Standing together. The women of One Tree Hill first went public with harassment allegations against creator Mark Schwahn in 2017, and six years later, the actresses say it’s important to keep talking about his alleged actions.
“Until there’s some kind of change in our industry, I don’t know how we stop [speaking out],” Hilarie Burton Morgan said on the Monday, April 17, episode of the “Drama Queens” podcast. “The only reason that we made it out is because we had each other.”
Cohosts Burton, 40, Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Lenz were joined by Danneel Ackles (née Harris) to recap the OTH season 4 finale. While discussing the episode, they recalled tension with Schwahn, 56, coming to a boiling point.
The showrunner — whose name is censored on the podcast — allegedly was rubbing actresses’ shoulders and putting his arms around them between takes, making the women feel uncomfortable, so Burton told him to stop touching them. He later screamed at the White Collar alum with her brother, boyfriend and boyfriend’s father in the next room, Burton alleged. No one came in to defend her. Eventually, an executive producer came in to break the tension.
“What you experienced that night, the way you got yelled at, that’s exactly the s–t I was dealing with in Chicago and also had a group of men who … never got involved and never stood up,” Bush, 40, said, referring to her four-season stint on Chicago P.D. “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 that we’re on.”
All of the hosts have been open about how recalling the behind-the-scenes drama has been both cathartic and stressful. Burton, who played Peyton Sawyer for six seasons, said she has struggled with having to retell some of the stories from her time on One Tree Hill for the iHeartRadio podcast, but the Virginia native emphasized that they have an important reason for doing so.
“There was an actress who was on our show who I recently touched base with, and she was quieter during all the Me Too stuff,” the Rural Diaries author shared. “She said, ‘I’m always scared that he’s ghostwriting.’ Because he was never held accountable. Because the executive producers of our show never publicly said, ‘We won’t do business with him anymore. We’re so sorry to you girls.’ Because there was never any kind of closure. Someone is giving him ghostwriting work somewhere, and there’s this fear that we’re going to walk onto a set one day and be confronted with that.”
Burton continued, “It’s the boogeyman in the closet. To talk about it over and over again, I am making a commitment to continue talking about it so that other showrunners don’t operate that way and so he’s got no safe passage, like a ship.”
In November 2017, in the wake of the Me Too movement, the women of OTH first detailed Schwahn’s alleged harassment and abuse via Variety. After their open letter made headlines, 25 cast and crew members of The Royals shared similar allegations about Schwahn, who had created the E! series. He was subsequently fired from the drama and has never publicly addressed the allegations.
On Monday’s episode, Bush claimed that she was told to limit her Me Too allegations to one show. The actress, who played Brooke Davis for nine seasons on The CW drama, abruptly left Chicago P.D. after season 4 in spring 2017.
“I had reps at the time when Me Too was breaking that October,” the Good Sam alum said. “A story was coming out about my coworker in Chicago, and executives at the network managed to get that story killed. My rep said to me, ‘You’re gonna 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.’”
While Bush didn’t name names on the podcast, in November 2017, Chicago P.D. star Jason Beghe was investigated by NBC and Wolf Entertainment in 2016 for “inappropriate behavior” amid several complaints, some of which included sexual harassment, Deadline reported at the time.
“I am deeply sorry for my behavior, which I know has been hurtful to my friends and colleagues,” Beghe said in a statement at the time. “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. It’s an ongoing process, and it has been a humbling one.”
“It is a source of great pride for me to be part of Chicago P.D.’s incredible cast and crew,” Beghe added. “I have personally apologized to anyone who I have upset, and I am committed to doing what is necessary to make up any damage that I may have caused.”
For her part, Bush eventually opened up about the Chicago P.D. drama, alleging on the “Armchair Expert” podcast in late 2018 that she dealt with “a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior” without naming anyone in particular.
Beghe still stars in the NBC drama as Sergeant Hank Voight.
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If you or someone you know have been sexually assaulted, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).