18 Shocking Secrets About One Tree Hill Revealed

On-set romances, cast arguments and a shocking arrest, here are 18 secrets you might not know about beloved teen drama One Tree Hill.

By Tierney Bricker May 18, 2024 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Sophia Bush Addresses 'One Tree Hill' Reboot Rumors!

We don't wanna be anything other than still obsessed with One Tree Hill all these years later.

Even though the drama, which first debuted on The WB in 2003 before moving to The CW, ended in 2012, the series' beloved stars are still providing fans with their dose of nostalgia. One of the latest tidbits comes courtesy of Hilarie Burton, who revealed husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan was almost her costar.

Along with her former co-stars Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Lenz, Burton, who played Peyton Sawyer for the first six seasons, launched the Drama Queens podcast in June 2021, rewatching the iconic series and dissecting every episode, both on screen and off. 

And One Tree Hill definitely had its fair share of drama behind-the-scenes, including secret relationships, cast arguments, a shocking arrest and allegations of sexual harassment made against creator Mark Schwahn.

Despite all of the challenges they faced while filming the series in Wilmington, North Carolina, the cast remained close, with Burton saying she is "so in love with our little family" on a 2020 episode of the Chicks in the Office podcast, adding, "I'd take a bullet for those kids. I love them."

One Tree Hill: Where Are They Now?

From on-set romances to which role Burton's husband Morgan came this close to landing, here are 18 secrets you might not know about One Tree Hill.

1. Creator Mark Schwahn initially wrote the project as a movie called Ravens and it took four years for Warner Bros. TV executives to convince him to turn it into a series.

2. Believing the original name to be too sports-centric, the show's title came from the U2 song "One Tree Hill" off their Joshua Tree album. Each episode of the series was named after a song from various artists, ranging from Dashboard Confessional to R.E.M.

3. After reading for the part of Ryan on The O.C., Chad Michael Murray turned it down to star as Lucas, the brooding writer and basketball player. Though producers initially envisioned him as Nathan after his bad boy turns on Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek, Murray related to Lucas—as his mother left his family when he was young—and pushed to be cast in the role. 

4. Bethany Joy Lenz auditioned for Haley and Brooke, but didn't really want to play the latter, admitting to reading it the same way she read the former. The final series regular to be cast, Lenz dyed her blonde hair dark and straightened her natural curls to differentiate herself from Hilarie Burton, who played Peyton. 

5. James Lafferty, then 17, had more experience playing basketball than acting and knew he had his work cut out for him to land the part of Nathan. "I don't think I was an initial choice," Lafferty said in a behind-the-scenes featurette, revealing he had to audition six times.

He wasn't wrong. Noted executive producer Joe Davola, "When James went into casting he was a dark horse to get the job." 

6. While she wasn't in the pilot, Sophia Bush made her debut as Brooke in the second episode and went on to appear every week after, even stepping behind the camera to direct three times.

7. One year after they met on set, Murray and Bush got engaged in 2004, marrying less than a year later. But five months after that, news broke that they had split. In 2018, Bush opened up about what it was like continuing to work with her ex-husband on an episode of Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast.

"There was no space to self-reflect," Bush said, adding that producers were "really deeply inappropriate" to both her and Murray after their breakup. 

"They ran, like, TV ads about it, it was really ugly," she continued. "They made practice of taking advantage of people's personal lives, and not just for me and for my ex, for other actors on the show who would share as you do when you get close to people. Deeply personal things that were happening in their lives and they would wind up in storylines. It wasn't OK."

8. Bush would later date Lafferty in 2008 before striking up a romance with Austin Nichols, who played her husband Julian on OTH. The couple called it quits in 2012, the same year the series ended.

9. There was one successful on-set match: Lisa Goldstein, who played Millie in the later seasons, married Brendan Kirsch, the show's basketball coordinator, in 2011.

10. During an episode of her podcast Drama Queens, which she co-hosts with Bush and Lenz, Burton revealed her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan was almost her colleague on OTH

"You know when I met Jeff, he was like, 'Oh I auditioned for that show,'" she said, revealing he had read for the part of Keith, Lucas' father figure, a role that went to Craig Sheffer. "'And I was like, wait, what?'" 

