Hilarie Burton: Mark Schwahn’s harassment made me derail my acting career

Embed from Getty Images
Last week, we covered the story of One Tree Hill showrunner Mark Schwahn’s gross abuse of power as he was outed as a serially abuser by 18 women who worked with him on the show. Schwahn was then suspended as the showrunner of The Royals, after which one of the young women acting on the show, Alexandra Park, said in a statement “I too have been exposed to this reprehensible behavior.” Then star Elizabeth Hurley released a statement too and she missed the mark, I think, by sort-of defending Schwahn. “Yes, he flirts and tells risqué jokes — but so do I. To hear that there was more than this is a shocking surprise.” Hurley did support Park in her statement and wrote that she regrets missing the signs. However 25 other women who worked on The Royals all went on the record to state that they too were harassed and psychologically abused by Schwahn, writing that Schwahn committed “repeated unwanted sexual harassment of multiple female members of cast and crew.” Like the women who spoke out against Schwahn’s behavior while working on One Tree Hill, they wrote that they looked out for each other and warned new cast and crew about Schwahn. You can read their full statement here.

Hilarie Burton, who is now 35 and is expecting her second child with actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan on The Walking Dead), was interviewed by Variety about her experience on set with Schwahn during One Tree Hill. Burton worked on the series from 2003 – 2009, which made her just 21 years old when it started and at the beginning of career. Schwahn was 37 at the time. Unfortunately that experience with Schwahn’s multiple unwanted advances made her so gun shy at the time that she decided not to pursue acting opportunities, lest other men in power treat her similarly. This is just an excerpt of her interview, which I recommend you read in its entirety. Burton impressed me with how clearly she explained what happened to her and how it affected her. An actress named Danneel Ackles who joined OTH in the third season was interviewed by Variety and described a similar pattern of harassment and stalking by Schwahn. (Daneel is the woman shown on the right in the photo above.) Several other people who worked with Schwahn confirmed these accounts and detailed how he harassed and touched them as well.

“Things took a turn in season three,” Burton said. “That’s when Mark decided that I was his muse.”

Speaking to Variety, Burton recalled years of harassment and assault that she alleges Schwahn perpetrated against her and other women on the show. She claimed that Schwahn twice forced himself on her, kissing her on the mouth without warning and against her will. She said Schwahn touched her inappropriately while in the presence of his wife. All in all, she described a culture on “One Tree Hill” in which Schwahn pitted women against each other, was verbally abusive, and spread false rumors about physical relationships he claimed to have had with female cast members….

Burton said her experience with Schwahn has had a negative impact on her career. Since leaving “One Tree Hill,” she has refused to audition and refused to work for showrunners she does not already know. She was dropped by her agent after she refused to allow herself to be considered for series-regular roles during pilot season, hesitant to be locked into a longterm contract with a showrunner she didn’t know. (After a period of working with only a manager, she is now represented by APA.)

“The fear of being forced into another one of these situations was crippling,” she said. “I never wanted to be the lead female on any show ever, ever, ever again.”

[From Variety]

This is what struck me about Louis CK’s victims also, that women he harassed often had their careers forever changed, some choosing to stop working in standup entirely. Even when a serial abuser isn’t directly attacking his victims’ careers, like Harvey Weinstein who spread rumors and actively ruined women’s prospects by wielding his power, they still affect their choices, both personally and professionally. So many women blame themselves for that, when they were targeted by a predator and nothing they did could have changed that. So many side players are complicit in that cycle as well. Burton wants to set up a system where union representatives check up on young actors on set, because of the insular nature of the work and the fact that they can be isolated from family, agents and managers. It’s clear from all these disturbing accounts that so much needs to change.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

18 Responses to “Hilarie Burton: Mark Schwahn’s harassment made me derail my acting career”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Nicole says:

    Horrific. Sophia Bush (who is quite the activist now) has been speaking up as well. I’m hoping she gives a full statement because she is so eloquent.
    Anyways what strikes me is she was harassed at her job and groped by Affleck. Lord knows what else happened in this short span but that would be enough to make me quit. Truly awful
    Its also chilling to read that the guys on the show would literally move seats and purposefully place themselves inbetween this guy and their female costars. These people were young and that is such a toxic working environment

  2. Jamie42 says:

    That’s so terrible.
    I like the fact that Burton has come up with a solution by which independent union reps check up on actors on sets. There clearly need to be some structural reforms after so many revelations, and this seems to be a practical one.

  3. Milla says:

    Just arrest him. Put him away. I have no words anymore. Just wanna hug women.

  4. perplexed says:

    Have other actresses from the show like Bethany Joy Lenz said anything?

  5. Jillian says:

    She made a video announcing her departure from OTH and you can see she was holding something back.

    I’m glad abusers are being called out and victims are getting support

  6. Tiffany says:

    Well, this explains Danneel. She married Jensen and that was that, just stopped working. Explains so much.

