get out of the situation. She said in her 2020 memoir The Rural Diaries that what she went through on One Tree Hill still affects her life and the way she parents, but the podcast seems to have brought some healing. Being honest about their experiences has brought the fans even closer, Burton said: 

You know what’s awesome is being able to take off the filter. For so long, we felt like we had to protect other people and protect the fans’ connection with the show, and what we found is that by being honest, the fans actually connect to the show better, and they feel like they know more.

While Bethany Joy Lenz was nervous about watching herself back and remembering her “cringy” mistakes she made in her younger days, the Haley James Scott actress said so much healing has actually come from doing the podcast:

I thought I was going to be walking into this feeling so much shame and and instead, actually the honesty and the vulnerability of what we’ve been able to build together with this show, has been so healing to be able to watch back. I really love my younger self and be so grateful for the opportunities that she had and the way that she cared about the people around her and the way that she bounced back from her mistakes. I love my character for that, and I love younger me for that. I think we’ve all felt this major healing gift because of that.

Certainly part of that healing is the fact the actresses have each other there for support as they relive the One Tree Hill episodes. The trio recently reunited on-screen again for Sophia Bush’s latest series, Good Sam. Bethany Joy Lenz plays Amy Taylor, a patient of Dr. Sam Griffith (Bush), and Hilarie Burton plays Amy’s sister Gretchen. Check out new episodes of Good Sam on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, or catch it streaming with a Paramount+ subscription. For more viewing options now and in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our 2022 TV schedule!

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.