Hilarie Burton is detailing her traumatizing experience on “One Tree Hill.” During the latest episode of the “Drama Queens” podcast, Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush recap “It Gets Worse at Night,” the Season 4 episode in which the Tree Hill gang goes to Honey Grove to rescue Mouth (Lee Norris) from jail.
Burton, who was one of 18 women of the show who accused creator Mark Schwahn of sexual harrassment, detailed the trauma she endured while filming this episode of the show. She and Schwahn, who she never refers to by name, only by the “boss,” had to travel to Honey Grove, Texas, before filming started to surprise the local high school with news that they’d won a contest to have the CW drama film there.
“The flight back from that is when he assaulted me. He assaulted me again in the car on the drive from Raleigh to Wilmington, He went straight to set and he told Danneel [Ackles] that he and I made out the whole time, and it was fun, and he was trying to make her jealous. So, she confronted me about it and was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Burton alleged. “So, then we had to go on this trip with him. And this was really, like, the last three months where my blood was boiling. I didn’t know how to process it anymore and you can see it in the episode. You can see that I’m not there… I look like shit, I’m not connecting in anyway.”
Lenz asked Burton about her decision not to report Schwahn at the time.
“Oh, I did. I told all sorts of people. Honey, I told everybody,” Burton replied. “Chad [Michael Murray] walked up and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ He said that to our boss in the bar. He watched our boss grab me in front of a lot of people, and you know, Chad didn’t have anything to lose because he knew our boss hated him anyway. A lot of people had a lot to lose, so you don’t speak up when you have a lot to lose. But [our boss] felt so comfortable that that was not something that he had a problem with. [He thought], ‘I can do whatever I want to her in public with her boyfriend standing there.'”
Bush noted that Murray was “protected” since he was at the top of the call sheet. “He had the most power, so he could come up and shove our boss off you and get in a fight. And I’m glad that he did. I want everybody to follow that lead,” she said. “Thank God, Hilarie, that you had that moment with Chad, who was already so at odds with our boss.”
The women also recalled that Ackles’ character, Rachel, had been written out of “One Tree Hill” at this point and was consistently objectified during the episode. In one scene, Mouth talks about Rachel leaving him for a more attractive man while everyone else comments on her plastic surgery.
“This isn’t Mouth. It’s our boss writing himself as the ‘I’m such a nice guy and all the sexy girls don’t want to have sex with me,'” Bush said. “This is also, in real life, when she began dating her now-husband [Jensen Ackles], who was the gorgeous guy at the bar that Mouth is talking about. That’s our boss talking about how jealous of Danneel’s husband he was… I don’t like that we were all used in this episode to just pile on our friend because she said to her grown-up, married boss, ‘Please stop hitting on me and please stop touching me and please stop trying to make out with me at bars. I’m very uncomfortable.’ Like, that should just be the bare fucking minimum!”
Bush, who remained on “One Tree Hill” with Lenz for all nine seasons (Burton and Murray exited at the end of their six-year contract in 2009), compared the co-star’s experience to one she went through years later.
“People want to say, ‘Oh, it was a different time.’ Ten years later, in the same way you were going through this on your set, this is what I was dealing with on my next set. It was pervasive. It wasn’t then, it was all the time,” she said. “It hit me that exactly what was happening to you at this time in North Carolina, that’s what was happening to me years later in front of rooms full of men… The people who were in charge that I went to said nothing. When I reported my first assault on set, which was witnessed by people, to my boss who was flow in from L.A…. his response was, ‘Well, thank God he didn’t try to rape you.'”
Schwahn, who was first accused by the “One Tree Hill” cast in 2017, has never responded to the allegations.