In the previous season’s finale, off-kilter stalker Katie Ryan (played by Amanda Schull) put bullets both in her prey Clay and his girlfriend Quinn. ‘Twas all but a bad dream, Clay realized as he and Quinn went for a stroll on the beach in the Season 8 premiere. Except… the shooting victims actually were comatose, their idyllic “dream” but a dream.
VanSanten, who now stars on USA Network’s Shooter, remembers worrying about her job security when filming the season-ending shooting. Addressing series boss Mark Schwahn at the time, “I was like, ‘Wait, are we dying?'” she recalls. “And he’s like, ‘No! You’re regulars on the show. Of course you’re coming back! You’ll be in comas, but you’ll be hanging out in Purgatory.'”
VanSanten responded, “What do you mean, we’re going to hang out in Purgatory??” With a laugh, she notes: “We’re frolicking on the beach and we don’t even realize we’re dead!”
Though quite unbelievable on paper, the double-episode storyline had an impact on viewers, despite the fact that Clay and Quinn had only been introduced the previous season. The actors involved meanwhile found real drama to mine from the surreal situation.
“It was really fun, and then it got to be really heartbreaking,” VanSanten shares, “when my character knew that she was going to be leaving Purgatory and entering her body [back in the hospital]. There was always stuff that we would do where we were like, ‘How the hell do you [act] this? This isn’t anything I could have ever experienced or know.’ But I think it led to some of the most emotional work that Rob and I really got to do, that entire season. I loved the perspective.”
In fact, while she is “so happy” playing Julie Swagger on the yet-to-be-renewed Shooter, VanSanten says that if ongoing fan interesting in a Tree Hill revival movie ever comes to fruition, “I’m like, ‘Hell yeah I would do it.’ It was almost 10 years ago for me, so how fun would it be to all come back and see where they’d write us?”
“More than that,” she continues, “Rob is still my best friend, so to get to work with him again and reprise our roles would be awesome. It’s always fun to think about the good ol’ days!”