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Shantel VanSanten praises One Tree Hill co-stars Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz after 'horrifying' three years

Shantel praised their friendship for allowing her to stand in her truth 

Shantel VanSanten visits the #IMDboat At San Diego Comic-Con 2022: Day Two on The IMDb Yacht on July 22, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for IMDb)
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
ReporterLos Angeles
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In 2017 women from the cast and crew of the popular teen show One Tree Hill, including Shantel VanSanten, wrote a letter accusing showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment. The 38-year-old actress has now told HELLO! that she remains grateful for the friendships those years fostered, and how it made her the woman she is today. 

"I don't speak very often about my time on One Tree Hill but it was so important for me to have gone through the horrifying three year experience," the actress bravely admitted. "We all have very different stories and I can say wish I was the woman I am today [then], with the voice that I have, and my feet firmly planted on the ground. But I can't look back and have regrets." 

Shantel VanSanten as Quinn Evans© The CW
Shantel VanSanten as Quinn Evans

Shantel appeared in the final three seasons of The CW show, as the older sister of Haley James Scott (played by Bethany Joy Lenz) and later marrying Clay Evans, Nathan Scott's sports agent. 

Those years on the show gave her, she says, friendships that have evolved as they all grew older and allowed them "to stand in our truth and share about what we experienced". 

"It has formed so many decisions for me moving forward in my career and I'm grateful for the fans that still find [One Tree Hill] stories and our voices valid. I'm grateful for Sophia [Bush] and Hilarie [Burton] and Joy [Lenz] who've taken back the show, and the evolution of each one of us through surviving the different levels of horror that we experienced and witnessed at the hands of people that should have made us feel safe." 

Shantel VanSanten with Bethany Joy Lenz in 2021© Instagram
Shantel VanSanten with Bethany Joy Lenz in 2021

"Now, at 38, I can say when I join a show, I advocate for people who are afraid to have a voice and I always will. I look out for those people, I find them and I make sure that they are seen and heard, and that any set I am on becomes a safe space," Shantel added. 

"Twenty-three-year-old me that was on One Tree Hill has grown exponentially through each job, and while it was the most horrific experience, I walk away with, and can only now find, gratitude because it allowed me to grow and to know and understand how to protect myself and other people." 

Shantel VanSanten and Hilarie Burton © Instagram
Shantel VanSanten and Hilarie Burton

Schwan has never responded to the allegations which accused him, in the letter, of "psychologically and emotionally" manipulating many of the women on the set, and alleged it was an "open secret". 

"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 letter read, in part. 

Robert Buckley and Shantel VanSanten as Clay and Quinn Evans in One Tree Hill© The CW
Robert Buckley and Shantel VanSanten as Clay and Quinn Evans in One Tree Hill

In 2021, Hilarie, Sophia and Joy launched the Drama Queens podcast, which has seen them rewatch the nine-year series and share their memories and personal experiences and perspectives. In 2022, the three actresses alleged that producers had coerced them into doing a Maxim cover shoot, and that Schwan threatened their careers if they refused to pose. 

Joy was allegedly told she was being replaced on the shoot by another co-star because of her body shape, while Sophia claimed that she did not want to take part because her character Brooke had already been "so sexualised" by the writing. 

“Until there’s some kind of change in our industry, I don’t know how we stop [speaking out],” Hilarie later said in a 2023 episode. “The only reason that we made it out is because we had each other.”

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