Hilarie Burton says Chad Michael Murray called out One Tree Hill creator over alleged sexual harassment

Hilarie Burton said her One Tree Hill co-star Chad Michael Murray was one of the few who stood up for her against the show’s creator Mark Schwahn.

Burton and Murray played love interests Peyton Sawyer (Burton) and Lucas Scott (Murray) on the long-running US teen drama.

In 2017, Burton was among the 18 women One Tree Hill cast and crew members who claimed they had been sexually harassed by Schwahn.

The showrunner has never commented on the allegations and was fired from One Tree Hill that same year.

During the most recent episode of the Drama Queens podcast hosted by Burton’s One Tree Hill co-stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush, the actor was asked about her decision not to report Schwahn at the time.

“Oh, I did. I told all sorts of people. Honey, I told everybody,” Burton responded.

“Chad [Michael Murray] walked up and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ He said that to our boss in the bar. He watched our boss grab me in front of a lot of people, and you know, Chad didn’t have anything to lose because he knew our boss hated him anyway. A lot of people had a lot to lose, so you don’t speak up when you have a lot to lose. But [our boss] felt so comfortable that that was not something that he had a problem with. [He thought], ‘I can do whatever I want to her in public with her boyfriend standing there.’”

Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton in 2008 (Scott Gries/Getty Images)
Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton in 2008 (Scott Gries/Getty Images)

Bush – who was married to Murray from 2005 to 2006 – said she believed Murray was “protected” against Schwahn as he was “No 1 on the call sheet”.

“He had the most power, so he could come up and shove our boss off you and get in a fight. And I’m glad that he did. I want everybody to follow that lead,” she said. “Thank God, Hilarie, that you had that moment with Chad, who was already so at odds with our boss.”

Burton has spoken about the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Schwahn before. In a 2020 interview with People, Burton claimed she was “groomed” by the showrunner, who she previously alleged was verbally abusive, touched her inappropriately and kissed her against her will.

“I was told that if you speak up, your career is over and you’ll be labelled a troublemaker,” said Burton, who was in her twenties when the show was filming.

She added: “I didn’t say anything for a decade. And as a result of that, people were abused after me. The guilt that comes with that is really difficult.”

In the 2017 letter accusing Schwahn, the female cast and crew members wrote: “Mark Schwahn’s behaviour over the duration of the filming of One Tree Hill was something of an ‘open secret.’

“Many of us were, to varying degrees, manipulated psychologically and emotionally. More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress. Many of us were put in uncomfortable positions and had to swiftly learn to fight back, sometimes physically, because it was made clear to us that the supervisors in the room were not the protectors they were supposed to be.”

“Many of us were spoken to in ways that ran the spectrum from deeply upsetting, to traumatizing, to downright illegal,” they continued. “And a few of us were put in positions where we felt physically unsafe. More than one woman on our show had her career trajectory threatened.”

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.