In a letter published by Variety, cast and crew members of the television show One Tree Hill accused showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment.
The letter was issued after writer Audrey Wauchope detailed in a series of tweets over the weekend the treatment women on the show endured.
One Tree Hill, which ran from 2003-12, was filmed in Wilmington.
In the tweets, in which Schwahn is not identified by name, Wauchope states that she and her writing partner Rachel Specter were told that the "showrunner hired female writers on the basis of their looks" and that he wanted to have sex with them.
Wauchope also accuses the showrunner of inappropriately touching female writers, and said that he showed male staff members naked photos of an actress he was having an affair with.
"I'm furious and sad and everything else for the women who have sat on that couch next to that man. 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 said in a tweet.
He's a man in a position of power who was allowed to run a television show for years where this behavior continuously went on. I don't blame the men on that staff - I truly believe they were also in a way victims of psychological abuse and didn't know what to do.— Audrey Wauchope (@audreyalison) November 12, 2017
ON Tuesday, WECT talked to Cullen Moss, who worked on the show for all nine seasons. He said, "I didn't witness anything firsthand but I knew the women who came forward, and they are wonderful, talented women. I believe in them and what they said, and stand behind them and support them."
Ruthie Halko, a One Tree Hill superfan who owns Coastal Paws in downtown Wilmington, has been to seven OTH conventions in Wilmington and has met all the actresses who came forward.
"At first, I didn't want to believe it," Halko said. "Then more women spoke out, and it just hit us fans that all these are the women we look up to, and our role models were hurting, and we learned so much from them over the years."
Halko said she while she never met Schwahn, she believes the show shouldn't be defined by these new allegations.
"While he created the show, part of the One Tree Hill 'fandom' is that he is not the one that made OTH what it is," Halko said. "He may have started it and put it out there, but the characters and actors give it the meaning it has today."
Halko says she commends the women for coming forward.
"I think it takes a lot when something happens to you to come out publicly and say something and these women stick together as a team," Halko said. "When one person said something, the rest of them backed each other up, and it is a way for us as women that aren't famous to know that it's OK to come out and say something."
The letter from the cast and crew members can be read below:
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 the systemic 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 DeBeaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, and Allison Munn
And Brave Crew,
Audrey Wauchope, Rachel Specter, Jane Beck, Tarin Squillante, Cristy Koebley, JoJo Stephens
And All the rest of the Women We Worked With Who Are Finding Their Voices as We Speak
Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.
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