Less than a week after several women from the cast and crew of One Tree Hill published an open letter via Variety, confirming claims of showrunner Mark Schwahn’s sexual misconduct on set, former One Tree Hill stars Hilarie Burton and Danneel Ackles (nee Harris) have detailed their experiences with Schwahn.
Speaking with Variety, Burton revealed that her first problems with Schwahn arose during the first two seasons in which she continuously had to fight against him “gratuitously sexualizing” her character, and quickly earned the reputation of being “difficult” because of her push back. She continued, “Things took a turn in season three. That’s when Mark decided that I was his muse.”Through season three and for years afterward Burton endured a lot of harassment, and even assault from Schwahn, detailing two incidents in which he forced himself on and kissed her on the mouth against her will, and even inappropriately touched her while his wife was present. In her interview with Variety, Burton explained that right away Schwahn put himself into the position of Burton’s mentor with Burton stating, “I realize now that I was being groomed as bait.”
One of Schwahn’s most common behaviors was pitting the women on the show against each other, and with Burton as his “favorite” he would encourage new female actresses who came onto the show to develop friendships with Burton as a way for him to become close to them as well and this included Danneel Ackles who portrayed Rachel Gatina.
Burton revealed that she had many late-night calls from Schwahn over the course of season three in which he would tearfully tell Burton how in love he was with Danneel, and began claiming they were having a physical relationship, which the actress denies. Eventually Burton said she reprimanded Schwahn for his behavior and calls and told him she did not want to be the person he turned to with his alleged affair.
In 2006, both Burton and Ackles were invited to an outdoor concert by the showrunner and he said his wife would be there which eased Burton’s fears of going. “I thought, ‘Oh, well, his wife’s coming,” Burton said. “Great. Maybe there’s nothing going on and I’m being paranoid.” At the show however, Schwahn inappropriately groped Burton as she was standing beside him. Burton explained he had one arm around his wife and then put his other hand on the small of Burton’s back and then slid his hand beneath the waistband of her pants, an account which Ackles confirmed she saw.
The first time Schwahn allegedly forced himself on Burton happened during the production of season four in which a high school in Honey Grove, Texas won a contest for a prom episode to be filmed at their school. Burton and Schwahn traveled together to announce to the students they had won, but when traveling in a two hour limo ride home after a flight from Texas to Raleigh, North Carolina, Schwahn forcefully kissed Burton. Schwahn took a phone call from CW president Dawn Ostroff concerning season five and Schwahn beckoned the actress over to listen to the call, “I’m leaning in listening, and when it’s Dawn Ostroff’s turn to talk, he just leans over and starts kissing me,” Burton said. “I push him off, but I can’t say anything, because he’s on the phone fighting for our show to stay on the air. I’m just in this position where I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got to take it, Hil. Just laugh it off. You’ll get to Wilmington in 45 minutes.’” Following the incident, Ackles said that Schwahn told her that he and Burton had “made out” during the limo ride.
In February 2007, after the cast and crew filmed the episode in Texas, Burton alleges that Schwahn once again forcefully kissed her against her will during the after party. “I’m at the bar waiting to get drinks for the hairdresser and me, and he leans over and he kisses me in front of everybody,” she said. “Right on the mouth. It was something I had to get out of. It wasn’t a peck. It wasn’t ‘Hey, sis, how’s your day?’ It was a boyfriend kiss.”
As for Ackles she said she had many of her own experiences of harassment from Schwahn. “In season 4, Schwahn and several members of the cast traveled to Miami for an event that was part of a sponsorship deal between the show and Sunkist. Ackles said that during the trip, Schwahn, after calling her phone more than 10 times, came to her hotel room in the evening and began knocking on the door for several minutes, asking to be let in. Ackles said that she did not answer, but that Schwahn continued to knock and that she eventually exited to the room’s balcony, until he stopped knocking and left,” the article reads.
She then revealed that after her last day of filming during season five, Schwahn appeared outside of her apartment before she was set to fly to Los Angeles. “Mark Schwahn is standing outside my apartment — would not leave, wants to say goodbye, wants one last hug, would not get in his car,” she said. “I could not go outside and get in my car, because he wouldn’t leave.” Schwahn left, she said, after she told him through an intercom that she would call the police if he did not. Ackles also revealed that the only reason she agreed to return to the show in season seven was because she was working so closely with Paul Johansson, “He would never do anything like that in front of Paul,” she said.
Along with Burton and Ackles, former assistant Michelle Furtney-Goodman detailed her own horrible experience of harassment from Schwahn, stating, “He announced to the room that the back of my head was so flat and that I was the perfect woman, because I could give a guy a blowjob and he could rest his drink on the back of my head. After that, he proceeded to push my head between my knees and balance a soda can on the back of my head. I remember looking at the carpet and thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is really happening.’”
Following more allegations from cast and crew of Schwahn’s current show, The Royals, he has now been suspended from production.
Check out Variety’s full article here.