Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz are actively using their voices to shed light on the mistreatment they endured throughout their television careers. On the latest episode of the “Drama Queens” podcast, where they were joined by Danneel Ackles to discuss the Season 4 finale of “One Tree Hill,” the conversation took an emotional turn. The actors delved into the reasons behind their consistent advocacy against the actions of creator Mark Schwahn and the difficulties they faced in subsequent roles.
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Burton revealed that Schwahn falsely asserted she was using cocaine during filming, despite her actual reliance on caffeine pills to navigate demanding night shoots. Both Ackles and Burton claimed that Schwahn took it a step further by reaching out to their prospective employers, labeling them as problematic. Lenz emphasized, “He seemed determined to say anything he could to discourage people from hiring us at any given moment.”
Both Burton and Bush became emotional as they recounted instances of Schwahn “very aggressively” rubbing their backs during filming. This behavior prompted Burton to firmly tell him to stop touching the girls on set, leading to a confrontation later that night when he called her into his office and yelled at her. According to Burton, he vehemently denied the allegations, accusing her of speaking out of turn and gaslighting her. Despite her attempts to explain the inappropriate behavior, he insisted on his innocence, declaring, “I’m not your friend. I’m your boss, and don’t you ever speak to me that way again.”
Burton shared that the show never regained its positive experience for her after that incident. She expressed anxiety before recording the podcast episode, questioning whether she should continue sharing her traumatic experience. However, she highlighted the fear among some actors on the show that Schwahn, having faced no consequences, might be securing ghostwriting opportunities. The lack of accountability and the silence from other producers contribute to this apprehension. Burton emphasized her commitment to speaking out to prevent other showrunners from operating in a similar manner and to ensure that Schwahn faces consequences for his actions.
Bush also recounted some of her personal encounters while working on “Chicago P.D.”
“What you went through that night, the yelling and mistreatment, mirrors the stuff I faced in Chicago. I also had a group of men saying, ‘I love you so much, you’re our best friend,’ yet they never intervened or took a stand,” she explained. “Some of them may be upset when I bring this up, and you know what? I don’t care. The fear that I’ll keep speaking about it should be a motivation for you to behave better on every set. From the moment you left North Carolina to when I left Illinois, they better learn to act better. A little fear might do them good.”
Burton departed from “One Tree Hill” at the end of Season 6 in 2009. Bush continued with the series until its final season in 2012 and then joined the Dick Wolf police drama two years later. She left “Chicago P.D.” at the conclusion of Season 4 in 2017, citing abusive behavior on set as the reason for her departure.
“When #MeToo gained momentum in October, there was a story surfacing about my coworker in Chicago, and the executives managed to suppress that story. My representative said to me, ‘You’re going to have to choose. You can either share the story about your first boss or the one about your coworker, but you can’t do both because it might seem like it’s your fault.’ That was the professional advice I received,” Bush revealed on Monday’s podcast. Tearfully, Burton responded, “You picked us.”
In November 2017, 18 women from the “One Tree Hill” cast, including the hosts and Ackles, united to pen a letter detailing their experiences of abuse on set. Schwahn never publicly addressed these allegations.
Bush then clarified why she persists in sharing her story, as she has done numerous times before. “When people from that other job ask, ‘Why won’t you stop talking about it?’ or ‘Why do you keep bringing it up?’ I say, ‘You have no idea what I’ve kept to myself that has protected you.’ Just as we all feel about our boss on this show, my sentiment toward the predator on that other show is that I won’t be able to shed this burden until there’s some damn accountability,” she emphasized. “You chose to inflict this pain on all these women, on all these individuals. You’ve left a trail of people who have to undergo therapy and grapple with all this intense work — and we never asked for that.”
Continuing, she stated, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do until there is more accountability. I don’t know how to navigate the fact that our boss was allowed to remain silent. I don’t understand how to cope with the fact that my subsequent employers rebranded sexual assault with witnesses as ‘anger management issues’ in the media.”
Five months following the broadcast of Bush’s final episode on “Chicago P.D.,” the show’s main actor, Jason Beghe, underwent an NBC investigation for anger issues, prompted by multiple complaints about his on-set behavior.
“When we became aware of concerns regarding inappropriate behavior on set, we immediately initiated an investigation in collaboration with Human Resources and all relevant parties,” stated representatives from NBC, Universal Television, and Wolf Entertainment. “In response to the investigation, we have already implemented measures, and we are vigilantly monitoring the situation to ensure the safety and support of all our employees.”
Beghe issued an apology for his conduct in a statement to Variety, acknowledging, “I have grappled with anger issues for a while, and over the past year, I have been actively working with a coach to help me understand and control my temper.”
Both the network and studio opted not to provide any comments.