UPDATED: TV writer Audrey Wauchope over the weekend accused former One Tree Hill creator and showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment during the time she and her writing partner Rachel Specter worked on the CW drama. A number of OTH actresses have since come out to support Wauchope on social media including Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz. The trio, joined by fellow former OTH female cast and crew members, also have issued a statement in support of Wauchope, which depicted their harrowing experience working for Schwahn on OTH.
Schwahn is currently creator/showrunner on E!’s popular series The Royals, which recently wrapped production on its fourth season. “We are monitoring the information carefully,” the companies behind the series said in a statement to Deadline. “E!, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television are committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally.”
In a series of weekend tweets, Wauchope never identified Schwahn by name but referred to him as the showrunner of the first show she and Specter were hired as staff writers, which was OTH, and sources confirmed to Deadline that she was talking about him.
Wauchope says that the sexual harassment accusations against The Flash and Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg, which led to his suspension Friday night by Warner Bros TV, the studio behind OTH, prompted her to share the story of how Schwahn hired her and her and Specter for a staff job and then proceeded to make their work lives miserable, leaving them “demoralized and confused.”
Wauchope claims she and Specter were subjected to unwanted touching, innuendo and harassment in a hostile work environment where “men on staff were shown naked photos of on an actress [the showrunner] was having an affair with. Naked photos she didn’t know were being passed around. Naked photos they didn’t want to see.” (You can read the full set of tweets below the post.)
She claims the OTH writing staff “sat on couches. 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,” she added in a follow-up tweet. “He pet hair. He massaged shoulders. I know he did more but not to me so they’re not my stories to share.”
There are more accounts of Schwahn’s behavior on OTH, referred to as an “open secret,” in the letter from the show’s female alums who described being “manipulated psychologically and emotionally,” “put in uncomfortable positions,””felt physically unsafe” and “threatened.” They called out OTH producers, saying that “the lack of action that has been routine” in face of continuous abuse which has left a number of former cast and crew members in need of post-tramautic stress treatment.
Here is the letter, followed by all of Wauchope tweets and the the ones by Bush, Burton and Lenz.
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 thesystemic 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 de Beaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, and Allison Munn
And Brave Crew,
Audrey Wauchope, Rachel Specter, Cristy Koebley, JoJo Stephens ,Jane Beck, Tarin Squillante
And All the rest of the Women We Worked With Who Are Finding Their Voices as We Speak
Here are the tweets from former OTH female cast members:
Thank you @audreyalison 🙏✊🏼
— Bethany Joy Lenz (@BethanyJoyLenz) November 13, 2017
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.