Sophia Bush Claims She Was 'Controlled & Manipulated' on the 'OTH' Set
Sophia Bush is opening up about her time on One Tree Hill. During an interview on the Chicks in the Office podcast, the 38-year-old actress spoke about negative things she experienced while starring as Brooke Davis on the teen series from 2003 to 2012.
“We were in our early 20s playing high school kids, but we didn’t know anything. We were babies… We felt like little kids,” Bush said of her and her co-stars, which included Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, James Lafferty and Chad Michael Murray. “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.”
Bush noted that her and her co-stars’ fame during that time was “intense,” adding that the experience was “actually kind of scary and intimidating and confusing.”
“It was weird because, in some ways, we were treated like adults. Looking back on it, we can see the ways in which we were fetishized and we had this sort of lens of adultification put over us with this idea that we were supposed to know everything and have answers, and be, ultimately, professional,” she said. “When we didn’t even know what the technical terms were. It was like, ‘Get on your mark!’ And you’re like, ‘What are you talking about? What is a mark? What do you mean?’ We were expected to be these adults and yet, we were also looked at kind of as pawns.”
Back in 2017, Bush and other female stars and crew members of One Tree Hill penned an open letter claiming that they were “manipulated psychologically and emotionally” by the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn. The women also wrote that “a few of us were put in positions where we felt physically unsafe.” Following the claims, Schwahn was fired from his other series, The Royals.
A year after the open letter, Bush claimed that producers of the series were “really deeply inappropriate” to both her and Murray after their real-life split, calling their alleged behavior “opportunistic and ugly.”
“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 ’cause they thought we would band together and ask for more money,” Bush claimed on the podcast. “It’s just so weird and those were things we were not aware of at the time.”
“There was no social media where people were talking about this stuff and giving people advice, and figuring out if you were being paid equitably,” she continued. “We didn’t have any of that. We were just in the dark.”
Bush noted that her time on One Tree Hill is “such a crazy thing to look back on, so much joy and so much confusion all existing at the same time.”
It was that experience, though, that helped Bush see what kind of work environment she wants and expects, for both herself and others, now that she’s producing her own projects.
“I want my sets to be really, yes professional — we’re not here to tolerate a bunch of dilly-dallying or bulls**t — but we’re also supposed to be really fun and expansive,” she said. “I want sets that I work on to be places that 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.”
“That’s the energy I want it to be,” Bush added, “because I know what it’s like when it isn’t.”
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