Sophia Bush Said the Cast of ‘One Tree Hill’ Was Manipulated by “Grown-Ups” on Set
"We were...looked at kind of as pawns."
Looking back on her days playing Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill, it's so clear now to Sophia Bush that she and her costars were fetishized and taken advantage of. She was in her early 20s when she began playing Brooke, a high school student at the start of the show in 2004, and despite playing a child and feeling like a baby herself, "in some ways," she told the Chicks in the Office podcast on May 28th, "we were treated like adults."
"We had this lens of 'adultification' put over us with this idea that we were supposed to know everything and have answers, and be, ultimately, professional," she said, "when we didn't even know what the technical terms were. It was like, 'Get on your mark!' And you're like, 'What are you talking about? What is a mark?'"
Bush said that the actual adults on set expected them to act grown up, "and yet, we were also looked at kind of as pawns," she continued.
"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 said. "It's just so weird and those were just things we were not aware of at the time."
And though earlier in the episode she said she's thankful there was no social media during the time of One Tree Hill, she can imagine that social media would have been a useful tool for education for herself and her costars during their time on the show.
"There was no social media where people were talking about this stuff and giving people advice and talking about figuring out if you were being paid equitably...we were just in the dark."
One Tree Hill gave Bush so much joy, yet so much confusion, she said, and taught her the value of creating safe sets and work environments for her own casts and crews on projects she's producing. "I want sets that I work on to be places that people can ask any question and get it answered, where we can hold ourselves to a degree of excellence as a challenge, not as a threat," Bush continued, "and where it can just be fun."
This is far from the first time Bush has spoken out about concerns on set. She previously slammed the showrunners for "inappropriate" scenes and over-sexualizing the young women in the cast. Co-star Hilarie Burton has also candidly shared how damaging filming the show was and how it still haunts her today. She wrote in her book, The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm, she wrote that creator Mark Schwahn "was verbally abusive, touched her inappropriately, and kissed her against her will."
Burton spoke out again earlier this year when a fan tweeted a memory from the show, to which Burton replied she was "embarrassed," adding, "Teen girl sexuality was a cornerstone of #oth, so its gross to me that there were no women in positions of power there. No one we could turn to to advocate for us."
Though One Tree Hill is a pillar of nostalgia for so many millennials, it sucks to know how much trauma was happening on set with our favorite cast members. We can only hope that these women have had the room and support to heal over the years and that this kind of damaging behavior on film and TV sets will finally stop.