Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Lenz are opening up about more of their experiences on “One Tree Hill,” specifically the “Maxim” storyline in Season 4. During Monday’s episode of their “Drama Queens” podcast, they recap the fourth episode of the season, during which Brooke (Bush) takes photos of Rachel (Danneel Ackles) for Maxim magazine.
The episode aired in October 2006, one month before Bush, Burton and Ackles landed their own cover of Maxim magazine — but didn’t actually want to do it. At the time, they explained, the show was trying to draw in more male viewers by bringing in an abusive male (“Psycho Derek,” played by Matt Barr) and putting the women in underwear.
“I know they weren’t trying to solicit basement bullies on the internet, but they saw that a lot of young men were drawn to a violent assault of women and they went, ‘We should do more of that.’ Not, ‘Uh-oh, hold the phone,’” Bush said. “They were like, ‘Maybe we should do more! Maybe we should make the girls do Maxim and tell them they’ll get fired if they don’t.’”
She continued, “Because Brooke had been so sexualized on the whole idea of this ‘Hometown Hottie’ and Rachel’s storyline, I was like, ‘Look, if the girls want to do it, that’s great. I don’t. I have gone to battle trying to make Brooke less of this thing that you guys tried to force me into. I don’t want to do it.’ I literally got told, ‘If you do not go and shoot this cover with your co-stars, we will guarantee you that you will never be let out for a press day, a movie, an event, any of your charities. We will keep you here for ever.’”
Burton then recalled getting brought into the production office while creator Mark Schwahn told them, “Look, all the others hows have been on the cover of every single magazine and no one wants you guys. No one wants you and you finally have someone that wants you and you’re really gonna turn your nose up at that?”
“It was very much a, ‘No one else wants you, the studio wants to cancel your show,’” she added. “You don’t start to generate some buzz and attract these male numbers, we’re dead and all your friends are going to lose their jobs.’”
Bush then noted that she felt she didn’t have a choice not to do the magazine spread.
“At that time, I said, ‘No I don’t want to do this,’ and I was told I had to,” she said. “It was such a profound threat and a threat to being able to — honestly, even to have the ability to escape for a weekend, a place that at this stage, this season, I was leaving every chance I got. I would come into work, do my [scenes] and I wanted out. I wanted to go home, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to be with my friends. I did not want to be on our set, it was not a safe place for me. This was such a threat to safety.”
Additionally, the women claimed that Schwahn showed up on set of the Maxim shoot and gifted her with an iPod filled with songs he’d think she’d like — a move he did in front of Ackles and Bush. “He wanted Sophia to see it, to put her in her place and he wanted Danneel to see it, because he was trying to make her jealous,” Burton explained. “I was so embarrassed.”
As the women have spoke about before, they then detailed how they’d constantly been pit against each other. During the podcast, Lenz revealed that she was told her co-stars were shooting Maxim and had “replaced” her with Ackles.
“They told me that they didn’t come to me because I was too fat,” Lenz said. “I wasn’t a hot girl on the show anymore.”
Burton and Bush, shocked by Lenz’s statement, then shared that they were told Lenz was asked and refused to do it.
“When I said I don’t want to do it, I was like, ‘But Joy’s not doing it! She said no. Why does she get to say no?’ They go, ‘Well she said no, so you have to say yes. She said no first,’” claimed Bush. “They scapegoated you to tell the three of us we couldn’t say no… We weren’t mad at you but we were pissed about it.”
Lenz explained that this was the beginning of her being viewed differently by her bosses. In one episode, Ackles’ character, Rachel, calls Lenz’s character, Haley, “a fat girl with a little head.”
“I remember reading that on paper and just being like, ‘It’s so random. That actually must be what he thinks of me,’” said Lenz. “Sometimes someone will say something to you and you’re like, ‘I never, ever saw myself that way.’ Now suddenly, every time I look in the mirror, I’m like, ‘Am I fat? I guess I do have a little head? It’s that bad? Is that unattractive?’ It’s so dumb, but it really followed me around for a long time in my brain. From that point forward, I started getting treated like, ‘Just put Joy in the category of middle-age mom. We’re gonna do the sexy stuff with everybody else. There’s nothing interesting about Joy anymore because she’s married’ and apparently, they thought I was fat and boring. That was it. I got kind of replaced with Danneel — who I love. It was so weird.”
Five years after “One Tree Hill” wrapped, 18 women who worked on the show (including the four actors named above), came forward in a letter to Variety, accusing Schwahn of sexual harassment. Schwahn never responded to the allegations.