Sophia Bush played Brooke Davis for nine seasons on the teen drama One Tree Hill

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 02, 2021 12:45 PM
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Sophia Bush is looking back on how she and her costars were treated on the One Tree Hill set.

While appearing on the Chicks in the Office podcast, the actress, 38, reflected on her time making the teen drama One Tree Hill, which ran from 2003 to 2012. Bush, who played Brooke Davis in the series, said she often had to push back on dialogue and scenes her character was put in since they felt "icky" and not authentic.

"My girlfriends from One Tree Hill and I talk about that all the time. We're like, girls don't talk to each other the way we had to talk to each other on that show, and also don't behave the way we had to behave on that show," said Bush. "Come on! That was, like, some gross older man's fantasy. And it was icky."

Being in her early 20s while playing a high school student presented a difficult dynamic too, she said, recalling how they were expected to be adults but at the same time were not trusted by some of the team behind-the-scenes.

Sophia Bush attends the 2020 Black AIDS Institute's Heroes In The Struggle Gala at California African American Museum on February 08, 2020
Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty

"We didn't know anything. We were babies. ... It hit me the other day that when we started our show, I was only three years out of having grown up in an all-girls school where I wore a uniform. Like, what?" Bush said. "I knew nothing about dynamics, let alone high school dynamics between boys and girls, let alone being a cheerleader. I didn't have any of that."

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"We felt like little kids," she added. "And when we look back now we realize how young we were and how naive we were and how, unfortunately, we didn't get to grow up on a set where people wanted to answer our questions or help us navigate any of the madness of the early aughts. And it was madness, and it was actually kind of scary and intimidating and confusing."

Bush later added, "In some ways we were treated like adults. Looking back on it, we can see the ways in which we were fetishized and, you know, we had this sort of lens of 'adultification' put over us. This idea that we were supposed to know everything and have answers and be ultimately professional when we didn't even know what the technical terms were."

"... We were expected to be these adults, and yet we were also looked at kind of as pawns," said Bush. "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 because they thought we'd band together and ask for more money. It's just so weird, and it was stuff we were not aware of at the time."

One Tree Hill also starred Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and more.

Cast of One Tree Hill
Credit: Theo Wargo/WireImage

In 2017, the series creator, Mark Schwahn, was accused of sexual harassment and physical and emotional manipulation by 18 female cast and crew members who worked on the hit CW show — including Bush and Burton, who detailed her sexual assault allegations against the showrunner in an interview with Variety at the time.

In June 2018, Bush also shared details about her allegations against Schwahn on Andy Cohen's SiriusXM show, Andy Cohen Live.

"We're not the only group of girls that's ever had a boss who is a pig," Bush said of Schwahn, who was later fired from E! drama The Royals following an investigation into allegations of harassment. (Schwahn has never spoken about any of the allegations.)

Recalling one experience with the showrunner, Bush alleged that he once grabbed her butt.

"My mom's a crazy Italian lady from New Jersey. The first time Mark Schwahn grabbed my a—, I hit him in front of six other producers," she said. "And I hit him f—ing hard."

Sophia Bush joins Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker and the ERA Coalition in standing with the Equal Rights Amendment at The Campbell Bar on March 10, 2020 in New York City.
Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty

Back in January 2020, Bush revealed on Ashley Graham's Pretty Big Deal podcast that she "fought a lot" with her boss and the writers on set, especially after she was asked to play scenes as her teen character in her underwear.

"I was sort of unaware of the power dynamics at play and I would just say things. I'd be like, 'I'm not doing this. Stop writing [these] scenes,' " the actress recalled.

"You look back at it, at the time I didn't realize how inappropriate it was, but again, this was a long time ago," Bush added. "I remember my boss kept writing scenes for me to be in my underwear. And I was like, 'I'm not doing this. This is inappropriate. Like, I don't think this is what we should be teaching 16-year-old girls to be doing, to be seeking validation this way.' "

The response Bush claims she got from her boss — whom she never specifically named — was shocking, she said. "He literally said to me, he goes, 'Well, you're the one with the big f---ing rack everybody wants to see,' " said Bush. "And I was like, 'What? Well, I'm not doing it!' "

"I was really ballsy, and I didn't even know it," she added at the time. "I just wasn't wanting to perpetuate this sort of behavior that I didn't think was appropriate."

As a producer herself now, Bush says she wants her sets to be "professional — we're not here to tolerate a bunch of dilly-dallying or bulls--- — but we're also supposed to be really fun and expansive."

"I want sets that I work on to be places where 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. Where it can just be fun," she said on the Chicks in the Office podcast.

Bush's new series, Good Sam, which she stars in and executive produces, was recently picked up and will premiere on CBS in 2022.