    • Jillian says:

      Hilarie didn’t work for a while and then all of the sudden, I saw her guest star on three different shows.

      When she had her first baby, I think she wanted to go away and avoid the media.

      I don’t blame the actresses one bit

    • holly hobby says:

      Yep she disappeared and then I saw her guest starring in Forever (that show was cancelled but it is great!). She wasn’t kidding about dropping out.

  7. teacakes says:

    This is heartbreaking, and what gets to me is how pervasive it was, that the women on the set knew and experienced it to this degree and the most anyone could do to protect them was physically block access to the female writers in the writers’ room.

    And Hilarie wasn’t a nobody back then – it just got me thinking how nothing can truly protect women unless the culture changes. I once knew a young woman who got her starter job through connections and was sexually harassed, and ended up feeling like SHE was the one to blame because the nepotism was something the partners held against her and (she felt) no one would be sympathetic to her or believe her because of how she got her job. It’s just awful.

  8. AV says:

    I read about this yesterday and it really made me sad. It makes me sad in general, but with her specifically. I have only ever seen her in White Collar and holy crap can she command the screen. She’s got great comedic timing, she’s gorgeous (not that it really matters, I guess, but I do enjoy her style), and she’s believable in her roles. What a crap thing to have happened to her. I’ve been feeling so sad but so empowered by this conversation, and I’m glad it’s still ongoing. I think some people are a little tired of hearing about it, but I never will be. Every time someone speaks out I feel a little bit stronger. Asia Argento’s description of her attack(s) legitimately changed my life. I’ve been able to heal from some stuff that has been dragging me down *for years* and I feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to be the one to find my voice. These women and men (Terry Crews, you magnificent sunbeam of hope!) speaking out about their ill-treatment is so incredible. The shame, guilt, fear, disgust, embarrassment – it’s still there; it just doesn’t feel like it’s anchoring me to the bottom of a cess pit anymore.

    • lucy2 says:

      I always liked her too – I thought she had a great screen presence and an easy going, down to earth vibe (and is really beautiful) and I too was surprised her career never went far after OTH. Now we know why.

      I am so glad you are feeling better and this is helping you. I know it’s been hard for a lot of people and is dredging up a lot of pain for so many, but you feeling stronger is amazing and wonderful.
      I feel like every time someone else speaks out, it’s one more voice, one more foot blocking this door from slamming shut again. I think things have really changed.

  9. Char says:

    OTH was a favorite of mine when it 1st started. I was bummed when Hilary left & I distinctly remember the rumor was that she left because she wanted more money. I actually didn’t hate on her for that, she was really the star during that time, but now I definitely assume Mark started that rumor to get back at her. I was also bummed & didn’t understand why she didn’t come back for any reunion episodes, even when Chad Michael Murray did (their characters were coupled with a child on the show & left together as well), but now I definitely understand why!

    When I read her statement about this basically killing her career because she didn’t want to work with anyone like that again, it reminded me the 1st thing I saw her in after OTH was on Grey’s (might not have been her 1st job, but 1st one I saw her in) & I realized she probably felt safe working with a women who, as far as I know, is good to her employees.

    It’s so gross because he also made a character for himself in the show where he was a friend/mentor type person to her character. It also creeps me out because there were several episodes where female characters (Hillary, Sofia, & several others) were physically attacked. I know that happens even on shows that aren’t run by abussive men, but it makes it feel gross, knowing what he is.

  10. ALF-M says:

    Never was a fan of OTH. It took over the set of Dawson’s Creek which I thought was a far superior written show. I tried watching two seasons of OTH to give it a chance if I know it has a lot of fans, but I just thought the storylines and writing were so predictable. It wasn’t the actresses or actors fault with what they had to work with. I couldn’t fathom it was on the air as long it was. As for Hilario Burton, she was discovered on the streets of NYC y the Times Square studios for MTV during TRL. They liked her so much she became a correspondent then host for the show. She got very lucky and then her first year of OTH was doing dual duties hosting TRL and staring in OTH which brought that Tc soap lots of viewers and publicity. Mark Schwahn should have been kissing her ass for bringing the MTV viewers over to his lame teen drama! I feel very bad for her and the other cast and crew and to deal with such abuses for all of those years! I remember when Hilario appeared on the USA tv series White Collar, it was the first time I thought to myself, this woman can actually act! She had great chemistry with Matt Bohmer (like a Thomas Crown Affair homage) she looked sophisticated and I had wished they made her a series regular. Now we know why she wasn’t. She psychologically couldn’t handle making a commitment due to her experience/ with Schwahn! It’s a shame because I know that the cast of White Collar was super close and I bet they would have protected her. Then again, the only full time female stars were Tiffani Theissen and Marcia Thompson so unless they come out with something about producers or writers of that show, I assume the show was a good job to work for!

  11. Moxylady says:

    I can’t believe that no one is touching the Jensen Ackles wife aspect!