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Why ‘One Tree Hill’ Stars Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz Were Finally Ready to Reunite on Screen Again in ‘Good Sam’

Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz may be best known respectively as Brooke Davis, Peyton Sawyer and Haley James Scott — but now, they’re on screen together once again in completely different roles. In their first TV collaboration since 2009, the former “One Tree Hill” costars appear on Wednesday’s episode of CBS’ “Good Sam.”

In the medical drama, led by Bush as Dr. Sam Griffith, Amy Taylor (Lenz) is admitted to the hospital with signs of premature heart disease, with her sister, Gretchen (Burton), at her side. Sam is Amy’s doctor.

“If you get lucky, there’s a couple of people on every job who you love. I feel really lucky to really love everyone on this show,” Bush tells Variety of her “Good Sam” costars. “We have a really special connection, and it was really special for my oldest and dearest family to come and meet my new family. It was very sweet to see our new family and look at two of my best girlfriends and go, ‘Oh, is that our future? This is so special.’”

In June 2021, Bush, Burton and Lenz came together for their first post-“One Tree Hill” project, launching “Drama Queens,” a rewatch podcast in which they break down every single episode of the CW teen soap — and in turn, take the power back.

In the midst of their busy schedules, the women spoke to Variety about the experience on “Good Sam,” rewatching “One Tree Hill” so many years later and finding closure on a tough situation.

So, the last time fans all saw you guys in a scene together it was in a hospital on the Season 6 finale of “One Tree Hill.” Seems fitting that your first time back together on screen was on “Good Sam,” a medical drama.

Sophia Bush: No way!

Hilarie Burton: No way!

Joy Lenz: We’ve been having all kinds of cosmic connections, like so many things happening on the 23rd and 23 popping up all over the place and all these little like news from from the universe letting us know we’re on the right path.

What was the vibe like when you guys the three of you got on set together again? Did it feel like old times?

Bush: Totally. Hilarie always says that it feels like a tornado when the three of us are together. There was I think pent up excitement and decades of friendship energy that just came in with us in this cloud of excitement and happiness. And it was such a riot.

Burton: It’s also fun to come in as cheerleaders for Sophia’s show. We take a lot of pride in each other’s work, and for Joy and I to be able to come in and cheer for, one, a great show but two, our friend, that’s fun for us!

Did you notice any of your acting styles have changed?

Burton: I think we all like working with each other because we’re all super prepared. Not every actor you work with is super prepared, but because we were all trained together and groomed together to show up, know your words, hit your marks and work hard, it’s fun to re-team with your old playmates.

Bush: I think what is different for us, we all have very different ways of being on set. We are three actors and producers who always know all of our lines and everybody else’s just in case. What was a trip was to be playing these incredibly different characters. When we first went in for our first rehearsal, I was just staring at Joy. I was like, look at her covered in all those tattoos. And then I realized, I went, “Oh, sorry, it’s me. It’s me. I have a line!” I was just watching them embody these other women and I was having so much fun that I forgot I was in the scene.

Lenz: That was really fun — to be able to see each other in different roles, to be able to play together but in totally different roles than what we’ve done before.

Burton: Joy, you need those tattoos. I dug it.

Sophia, I know you’ve spoken a bit about returning to network TV and that it took the right project to do that for you to feel comfortable. Was this collaboration part of it? How early on were you having conversations about Hilarie and Joy coming on?

Bush: It didn’t overlap right away. “Good Sam” is something that I have had in the works for two years. It was a long time coming with the creative and the pandemic delays. And I would say, it’s been just about as long — like, two or two and a half years — we’ve been starting to send each other properties and think about what we want to produce together and what we want to do for young women. I think it was probably just me gabbing about the girls so often that led to my wonderful showrunner, Katie Wech, seeing an interview when the show premiered in January, where I said, “Oh, my God, if the ‘Drama Queens’ came on ‘Good Sam,’ I would die. It would be the best thing in the world.” She texted me and said, “Hey, you’re going to get the script for 108 and there’s these two sisters in it. Should we get Joy and Hilarie to come do it? Do you think they’d want to? We’ll just make an offer.” I was like, “Well, I think they’re gonna want to read the script first, but yeah!”

Burton: We didn’t need to read the script.

Lenz: We have a major vision for helpings young kids, especially young women in this industry, be able to work in a creative environment here the younger ones don’t feel like they’re just sort of feral and left to their own devices on a set. Have a guidance counselor, and let’s create an environment that’s warm and inviting. Give kids — which is what we were when we started our show — a safe place to land so they don’t just feel like they’re thrust into the world and trying to navigate all of these very big, adult situations and emotions.

Have you guys tried to do this before? One of you attempting to bring the other two into a project you’re working on?

