Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton on Why They Continue Talking About Alleged Assaults on ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Chicago P.D.’: ‘Face Some F—ing Accountability’

Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz are continuing to use their voices to spread awareness about the abuse they suffered throughout their television careers. During Monday’s episode of the “Drama Queens” podcast, the actors were joined by Danneel Ackles to recap the Season 4 finale of “One Tree Hill.” However, the discussion turned into a much more emotional one that explained why they keep speaking out about the behavior of creator Mark Schwahn and what they experienced on later jobs.

First, Burton claims that Schwahn told everyone she was doing cocaine while filming the episode, during which she was taking caffeine pills to make it through the night shoots. Ackles and Burton also alleged that he then called their next employers to say they were problematic. Lenz added, “He was super happy to say anything that he could to keep people from hiring us at any moment.”

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Both Burton and Bush then got emotional, recalling Schwahn “very aggressively” rubbing their backs while filming, which led to Burton snapping at him and telling him to stop touching the girls on set. She said later that night, he called her into his office and screamed at her. “He just fucking launched into me. Like, ‘How dare you? Don’t you ever speak to me that way in front of people. What the hell are you talking about? I don’t touch anybody,'” Burton said. “He was completely gaslighting me. I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m friends with your wife. I’m telling you you have to stop.’ He said, I’ll never forget it, ‘You think we’re friends? I’m not your friend. I’m your boss and don’t you ever speak to me that way again.’ He’s screaming at me and those walls in the production office are paper thin. My brother, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s dad are all on the other side of these paper-thin walls and no one came.”

She said that the show “was never good again” for her, and she was nervous ahead of recording this podcast episode, wondering whether she still should keep recounting her traumatic experience. However, she brought up an actor on the show who is scared that Schwahn is landing ghostwriting gigs because he was “never held accountable” and because other producers never spoke out and said they wouldn’t hire him. “There’s this fear that we’re going to walk onto a set one day and be confronted with that,” Burton said. “I am making the commitment to keep talking about it so that other showrunners don’t operate that way and so that he’s got no safe passage.”

ONE TREE HILL, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Galeotti, Lee Norris, Daneel Harris, Chad Michael Murray, Hilarie Burton, Antwon Tanner, Bevin Evan Mirskey, Sophia Bush, Stephen Colletti, 'All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone', (Season 4, aired June 13, 2007), 2003-,. Photo: Fred Norris / ©THE CW / courtesy everett collection
“One Tree Hill” Season 4 finale

Bush also detailed some of her own experiences on “Chicago P.D.”

“What you experienced that night, the way you got yelled at, that’s exactly the shit I was dealing with in Chicago and also had a group of men who were like, ‘I love you so much, you’re our best friend.’ [They] never got involved and never stood up,” she said. “And I know some of them are mad that I acknowledge that when we talk about this show as well, and you know what? I don’t care. That fear that I’m going to keep talking about it better be what makes you behave better on every set you’re on. From the time that you left North Carolina, the time I left Illinois, they better behave better. They better be a little afraid.”

Burton left “One Tree Hill” at the end of Season 6 in 2009. Bush remained on the series through its final season in 2012, and joined the Dick Wolf police drama two years later. She exited “Chicago P.D.” at the end of Season 4 in 2017 after claiming she experienced abusive behavior on set.

“When #MeToo was breaking that October, a story was coming out about my coworker in Chicago and executives managed to get that story killed. My rep said to me, ‘You’re going to have to pick. You can either tell the story about your first boss or you can tell the story about your coworker but you can’t tell both because then it looks like it’s your fault.’ That was professional advice,” Bush stated on Monday’s podcast. Burton tearfully responded, “You picked us.”

In November 2017, 18 women who worked on “One Tree Hill,” including the hosts and Ackles, came together and wrote a letter alleging they’d experienced abuse on set. Schwahn never publicly commented.

Bush went on to explain why she, too, will continue to share her story, as she had many times before.

“When people on that other job say, ‘Why won’t you stop talking about it?’ or ‘Why do you need to bring it up?’ I’m like, ‘You have no idea what I withheld that’s benefitted you. And in the same way we all feel about our boss on this show, the way I feel about the predator on that other show is I’m not going to be able to take this chip off my shoulder until you face some fucking accountability,” she said. “You got to do this thing, you got to scar all these women, you got to hurt all these people. You’ve left a body count in your wake of people who have to go to therapy and do all of this gnarly work — and we didn’t ask for that.”

She continued, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do until there is more accountability. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do that our boss was allowed to never make a comment. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do that my next employers rebranded sexual assault with witnesses as ‘anger management issues’ in the press.”

Five months after Bush’s final episode of “Chicago P.D.” aired, the show’s lead actor Jason Beghe was investigated by NBC for anger issues after multiple complaints about his behavior on set were filed.

“When it was brought to our attention that there were concerns about inappropriate behavior on set, we promptly began an investigation in partnership with Human Resources and all parties involved,” representatives for NBC, Universal Television and Wolf Entertainment said at the time. “As a result of the investigation, we have already taken action, and it is a situation we continue to monitor very closely to ensure all of our employees feel safe and supported.”

Beghe apologized for his behavior in a statement to Variety at the time, noting, “I have struggled with anger issues for some time, and over the past year, I have been working with a coach to help me learn how to mitigate my temper.”

The network and studio declined to comment.

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