Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton & 'One Tree Hill' Cast & Crew Pen Letter on EP's Alleged 'Traumatizing' Behavior

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Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton
Photo: Shane Gritzinger/Getty Images

Members of the cast and crew of the popular TV drama One Tree Hill are standing together with their accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the series' former showrunner Mark Schwahn.

Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and "all of the female cast members" of the WB/CW series -- as well as several female crew members -- penned an open letter, released to ET on Monday, in which they spoke out "in support of Audrey Wauchope and one another."

Wauchope -- who worked as a staff writer on One Tree Hill alongside her writing partner, Rachel Specter -- took to Twitter over the weekend to accuse the showrunner -- whom she did not mention by name -- of sexual harassment during her time on the show.

However, the recent open letter penned by the cast and crew accused Schwahn directly, stating, "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," the letter continued. "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."

According to the letter, the female cast members, crew members and staff writers "confided in each other" and "set up safe spaces to talk about his behavior and how to handle it." They would "warn new women who joined our ranks," and claimed that no one on the show was "fully unaware."

Additionally, they claim that they were threatened or coerced into staying silent, and that many of the women who worked on the show "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," the letter stated. "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," the joint statement added.

The letter concluded with a message of support, thanking Wauchope for her courage and sharing their gratitude 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," the statement concluded.

In addition to Burton, Bush and Lenz, the letter was signed by cast members Danneel Harris, Michaela McManus, Kate Voegele, Daphne Zuniga, India DeBeaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, and Allison Munn, as well as crew members Jane Beck, Tarin Squillante, Cristy Koebley, JoJo Stephens along with Wauchope and Specter.

After releasing the statement, Bush took to Twitter to share the letter with her followers, writing, "It's time, sisters. I am so proud to call these women my family. You cannot imagine."

Burton shared Bush's post, adding, "I have been angry for a decade. Today, my sisters take back what was rightfully ours. #burnitdownsis #f**kyoursorry"

Wauchope first opened up on Twitter about her experiences on One Tree Hill on Saturday, saying she was inspired by those who spoke out with their own allegations of sexual harassment against Andrew Kreisberg, the executive producer of the CW shows The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, who is currently the subject of an internal investigation by Warner Bros.

"In light of the Andrew Kreisberg reporting, a couple thoughts about my first writing job that I've wanted to say for years but have never had the guts to," Wauchope wrote in a series of tweets. "When I was 29 my writing partner @RachelSpecter and I were hired as staff writers. To say we were excited was an understatement. To say we left that job demoralized and confused is also an understatement. One of the 1st things we were told was that the showrunner hired female writers on the basis of their looks. That's why you're here - he wants to f**k you." 

She went on to claim that the show's staff sat on couches in the writers room, and "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. Sometimes we wouldn't luck out and 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. 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," she continued. "I write all this to say that there are trickle down psychological effects to all this bullshit and the town is littered with the collateral damage of abusers who have been given free reign. If you're sitting on one of these staffs please know whatever you are feeling is real."

Schwahn was the showrunner on One Tree Hill for the length of its eight-season run, from 2003 to 2012, and is currently the creator and showrunner on E!'s hit drama series The Royals, which recently wrapped production on its fourth season.

E!, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television -- the companies responsible for The Royals -- released a statement on Monday saying they are "monitoring the information carefully," and that they are "committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally."

The list of Hollywood stars who have been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment over the last months has continued to grow, seemingly every day. Over the weekend, a New York Times expose published the accounts of five women who accused comedian Louis C.K. of exposing himself to them. The comic actor released a statement admitting, "These stories are true," and that he's "been remorseful of my actions."

For more on the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against the Louie star -- and the fallout resulting from the Times' expose – watch the video below.