Every diehard One Tree Hill fan remembers when three of the CW drama’s stars appeared on the cover of Maxim in 2006, but as revealed in a new episode of the show’s iHeartRadio rewatch podcast, it’s a moment that the actresses involved would much rather forget.
Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz detail the instances of misogyny and abuses of power surrounding that cover shoot in the Nov. 28 episode of Drama Queens. The shoot, which featured Bush, Burton and Danneel Ackles, was loosely tied into a Season 4 storyline in which Rachel (played by Ackles) lands the cover of Maxim‘s “Hometown Hotties” issue.
According to Bush and Burton, participation in the shoot was not optional.
“We got told we had to do it,” Bush says. “Because [my character] Brooke had been so sexualized on the show and the whole idea of this ‘Hometown Hottie’ was Rachel’s storyline, I was like, ‘If the girls want to do it, that’s great. I don’t. I have gone to battle trying to make Brooke less of this thing that you guys have tried to force me into. I don’t want to do it.’ I literally got told: ‘If you don’t go and shoot this cover with your costars, we will guarantee that you will never be let out for a press day, a movie, an event, any of your charities — we will keep you here forever.'”
Burton also recalls being coerced into doing the shoot. “I remember getting pulled into the production office and [sitting] on the floor while our boss was on the couch,” she says. “We were given this very friendly soft pitch: ‘Look, all the other shows have been on the cover of every single magazine, and no one wants you guys. You finally have someone who wants you, and you’re really going to turn your nose up at that?'”
Lenz, who did not take part in the shoot, then adds the most horrific detail yet: she remembers hearing that Bush and Burton were in Los Angeles for a photo shoot, and that she’d been “replaced” by Ackles.
“They told me that [Maxim] didn’t come to me because I was too fat, and I just wasn’t the ‘hot girl,'” Lenz says, who adds that negative references to her character’s appearance were also inserted into the scripts around this same time.
This was news to Bush and Burton, both of whom remember being told that Lenz turned down the opportunity. As Bush recalls, “When I said I didn’t want to do it, they said, ‘She said no, so you have to say yes.'” Bush tells Lenz, “They threw you under the f–ing bus. Like, why does she get to say no and I don’t? I didn’t understand. … We weren’t mad at you, but we were pissed about it.”
“We tried our hardest,” Bush says of the actual shoot. “We got cute vintage one pieces and high-waisted bikinis, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll wear this corset top that totally covers my tummy, and these shorts, and it’ll look like a ’50s pin-up shoot.’ And then the Photoshop they did of that outfit? Half of my ass is gone. Literally one of my legs is half of its size. … It’s like someone started to make one of my boobs bigger, then went to lunch and forgot they weren’t done. I have one normal-sized boob and one huge boob. It’s the worst.”
The actresses also recall their unnamed “boss” visiting the shoot with a gift for Burton. “It was an iPod that he had loaded with music he thought was applicable to me,” Burton says. “He wanted Sophia to see it to put her in her place, and he wanted Danneel to see it to try and make her jealous. Who does that with a pack of 24-year-olds?”
“A married adult man 20 years your senior,” Bush says, adding that it was “scary and uncomfortable” to watch him hand Burton this iPod. “I could see you collapse a little bit,” Bush says, to which Burton replies, “I was so f–ing embarrassed.”
It was this type of behavior, Bush says, that made the One Tree Hill set “not a safe place” for her. “This season, I was leaving every chance I got,” she says. “I wanted out. I wanted to go home.”
But if there must be a silver lining to this experience, let it be the white jeans of empowerment that Burton possesses to this very day. Allow her to explain:
“Guess who wore pants in Maxim? This guy!” Burton says. “Guys, I have kept this pair of white jeans for so long. I showed up that day and was such a righteous bitch. Such a brat, such a baby. I was like, ‘I’m wearing pants. I’m uncomfortable. Put me in the pants.’ So I’ve saved those white jeans as a testament to [that decision].”
This is the latest in a series of disturbing behind-the-scenes stories shared on Drama Queens. The podcast still celebrates what fans loved about One Tree Hill, but its hosts are also incredibly candid about their negative experiences on set, the hostile nature of which wasn’t fully revealed until years after the show’s 2012 conclusion. In 2017, Bush, Burton and Lenz joined 15 other One Tree Hill female cast and crew members in releasing a joint statement accusing series creator Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment.
New episodes of Drama Queens are released every Monday on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other platforms.