Lenz: I think we were always scared to do it, because our time on “One Tree Hill” was so tempestuous; there were so many great times and so many hard times and we were scared to go back and revisit it. That’s why doing the podcast has opened up all these doors inside of ourselves to explore this new way of working together that’s been so healthy and healing.

Bush: We’ve had such a long track record of supporting each other’s projects, and certainly we’ve gotten a group of our old gang back together for things. But for the three of us, there’s been so much singularly focused pressure on “Would you reboot the show? Would you reboot the show?” We’ve always been like, “Leave us alone! Let us do other stuff together.” The schedules we’ve all been on — Hilarie went from our show right to “White Collar,” I went to Chicago, Joy’s making movies and albums. We’re not all available a lot. Even getting them here for three days to do an episode was it was a wild puzzle-making task for our teams and for the “Good Sam” team to figure it out. So I think what’s been so fun about it and what the podcast made us realize is, we can do whatever we want with Brooke, Peyton and Haley. We got to just have a toe dip on “Good Sam” and it was such a blast.

You guys really do sound like you’re having a blast on the podcast, even reflecting on the storylines you didn’t like or some of the tough times you had on set. Is it difficult at all to rewatch each episode, since some of those memories aren’t positive?

Burton: You know what’s awesome is being able to take off the filter. For so long, we felt like we had to protect other people and protect the fans’ connection with the show, and what we found is that by being honest, the fans actually connect to the show better, and they feel like they know more.

Bush: We were so scared to break hearts. This thing that people love so much, how could we taint it? And what we realized is it’s us inside of the show that they love. They love our characters, they love our experiences. They love the boys’ characters. It isn’t the architecture that was built by some people who weren’t good to us as young entertainers. It’s what we as young entertainers did inside of it. I think it’s made us closer to our fans than ever to be honest with them, and it’s also just been such a nice opportunity for us to clean house. We’ve been able to throw out the trash and hold on to all the good stuff. What a gift that is.

Lenz: I was really I was nervous to go back and watch because of all those reasons. And also, imagine if somebody followed you around with a camera when you were in high school and they made you go back and watch it. It’s horrifying! I was really so cringy about all the mistakes I’ve made as a person back in my in my younger years, in my 20s, and thinking that every time I saw myself on screen, I was just going to be reminded of all the dumb stuff I did when I was a kid. I thought I was going to be walking into this feeling so much shame and and instead, actually the honesty and the vulnerability of what we’ve been able to build together with this show, has been so healing to be able to watch back. I really love my younger self and be so grateful for the opportunities that she had and the way that she cared about the people around her and the way that she bounced back from her mistakes. I love my character for that, and I love younger me for that. I think we’ve all felt this major healing gift because of that.

Bush: None of us knew to expect that. We had no idea that we would somehow be able to absorb our younger selves in a way that felt restorative, and that gave us so much peace and so much happiness to do together. We had no idea that was on the horizon, and and it’s just the coolest experience we have together.

This fall, it will be five years since you guys all came forward and wrote a letter together in solidarity against Mark Schwahn. Hilarie, I know we spoke about this when you were writing your book, but I’m curious if you guys feel — especially now with the podcast — closure, despite never receiving an apology?

Burton: I mean, me personally, for a long time, I kept waiting for someone to reach out. In my mind, I was like, surely, someone’s going to say something to us. Surely, someone is going to apologize or want to have a conversation or anything and kept waiting for it. It’s crazy to think that you could be disappointed more, but you always can be. This process has been so healing that I don’t need it anymore. I don’t need the “I’m sorry.” I don’t need the contact. We’re so good. That silence has spoken for itself, and what we have is so much better than anything I could have expected that I feel very good about the position we’re in right now.

Lenz: I have nothing to add to that. I think that’s exactly right.

I have to ask more about the podcast. You have your Looped Live event today, but would you ever do it as a live event?

Burton: It’s like you reading our diary. What’s going on, Emily? The idea of the three of us being on the road together is something that we delight at. Anytime we’re together, it’s fun. It’s a slumber party, and we have a shorthand with one another. So, the idea of taking our podcast on the road is fun for us, when COVID’s not an issue, when our productions have firm schedules, that’s fine. I think it’s safe to say that’s probably going to happen. Sophia’s already talked about this wine suitcase we’re going to take with us.

Bush: This is where me marrying a wine guy comes in handy!

Sophia, do you want to have any of your other previous costars on “Good Sam”? Who’s next?

Bush: All the girls and I fangirl over Lee Norris. I’m like, “How are we going to get you guys back on the show? How are we going to get Lee Norris on the show?” Of course, all that I want is to be surrounded by my favorite humans.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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