Since Sophia Bush made her debut as Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill in 2004, she’s gone from being a teen soap star to being a staunch activist, using her Instagram presence especially to draw attention to important causes. At the same time, when it comes to defending herself, her coworkers or the jobs of crew members on her projects, Bush isn't afraid to take the proverbial gloves off.
In a new interview with Andy Cohen on his SiriusXM show, Andy Cohen Live, Bush talked about her experiences on the One Tree Hill set. In November 2017, Variety published an exclusive statement from the cast accusing showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment. Days later, there emerged a more detailed interview wherein Bush’s costar, Hilarie Burton described a set environment where Schwahn allegedly verbally abused women, spread rumors about physical relationships he claimed to have with them and touched them inappropriately on several occasions, including allegedly kissing Burton on the mouth twice with no warning or consent.
The experience Bush talks about with Cohen appears as a small line in that Variety piece. Now that we have more details from Bush, we’re feeling the same stomach-churning revulsion that hit when we first learned of the accusations against Schwahn last year.
The actor clarified that although One Tree Hill filmed in North Carolina, the writer's room was in Los Angeles. She said this meant there were good days on set (read: days when Schwahn’s was likely back in LA) and there were bad days.
“We had great sort of highlight reel, coming-of-age, rom-com shit together, and then we also had, like, ‘Batten down the hatches, [Schwahn’s] coming,” she told Cohen.
“The first time Mark Schwahn grabbed my ass,” Bush said, “I hit him in front of six other producers, and I hit him fucking hard. And he came back to LA, and I was told years later by one of the then-writers, who became an EP, that he came back being like, ‘That fucking entitled bitch! Who does she think she is?’ This very sweet man named Mike, who I love and who is like a ride-or-die for me, was like, ‘Maybe you just shouldn’t touch the girls.’ You know, Mark gave him the option of 'Shut up and keep your job or get out.'"
The environment, Bush said, was unhealthy for everybody. She noted that she was just 21 years old at the time, which made the imbalance of power even more noticeable: “The whole time, you’re a kid who’s going, ‘I gotta figure out how to protect my friends.’ I don’t want to lose my job. I also don’t want every person on our crew to lose their jobs.”
Bush continued, “Because this is what people don’t understand. They go, ‘Oh, well why don’t you just leave?’ First of all, why am I supposed to suffer and kill my own career because somebody else can’t keep their dick in their pants? Second of all, there is a whole crew that people don’t know about.”
It’s the latter, Bush said, that makes her furious about situations like the Roseanne reboot and subsequent cancellation due to racist remarks the show’s star made on Twitter: “Two hundred people lost their jobs because she is a psychotic racist. There are people who have families, there are cameramen who are wondering how they’re going to pay their kids’ school tuition now.”
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#MeToo • “If all the women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed use ‘Me, too’ as a status update, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” • It's shocking to see how many men are shocked. That women they know, perhaps even EVERY woman they know, has been sexually harassed. Sexually assaulted. This problem reaches farther than Harvey. Or Donald. (Both of whom, by the way, I hope get their due.) We live in a country where 1 in 4 women is assaulted or raped by the time she leaves college. And those numbers come from what gets reported. Estimates put the true stats at 1 in 2. Half of all women. By the age of 22. And if you scoff at that reality, you are part of the problem. If you are feeling a little uneasy, wondering if your behavior is part of the problem? It is. I promise you. If you're a woman who has been manipulated or bullied into feeling like her assault was her fault? It was not. There is no excuse for the behavior of abusers. And so many abusers are adept at psychological and emotionally abuse, thus masterful manipulators. • And if you're one of those men that I know? One of those men whose palms are sweating reading this? Wondering if your names are about to be exposed because of what you've done? How you've abused. How you've twisted. How you've lied. Good. Sweat. Be afraid. Welcome to our world. And watch your backs. We have looked over our shoulders in fear, every day and night, for long enough. Your turn. To you abusers and the ones who stood by and stayed silent? Consider this your notice. From me and from women everywhere. We are roaring, alright. • #MeToo #WomenWhoRoar #TaranaBurke
Bush has been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke, since it went viral as a hashtag in October. She posted on Instagram as part of the first wave of women declaring #MeToo to draw awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct in Hollywood (and everywhere else). She’s now advocating for the recognition of women whose voices don’t have the same power as those in Hollywood because, she said, “It’s not just a Hollywood issue… and that’s the reason the movement is working so hard to support women in other industries, such as female farmworkers, women in medicine, women in academia, women in hotel service work and domestic workers.”
It’s horrifying to read story after story of victims coming forward to name their sexual abusers, but we stand with Bush, the women of One Tree Hill and all those who have shared their trauma with the public. We also stand with those who cannot come forward or choose not to; we see you. We believe you.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need help finding resources to move forward, contact the National Sexual Assault hotline, created by RAINN, at 800-656-HOPE (4673). The hotline is a safe, confidential service.