Tree Hill alums Hilarie Burton, Danneel Ackles, Robert Buckley and Antwon Tanner reunite on the small screen for Lifetime's new film, The Christmas Contract, and only ET sat down with three of the four stars for the inside scoop on how this holiday reunion happened.
Burton revealed that she and Buckley had been wanting to star in a Christmas film together for a while, but the timing was never right. It wasn't until Burton was pregnant with her second child with husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan -- Burton announced the birth of her daughter in March --that things started to come together. Her No. 1 priority: working with her One Tree Hill pals.
"Rob Buckley and I had been trying to do a Christmas movie together for five years and there was so many many people that were like, 'Oh, the reunion? I don't know...," Burton shared during ET's exclusive sit-down interview, praising Lifetime for getting it "because our fanbase has been awesome."
"This one was like a good opportunity to come back. Antwon and I interacted a bit on One Tree Hill, but not a lot and we're married in this Christmas movie," Ackles told ET. "It was a chance to get to work with people we hadn't worked with in different ways."
In Christmas Contract, Burton plays Jolie, a successful web designer, who returns to her Louisiana hometown for the holidays following a devastating breakup with her ex. To help make the holidays less stressful, Jolie's best friend, Naomi (Ackles), proposes she sign a Christmas contract with her flaky brother, novelist Jack (Buckley), acting as her "boyfriend." Of course, you know how these movies go -- a fake relationship suddenly becomes very, very real. Fellow One Tree Hill star Tyler Hilton also performs his new holiday tune, "Don't Feel Like Christmas," during a pivotal scene in the movie.
“They asked me if I wanted to write a song for it and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’d love to!’” Hilton recently told ET about the track. “They ended up loving it and asked if I’d come into the movie and perform it. It was cool because all of the One Tree Hill kids are in it, so we all got to be on set together again. I was on stage performing this song, watching them all out in the audience and it was like a flashback. I was thinking, ‘How many times did we do this on One Tree Hill?’ It was a lot of fun.”
Burton, who has starred in a handful of made-for-TV Christmas films (she co-led 2013's Christmas on the Bayou with Hilton), explained why holiday movies have been so successful, saying it's "a formula that works for so many other outlets." "I've joked that I want to be the Judd Apatow of Christmas movies and just continue working with my friends and just trade places," she quipped. "Antwon gets to be married to me next time!"
"We're just going to continue to pull this off for as long as we can because it's a really fun genre," Burton continued. "We come on and we shoot these movies for three weeks. When we're with each other, it's a vacation. Antwon has said that over and over again."
"A paid vacation," Tanner agreed.
"And a lot of acting is about being comfortable with who you're working with and we already have that relationship and so we can just plug into different scenarios and it works," Ackles added.
Following the premiere of The Christmas Contract, Lifetime will also air an hour-long One Tree Hill special, titled 'Tis the Season: A One Tree Hill Cast Reunion, with Burton, Ackles, Tanner, Hilton and Stephen Colletti, and hosted by Paul Johansson.
"We've got a couple of surprise guests that show up, but a number of our castmates also have Christmas movies on Lifetime. Stephen Colletti and Joy Lenz also have Christmas movies, so it was kind of celebrating our movie as the kickoff to the holiday season and their movies and One Tree Hill taking over your holiday," Burton teased.
Speaking of the hit WB/CW drama, Burton shared the surreal fan experiences she's had with younger viewers who didn't grow up with the show on TV. "Because of Netflix and Hulu airing it now, at the grocery store, kids come up and they're like, 'Are you Peyton Sawyer?' And I'm like, 'Well, no. Now I'm Mom! That's cute,'" she adorably joked.
However, Burton revealed her one Peyton pet peeve. "People are really attached to that 'people always leave quote' and I hate that quote because it's so morbid!" she exclaimed, prompting Ackles to chime in, "I've seen tattoos of that." "Guys, people don't leave, the wrong people leave. The right people -- case in point -- stick around," Burton noted.
Can fans expect a One Tree Hill reunion movie every Christmas?
"Absolutely. We were just plotting 20 minutes ago, 'All right, who are we going to recruit for next year?'" Burton said. "As long as the network is into it and as long as the fanbase is into it... We love each other and we love our other castmates and that's why we do all the conventions that we do. We work well together and we grew up together, so yeah. You're stuck with us for life."
The Christmas Contract, one of ET's holiday movie picks, airs Thursday, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime, followed by a special One Tree Hill reunion special at 10 p.m. ET/PT.