One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn has been accused of sexual harassment by 18 female members of the show’s cast and crew.
Series stars Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz are among those who have written an open letter accusing Schwahn, in solidarity with One Tree Hill writer Audrey Wauchope who alleged on Twitter that she was subject to unwanted touching.
Wauchope did not refer to Schwahn by name, but in a thread on Twitter on Sunday she wrote that she was “furious and sad and everything else for the women who have sat on that couch next to that man”.
In the joint letter, which was published on Monday, the female cast and crew wrote that Schwahn’s alleged behaviour “was something of an ‘open secret’” and that many of them were “manipulated psychologically and emotionally”.
“More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress,” they wrote. “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. 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.”
One Tree Hill ran for eight series from 2003 to 2012, and followed a group of teens in North Carolina as they navigated their high school years and the beginnings of adulthood.
Schwahn, who is currently working on E! series The Royals, starring Elizabeth Hurley, has not yet commented on the allegations.
A spokesperson for E! said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly: “We are monitoring the information carefully. E!, Universal Cable Productions, and Lionsgate Television are committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally.”
Read the full letter below:
To Whom It May Concern,
All of the female cast members of One Tree Hill have chosen this forum to stand together in support of Audrey Wauchope and one another. To use terminology that has become familiar as the systemic reality of sexual harassment and assault has come more and more to light, Mark Schwahn’s behavior 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. 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.
The through line in all of this was, and still is, our unwavering support of and faith in one another. We confided in each other. We set up safe spaces to talk about his behavior and how to handle it. To warn new women who joined our ranks. We understood that a lot of it was orchestrated in ways that kept it out of sight for the studio back home. We also understood that no one was fully unaware. The lack of action that has been routine, the turning of the other cheek, is intolerable. We collectively want to echo the calls of women everywhere that vehemently demand change, in all industries.
Many of us were told, during filming, that coming forward to talk about this culture would result in our show being canceled and hundreds of lovely, qualified, hard-working, and talented people losing their jobs. This is not an appropriate amount of pressure to put on young girls. Many of us since have stayed silent publicly but had very open channels of communication in our friend group and in our industry, because we want Tree Hill to remain the place “where everything’s better and everything’s safe” for our fans; some of whom have said that the show quite literally saved their lives. But the reality is, no space is safe when it has an underlying and infectious cancer. We have worked at taking our power back, making the conventions our own, and relishing in the good memories. But there is more work to be done.
We are all deeply grateful for Audrey’s courage. For one another. And for every male cast mate and crew member who has reached out to our group of women to offer their support these last few days. They echo the greater rallying cry that must lead us to change: Believe Women. We are all in this together.
With Love and Courage,
Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, Danneel Harris, Michaela McManus, Kate Voegele, Daphne Zuniga, India de Beaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, and Allison Munn
And Brave Crew,
Audrey Wauchope, Rachel Specter, Cristy Koebley, JoJo Stephens, Jane Beck, Tarin Squillante
And All the rest of the Women We Worked With Who Are Finding Their Voices as We Speak
One Tree Hill’s James Lafferty, Austin Nichols, and Stephen Colletti have since voiced their support for their co-stars and crew on Twitter, saying they “stand with” them.
The claims made against Schwahn follow a torrent of recent allegations about sexual harassment in Hollywood, with figures including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey being accused.