In a letter accusing former showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment, the cast and crew of the drama series “One Tree Hill” also express their support for Audrey Wauchope, a former coworker.
Without specifically mentioning Schwahn, Wauchope tweeted that she and her writing partner had experienced sexual harassment, which included inappropriate touches and comments while working on the show.
She also claimed that the showrunner had exposed crew members to n-ked pictures of an actress with whom he was having an affair.
Female cast members of the popular program, including Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz, claimed that the showrunner had also abused them “psychologically and emotionally,” calling it “an open secret.”
When supervisors “were not the protectors they were supposed to be,” the ladies felt frightened in his company, they felt they had to be prepared to physically defend themselves against Schwahn’s alleged advances.
“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.”
Wauchope said in her tweets that “Female writers would try to get the spot where the showrunner wouldn’t sit as to not be touched. Often men would help out by sitting next to him, thus protecting the women … he’d just squeeze his disgusting body in between us and put his arms around us, grinning. He pet hair. He massaged shoulders. I know he did more but not to me so they’re not my stories to share.”
“I’m furious and sad and everything else for the women who have sat on that couch next to that man,” she added. “And I’m furious and sad and everything else that years later I don’t feel safe to be able to do anything real about this and that it seems to be happening all over this town.”
Wauchope went on to say, “I forgot we were staff writers on 2 shows. In the absence of a name I don’t want to implicate the good ones. The men of Cougartown are aces.”
Wauchope claims she and Specter were subjected to unwanted touching, innuendo and harassment in a hostile work environment where “men on staff were shown n-ked photos of on an actress [the showrunner] was having an affair with. Photos she didn’t know were being passed around. Photos they didn’t want to see.”
A teen drama about a groups of young men and women growing up in North Carolina, “One Tree Hill” aired on the WB from 2003 to 2006, and on the CW from 2006 to 2012. Schwahn created the series, and was showrunner for the entirety of its eight-season run.
Schwahn — who was with the teen drama for the entire eight years — later worked on E!s “The Royals.”
“We are monitoring the information carefully,” a spokesperson for that network told TheWrap. “E!, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television are committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally.”
The letter was signed by a total of 18 cast and crew including Bush, Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, Danneel Harris, Michaela McManus, Kate Voegele, Daphne Zuniga, India DeBeaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, Allison Munn and the “brave crew” which included Wauchope and Rachel Specter.
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 thesystemic 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