Hilarie Burton Details Sexual Assault Allegations Against One Tree Hill Showrunner Mark Schwahn
In an interview with Variety published on Friday, actress Hilarie Burton detailed her sexual assault allegations against One Tree Hill showrunner Mark Schwahn saying that after she worked with him for six years she “never wanted to be the lead female on any show ever, ever, ever again.”
Burton told Variety that initially Schwahn had acted like a mentor to her, giving her character more attention and allowing the actress to sit in on production meetings. “I now realize that I was being groomed as bait,” Burton said, adding that during the first two seasons, she struggled against his attempts to sexualize her character.
But after the second season, Burton claims “things took a turn.”
Burton said she received multiple late-night phone calls from Schwahn during production for season 3, including one where she says he claimed that despite being married he was not only in love with another actress on the show, but that they had a physical relationship. Although Burton claimed she reprimanded him for the call, she said that the next day she was sent flowers with an unsigned note that read: “Thank you for being my secret keeper.”
In 2006, Burton also alleged that Schwahn invited her and a fellow actress — the same one he had allegedly told Burton he was having an affair with — to attend a concert with him and his wife. Burton claimed that during the concert, Schwahn slid one of his hands into her pants while his other hand was around his wife.
Burton also claimed that during season 4, Schwahn allegedly forced himself on her for the first time while they were riding in a limo together. At the time, Schwahn said he was about to call the CW president Dawn Ostroff to pitch an idea for the next season of One Tree Hill and he invited Burton to sit next to him and listen in on the call.
“I’m leaning in listening, and when it’s Dawn Ostroff’s turn to talk, he just leans over and starts kissing me,” Burton said. “I push him off, but I can’t say anything, because he’s on the phone fighting for our show to stay on the air. I’m just in this position where I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got to take it, Hil. Just laugh it off.’ ”
A few weeks after the limo ride, Burton said she received an invitation from Schwahn to “the kissing club,” with a note inviting her to meet him at a local restaurant. Burton says she did not go to the meeting.
And in February of 2007, Burton claimed Schwahn forced himself on her for a second time.
“I’m at the bar waiting to get drinks for the hairdresser and me, and he leans over and he kisses me in front of everybody,” she said. “Right on the mouth. It was something I had to get out of. It wasn’t a peck. It wasn’t ‘Hey, sis, how’s your day?’ It was a boyfriend kiss.”
Burton went on to claim that while they were shooting the finale for season 4, she told Schwahn off after he started giving her a massage she did not ask for, warning him that he could lose his job and should not touch women anymore.
A representative for Schwahn did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Burton added that she left One Tree Hill after her contract ended in season 6, even though she was offered a raise to return for season 7. At the time, she did not report Schwahn’s alleged behavior to the network because “I didn’t want Warner Bros. to view me as a problem, because they had been so supportive.”
She also said that after she left the show she refused to audition for pilot season and was eventually dropped by her agent.
“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.”
Burton’s detailed allegations come days after she and 17 other women who worked on One Tree Hill wrote an open letter accusing Schwahn of sexual harassment. On Wednesday, he was suspended from his job as showrunner on E!’s show The Royals.
Following Schwan’s suspension, an open letter was signed by 25 women who worked on The Royals who claimed that Schwahn engaged in “repeated unwanted sexual harassment of multiple female members of cast and crew.”
Burton was one of the first women to speak out about sexual misconduct in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s ongoing scandal. In October, Burton said Ben Affleck groped her during an appearance on TRL. Affleck apologized for the incident and said earlier this week that he thinks men need to take accountability for their actions amid sexual misconduct allegations.