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Take a look behind the scenes of ‘OTH’
As a longtime fan of One Tree Hill, I’ve been waiting years to take a trip to North Carolina, and essentially down memory lane. I wanted so badly to see the town where Nathan and Haley fell in love, over bridges, and into each others’ arms.
I wanted to see the school where “Cheerleader Brooke” became “Class President Brooke,” which led to “Successful Fashion Designer, Wife and Mother Brooke.” I wanted to experience the feeling that Lucas got every time he stepped onto the River Court.
I wanted to be in the town where Peyton cried over dead moms, lost dads, psycho stalkers, ex-best friends and boyfriends, eventually getting the guy she was meant to have all along.
Finally, this month, I traveled to North Carolina and had a true One Tree Hill experience. Though the basketball heart (and cast) of the CW drama may have long dissipated, true fans will not be disappointed by a visit to this East Coast filming location. But I’d make it quick: the final 13 episodes of Season 9 will be completed by the end of this year!
1. Welcome to Wilmington!
Tree Hill is a fictional place, but the show is filmed in the very real small town of Wilmington, N.C. As I learned from being in Wilmington and seeing filming trucks and trailers around town, as well as from the studio tour, One Tree Hill is filmed at Screen Gem Studios only half the time.
For the other half, the show is usually on location somewhere in the historic downtown district or off at the beach. Some common locations that were used during my stay were Topsail Beach, Market Street, Karen’s Cafe, and Tric, the last two of which are actual buildings in downtown Wilmington that are owned by the show.
2. The River Court
The famous River Court where Lucas played many a game against Skills, with Mouth as their commentator, is actually located next to a real Second World War battleship. Though the ship is gigantic, the tiny piece of pavement next to it was what caught my eye. The River Court was built specifically for the show and actually doesn’t have backboards or hoops up until filming days because fans graffiti their love all over them.
But taking down a backboard won’t stop anything: the River Court is like a love letter from fans all over the world to the show, with lamp posts and bleachers completely covered in signatures and favourite quotes. I saw that a few people came all the way from France, Germany, and even Australia to show OTH their love. I, of course, had to leave my mark as well and represent Toronto on the River Court.
3. Set visits: The humble abodes of Naley and Brulian
Nathan, Haley, Brooke and Julian live in real-looking houses just like ours – except their stairs lead to nowhere, they have no ceilings, running water, or electricity and the walls and counters can be rolled away at a moment’s notice. The crew needs to be able to get cameras in and out, so they use a garden hose instead of real plumbing, and walls painted to look like brick instead of the heavier and more expensive real thing. Oh, and every set is much smaller in reality than what they appear to be on screen.
Some interesting details I got the privilege of spying while on the set tour were family photos scattered around both homes, including a young James Lafferty and even one of Lucas and Peyton (which obviously made me smile). Naley’s house was particularly interesting since it not only has a real four-foot pool in the backyard, but houses all of Nathan’s sports trophies and Haley’s tour posters and instruments (charred piano and all).
4. Set visits: Red Bedroom Records
This record label, started by Peyton in Season 5 and now run by Haley, has given many artists a real-life start. This includes Kate Voegele, who plays Mia Catalano, a singer who was discovered by Peyton and Haley. More recently, Red Bedroom and OTH have given wings to the careers of Wakey!Wakey! and Jana Kramer.
Interestingly, the record label’s set does have all the top-of-the-line equipment necessary for recording a CD – except for one essential element: sound-proof walls. Everything here was precisely decorated and a lot of work went into every prop, including the record cover art montage on the wall – all of which needed to be approved by the artists themselves before being filmed on camera.
5. The Riverwalk has my heart
The boardwalk by the river, where Nathan and Haley famously had their first tutoring session, is as peaceful as it looks. People are constantly strolling up and down it day and night, while in the morning it serves as a running route for the more athletically inclined or a quiet spot to read for the more, ahem, sedentary types like myself. My aunt even swears that she saw Sophia Bush (Brooke) out for an early morning workout one morning! If only I was a runner I might have met my favourite actress from One Tree Hill – better luck next time, I suppose!
