Pass the Kleenex, One Tree Hill fans. Tonight's episode was a doozy.
We can't say much more about "Danny Boy" without completing spoiling what happened, so why don't we just tell you that we have an exclusive Q&A with the star of tonight's episode? Those who have yet to watch One Tree Hill, do not continue reading! We repeat, huge spoilers ahead! The rest of you, let's get real...
Tonight, we said goodbye to Dan Scott, one of the most iconic characters of One Tree Hill. He did die a hero, but did he get the redemption and forgiveness he craved? Paul Johansson gives an in-depth and emotional interview about playing one of the craziest, most-hated characters in OTH history.
Did you know Dan's fate when you signed on for season nine?
Paul Johansson I did. Mark [Schwahn] sat me down and said, 'This is your storyline.' And I'm like, 'Oh my God, really? I have to do this.' And he goes, 'I knew you would.' And he's the greatest. Mark's understanding of the characters on this show is so interesting. Every time you think you know what the season's going to be about, he is so good at making you start going down the long road until you go, 'Oh, that's what's going to happen!' And that's what makes the show stay on the air, Mark's ability to keep the show fresh in his writing. And Dan Scott's ending is the perfect ending for an actor: redemption and love and crossing the line. You want Dan to succeed; you want him to get the love. I think it's beautiful.
What was it like to film this emotional episode, because it really put viewers through the ringer!
Oh, God. We were all just blubbering. There was this one scene we shot looking over the river court and there was a boat going past, it was almost like this beautiful painting of Wilmington was in front of us, this city that we were living in for nine years and we knew it was coming to an end. It was like a knife cutting us, knowing how much we were all going to miss each other.
Are you satisfied with the way Dan went out?
Yes. For me, the last minute and a half was the only time I ever read a script—and I was on the airplane flying, and I just cried. I just put the script down and cried. The whole week of shooting it was so emotional and so intense. I honestly don't know if I can watch it! I'm going to Tivo it and see if I can watch it, because I haven't seen the whole episode together. I'm excited!
Much of your time in One Tree Hill revolves around Dan trying to move past murdering his brother Keith. Do you believe that Dan has finally been redeemed?
I don't know if he's redeemed, but I do know he's forgiven. Haley and everybody have forgiven him, but I don't think he's redeemed. Those are two completely different things. And Dan has not forgiven himself. He has not forgiven himself because his sin was too great. Taking Keith from the world was too much for his soul. And every single day was one more day toward his ultimate death. Only God can forgive him. Only God can forgive you for murder. It's tough, but that's what makes him complex. I don't think Dan ever forgave himself, even in the very end. I don't think, no matter what he did to save anybody else, that erases what he did. So, I think him being tortured by that is part of what makes him interesting to watch.
Would you have done anything differently with Dan's death?
I think that Mark really figured it out. There's heroism there, and ultimately, the show at its core is about the drama of a father, two sons and the loves of their lives and the people around them. And that's the way the show started, with just Nathan and the dad and the kid from the other side of the railroad tracks, it came back to family at the end. It came back to love. It's weird, but you want it to be your family there [in the end].
Last week's episode was also very intense, one of the most intense episodes of One Tree Hill ever! What was the shooting experience like for that episode?
It was just great. It was one of those things where the end of the season was just around the corner, we only had a couple more shows to go and it was so emotional for everyone. Even Mark was tearing up during some scenes we were shooting. It was just beautiful. It's the best way to end nine years of television, which is such a unique story in itself for a show like this, this little train trying to get up the hill. We always knew [the show] was one of those friends that you forget how much they mean to you until they're gone.
It's been quite a ride up to this point for Dan Scott. How have you enjoyed playing One Tree Hill's biggest villain?
Mark does such an extraordinary job helping create such a rounded character. So complex, so fun to play every day. I've had other actors on the show come up to me during the season and go, 'How come you get to do all the fun stuff? Kill people, and this, you get to do that.' And I go, 'Well, Mark just gave it to best actor, man.' [Laughs].
Now that his journey has officially come to an end, how have you felt about Dan's journey from season one until tonight?
I think there's something very interesting about the evolution of Dan. Every time he comes onscreen you know something is going to happen. You're on the edge of your seat and go, 'Alright, what's he gonna do this time? Which Dan is it? Am I gonna love him or hate him or feel sorry for him?' It's great. He's the perfect character to play on television. I really do miss him.
What do you say OTH fans? Do you think Dan redeemed himself in tonight's episode?
(Orginally published March 21, 2012, at 6 p.m. PT)