James Lafferty nearly quit acting before “One Tree Hill”: 'It was my last shot'

"I was just going to go to college if I didn't get this role," the actor said.

It's hard to imagine One Tree Hill without James Lafferty, the California-born teen heartthrob behind the drama's basketball star Nathan Scott for nine seasons. Heck, it's hard to imagine that era of the CW without him. But that's what could've been if Lafferty had walked away from acting altogether.

The actor, now 38, opens up in an interview with PEOPLE about how, at the age of 17, One Tree Hill was his final chance to make it as an actor. If things had gone differently, he wouldn't be where he is today.

“It was my last shot at it,” he said. “I was just going to go to college if I didn't get this role, and I was going to go to Long Beach State and just do that for a while, and it ended up being the one that actually caught.... It felt like fate."

<p>Fred Norris/Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection</p> James Lafferty as Nathan Scott in 'One Tree Hill'

Fred Norris/Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

James Lafferty as Nathan Scott in 'One Tree Hill'

Related: One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush comes out as queer: 'Can't say it without smiling'

Part of the feeling stemmed from Lafferty's entrance into acting at a young age. As a child actor, he appeared on shows like Boston Public, Get Real, and First Monday. “For me it was sort of the culmination of my entire childhood in the acting game,” he said of One Tree Hill. “I started when I was really young and I was auditioning by the time I was 10 and working my way up through smaller roles to get the opportunity to do something like this.”

Lafferty auditioned for One Tree Hill when it was called Ravens, after the high school's basketball team. He called the audition process "super nerve-wracking," but it was for a role that was "an opportunity to do all these things that I would've just absolutely loved to do at that time in my life."

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Lafferty became a mainstay on One Tree Hill in this career-defining role, which may have began as more of a villain but would make a shift over the course of the nine years on the air. More recently, he starred in a new ad campaign for American Eagle, for which the actor channeled Nathan with a basketball-style photo shoot — with a healthy amount of shirtless shots, as well.

Related: T-Pain releases cover of One Tree Hill theme: 'I'm not gonna lie... this is cool as f---'

His fellow One Tree Hill costars commented on the spread. Hilarie Burton called it a “thirst trap," with Sophia Bush adding, "Bahahaha just seeing we had the same thought” with a crying-laughing emoji." Stephen Colletti wrote, “Beast!” and Robert Buckley wrote, “Get it, stud.”

The actor was last seen on screen in the 2024 film Red Right Hand, as well as shows like Everyone Is Doing Great and another CW drama, All American.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.