11. Burton and Morgan would instead get introduced by her co-star Danneel Ackles, whose husband Jensen Ackles formed a close connection with The Walking Dead star after Morgan played his father on Supernatural

12. In a shocking open letter published November 2017, 18 cast and crew members levied sexual harassment accusations against Schwahn, hinting about the dark atmosphere that existed on set

In her 2020 memoir The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm, Burton wrote of Schwahn, "In my particular fairy tale there had been a villain who pitted female actors against one another, pushed us to do gratuitous sex scenes that always left me feeling ill and ashamed, told young female actors to stick their chests out, put his hands on all of us, and pushed himself on me, forcing unwanted kisses."

13. Additionally, Bush also spoke out about her experience during a June 2021 appearance on the Chicks in the Office podcast, claiming that she and her One Tree Hill co-stars—who she didn't identify—were being controlled and manipulated by unspecified adults on set. 

"We had grown-ups who we trusted, who now we understand were being really controlling and manipulative—who didn't want us to be close 'cause they thought we would band together and ask for more money," Bush alleged. "It's just so weird and those were just things we were not aware of at the time."

14. After six seasons, Murray and Burton exited the series in 2009. But the seeds for Burton's departure were planted much earlier, she revealed in her memoir. 

After her dear friend Scott Kirkpatrick was killed while serving in Iraq in the summer of 2007, her life "took a turn," she wrote, his death snapping her "priorities and goals back into focus."

"I had spent the previous few years wandering, never really finding my place, but I wanted more," she explained. "I wanted a family. I wanted a home that could be a refuge and a blank canvas that would allow me to daydream, to take risks, to try and fail and try again. I wanted to push myself every day. I wanted to make every moment intentional. Wake up intentionally. Work intentionally. Eat intentionally. And rest intentionally." So she quit, began writing a novel and booked a one-way ticket to Paris.

15. At the time, however, Schwahn told a group of fans in Paris that their departures were due to a contract dispute, according to The Los Angeles Times. "I know they've been offered great things, and hopefully they'll decide to come back," he said. "If they don't that's always a possibility...[the show] has made it through some of the riskier moves we've done."

Murray also spoke out to the show's viewers, saying in a video, "They're not bringing me back next year...because they want to save money. Start blogging and being pissed off." While Burton never returned, Murray made an appearance in the final season.

16. In a bold move, One Tree Hill staged a time-jump in season six, choosing to forgo the college years to catch up with the characters as adults. 

"When you look back and see similar shows to ours try to make that jump from high school into the next chapter of these characters' lives," Lafferty told E! News in 2015, "it's sort of awkward and clunky and it doesn't work that well."

17. Country singer Jana Kramer joined OTH for its final three seasons and revealed on her podcast Whine Down that one unnamed cast member "made it hell" for everyone else on the series, alleging she was not allowed to be friends with Lafferty.

"When I was on the show...there was just some, not cattiness, but just, 'You can't talk to this person if you're friends with this person,'" she said in a 2021 episode. "So I wasn't very close to James because of certain situations on the set at the time."

18. In 2010, cast member Antwon Tanner was sentenced to three months in prison for his role in a scam to sell stolen Social Security Numbers across state lines. The actor, who played Antwon "Skills" Taylor, pled guilty after getting caught in a sting operation trying to peddle 16 phony Social Security Numbers and three counterfeit cards in 2009.

And yet, even with all the darkness that has come to light in the 12 years since the series wrapped, the core cast members remain tight enough to reunite for dinners, weddings, podcasts and even Lifetime movies. On May 18, it was a Friends with Benefit charity event that brought the majority of the cast back to North Carolina to play a basketball game benefitting The V Foundation.

"We've been through a lot," Bush wrote in a 2017 birthday tribute to Burton. "At least 374 hair colors together. Crushes. Heartbreaks. Hangovers. Halloweens. Tears and laughter. Fear and joy. Successes and burn-it-to-the-ground failures. We've fought like rams and loved like family. There is no one I would have rather been on the world's most insane roller coaster with."

This story was originally published on Thursday, July 1, 2021 at 3 a.m. PT.