6. Behind-the-scenes truth: people in Wilmington are innately kind
It is impossible to walk around Wilmington without receiving a wave, a smile, or a “Good morning!” from passersby. Everyone in this endearing town is super-friendly and genuinely open and sociable. Wilmington and its inhabitants, actors and all, are a long way away from the cold shoulder of Hollywood.
When I met Rob Buckley, who plays Clay, not only was he happy to meet me and take a picture with me, but he went above and beyond the call of duty. When I mentioned that I was looking into becoming an extra for the show but was having little luck, he immediately called the lady responsible for casting extras without me even asking or expecting it. He is the reason I was an extra in two Tric scenes for Episode 3, where he was just as happy to see me again the next day!
7. Behind-the-scenes at Tric
I was fortunate enough to get on the set of Tric as an extra, allowing me to get a feel for how much work goes into every episode of a television show. Everything right down to the drinks being served, the extras’ clothing, and the paths that they will walk are plotted out before the cameras are turned on.
Interestingly, all the background music and conversation noise of the bar are added in later since the extras are told to make as little noise as possible so the actors’ lines can be picked up clearly by the mics. So while Chase (Stephen Colletti) served Chris Keller and his new girl (Chelsea Kane) at the bar, my fellow extra and I had to have real-looking, but completely silent, conversations.
8. ‘Dawson’s Creek’-‘OTH’ crossovers
Dawson’s Creek fans should note: not only was DC filmed in the same town as One Tree Hill, but many of the crew members are the same as well. James Van Der Beek even did a couple of guest appearances in Tree Hill during Season 6.
But that’s not all these shows have in common. I bet you didn’t know that much of the contents of Dawson’s refrigerator can now be seen in Nathan and Haley’s or Brooke’s place. No, I’m not kidding and yes, it’s kinda gross to see a 10-year-old fruit cup. But not to worry: the actors don’t eat from those expired bottles or empty Tupperware – all of their food is prepared by Kraft services.
Apparently, after Dawson’s Creek had its series finale, a longtime fan called the studio and asked whether they realized that Dawson Creek’s food had barely moved an inch in over six years, causing OTH to give a lucky PA the job of rearranging the fridges’ contents to look realistic and “lived in.” Crazy details and crazy fans!
9. The Wilmington arts scene
Wilmington has a pretty cool local arts scene, which you’d expect of a town with so much local colour and history. There are always tons of plays, small concerts, and performances to catch in town, which is how I met Bethany Joy Galeotti (Haley) and Shantel VanSanten (Quinn). They did a meet-and-greet after the contemporary dance show The Dollhouse. The dancers were great and all the proceeds from the night went to the Love146 organization, which fights against sex trafficking of children all over the world.
10. Casting news: Tyler Hilton, Chelsea Kane and a lot less James Lafferty?
Some of you may remember, though he was really hard to forget, a certain musician by the name of Chris who came to town and ruined Nathan and Haley’s marriage (how dare he!?) for a good part of Seasons 2 and 3. Well, lock up your young women: Keller’s back! Tyler Hilton returns to Tree Hill as a series regular for Season 9, and guest star Chelsea Kane will be his love interest for at least an episode or two (cause that’s as long as Chris Keller’s attention can be focused on one lady).
Kane wrote on her website, “I play Tara, the girl you love to hate. She’s full of bad intentions and opens up a rival coffee shop across the street from Karen’s Cafe.” So it looks like Kane will be shaking things up with more than just Chris Keller’s love life. I saw both Hilton and Kane on set and can confirm that they are in fact playing opposite each other in episode 3.
Someone I, most unfortunately, did not see since he was out of town was star James Lafferty. There have been rumblings lately about a reduced role for Nathan this year, much to the chagrin of OTH fans, and E! Online reported Nathan will only be featured in seven of the 13 final episodes. Sad!
And for those of you waiting on the edge of your seat for Leyton news, like I always am, don’t get your hopes up. Though Hilarie Burton has been spotted in Wilmington recently, there have been absolutely no plans made to get either her or Chad Michael Murray to return for a reunion. Here’s hoping they’ll work out a deal for at least one episode in the final season!