The One Tree Hill stars say they were forced to participate.
Those of us who grew up in the 90s and the aughts, juicy teen dramas like The O.C. (and its reality TV counterpart, Laguna Beach), Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill were pop culture fixtures — and thanks to streaming today, the storylines that left such an impact on our adolescence are not only readily available for rewatches, but are also reaching entirely new audiences. Retrospective deep dive podcasts, on the other hand, offer stripped-down looks at what happened behind-the-scenes, and the reality was often much darker than what we saw on screen. The latest such revelation comes from Drama Queens, a One Tree Hill rewatch podcast hosted by stars Hilarie Burton Morgan, Sophia Bush, and Bethany Joy Lenz.
On Monday, the trio discussed an episode that saw Brooke (played by Bush) take photos of Rachel (played by Daneel Ackles) for Maxim’s "Hometown Hotties" issue. The scene set the stage for Burton Morgan and Bush’s 2006 actual Maxim cover (also featuring Ackles), which hit newsstands a month after the episode aired. The problem? The podcast hosts say they were pressured into posing for the magazine. "I literally got told, 'If you do not go and shoot this cover with your co-stars, we will guarantee you that you will never be let out for a press day, a movie, an event, any of your charities. We will keep you here forever,’” Bush recalled on a recent episode of the podcast, adding that she had previously “gone to battle trying to make Brooke less [sexualized]” on the show.
Burton Morgan, who played Peyton on One Tree Hill, cited a similar experience. "It was very much a, 'No one else wants you, the studio wants to cancel your show, if you don't start to generate some buzz and attract these male numbers, we're dead and all your friends are going to lose their jobs,'" she said.
While Bush and Burton Morgan felt pressured to pose for Maxim, Lenz, who played Haley, revealed she was told she wouldn’t be joining the pair, and would instead be replaced by Ackles. "They told me that they didn't come to me because I was too fat and I just wasn't a hot girl on the show anymore," Lenz said on the podcast.
Lenz’s revelation came as a shock to her two co-stars, who recalled they were told back then that Lenz wouldn’t be on the cover because she declined the opportunity first. "They go, 'Well she said no, so you have to say yes. She said no first,'" Bush claimed. "They scapegoated you to tell the three of us we couldn't say no. [...] We weren't mad at you, but we were pissed about it."
The actors also mentioned One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn in the podcast episode, which comes as no surprise considering the showrunner’s reputation. In 2017, Schwahn was accused of sexual harassment and physical and emotional manipulation by close to 20 women cast and crew members, including Bush and Burton Morgan.
“You heard comments. We knew about things he’d say to people, we knew about the late-night texts, we knew when he was super-obsessed with one girl on our show that he started trying to bang down her hotel room door in the middle of the night,” Bush said of the showrunner in a 2018 radio interview with Andy Cohen. “She had to be moved. Then her boyfriend came and stayed with her for the next month and literally, like, it almost came to fisticuffs between the two of them.”