Sophia Bush may have become better known for her activism within the last few years. But the 37-year-old actress has been advocating for herself since her days on One Tree Hill, where she said she fought with writers to get out of filming inappropriate scenes.
The California-native talked about her big break on the CW hit series during Ashley Graham’s podcast Pretty Big Deal, where Bush laughed about the responsibility that she and her co-actors had been given as series leads at such a young age. However, Bush explained how her naivety actually worked in her favor when it came to standing up to her boss, whom she said tried to get her to film numerous scenes in her underwear.
“I fought a lot with the writers,” Bush shared. “I was sort of unaware of the power dynamics at play. I remember my boss kept writing scenes for me to be in my underwear. And I was like, ‘I’m not doing this. This is inappropriate.’”
She went onto explain that, although she was in her early twenties at the time, Bush felt that some of her character’s storylines weren’t appropriate for the 16-year-old she was portraying. Ultimately, she told her boss to find somebody else to do a scene in their underwear, which he quickly refuted.
“He literally said to me, ‘Well, you’re the one with the big f***ing rack everybody wants to see,” she recalled. “And I was like, ‘What?! Well I’m not doing it.’”
Instead, Bush said that she showed up in a turtleneck to film the show’s next episode “to be spiteful” and threatened to dress like that for the rest of the show if they didn’t stop writing those scenes.
“I was really ballsy, and I didn’t even know it,” Bush said of her refusal to play by the rules of higher-ups. “I just wasn’t wanting to perpetuate this sort of behavior that I didn’t think was appropriate.”
And she wasn’t the only person on the cast to think that what was going on both behind the scenes and on-camera was inappropriate. In 2017, she was joined by Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and other One Tree Hill cast and crew members in signing an open letter detailing harassment by show runner Mark Schwahn. Burton also spoke about “senseless underwear action” on the show during a 2018 interview.
Still, the experience wouldn’t be Bush’s last brush with inappropriate behavior while working on a show. In fact, she described her more recent work on NBC’s Chicago P.D. as “my own personal #MeToo hell,” which she finally found her way out of just three months before accusations against Harvey Weinstein had come out.
“I was fighting this battle with no cultural conversation about this in the industry,” she told Graham about her April 2017 exit from the NBC show. “But it’s been a weird thing because you realize how quickly if you stand up for yourself you can become the enemy.”
Bush said that people on set listened to her concerns, until they realized how willing she was to fight against the perpetrator. Then, she was quickly labeled a “troublemaker.”
“It was unsustainable for me to go to work anymore,” she shared. “You can’t heal from toxic behavior in the toxic environment— you just can’t do it.”
The actress has been outspoken about her exit from the show after four seasons, and her reason for it. And although she maintained that her male colleagues should have done more to be an ally to her, Bush praised the show’s producer, Dick Wolf, for how he handled the situation once he found out about it.
“He was my fiercest protector,” Bush said of the well-known executive. “He’s an ally.”
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