Did you hear? After six years of angst, heartache, and more angst, Hilarie Burton will make her final appearance as Lucas-lovin’ music mogul Peyton Sawyer on Monday’s season finale of One Tree Hill. (Her leading man, Chad Michael Murray, will bid farewell in the same episode.) On the eve of her swan song, the onetime TRL hostess is setting the record straight about the reason behind her departure, the “hurtful” rumors that precipitated it, and a certain video that left many of her fans going, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Ms. Hilarie? (Warning: Potential spoilers about Monday’s finale below.)

There are a lot of rumors flying about why you’re leaving. What’s the truth?
There really wasn’t a lot of turmoil. It was a fabulous six-year run, which is how long my contract was for, and I feel really lucky to have been a part of the show. So when I hear that there’s turmoil or negotiations based on money it kind of hurts my feelings, because it’s not what’s been going on at all. I think my fan base in particular knows that money isn’t necessarily a big motivator for me, that’s why I work in the world of independent film.

How long have you known that you were leaving?

BURTON: I’ve known for a little while. For me, it was definitely an

emotional decision. And a professional decision as well. I got really,

really lucky. One Tree Hill was my very first television audition; it

was a fairytale. I feel really lucky to have that level of success

right out of the gate.

Just so I’m clear, it was your decision to leave, not the other way around?

BURTON: I think everyone was kind of agreeable about the situation.

There were a lot of really wonderful conversations. It wasn’t a rash

decision; a lot of thought, emotion, and kindness was put into it. I

would hope that that‘s the story that gets out — that it was a bunch

of adults being good to each other and being kind about the

decision-making process.

Did The Powers That Be make a concerted effort to get you to re-sign?

BURTON: The conversations that they had with me were very compassionate

and very sweet. They told me that they valued me, and that meant a lot.

And they also wanted me to be happy and challenged and excited. There

was some confusion for a little bit as to what was going on, but

I think everybody’s in a good place now.

Talk to me about the video message you made for your fans back in

February. It seemed like you were maybe saying good-bye. What

point were you trying to get across?

BURTON: The purpose of that video was to dispel the rumors that were

being circulated. I was on your end of it for a very long time when I

worked at MTV, and I understand how the rumor mill works. Everybody

wants a sensational story. People even back then were blaming it on

money, and [on me] being high maintenance… Those rumors were really

hurtful. Of anybody on the show, I was the one who was very excited

about doing all the extracurricular stuff — the mall tours, the radio

tours, going to the upfronts… I loved my involvement with this show,

and I really just wanted my fan base to know that I wasn’t turning my

nose up at this wonderful opportunity I’ve had for the last six years.

There’s an ugly trend where actors think they’ve surpassed the

show that made them or the film that made them and badmouth it. I will

never say a bad word about One Tree Hill. The entire shape of my

world changed because of that show, so I’ll always be very affectionate

toward it.

Have you spoken to Chad recently?

BURTON: I was in L.A. last week and we talked. Chad and I are good

friends. I won’t speak for him, but it was not a rash decision on

either of our parts. He’s very compassionate toward the show and the

fans. It’s not an easy decision, but we’ve got to be grown-ups

sometimes. [CMM’s rep declined my interview request, saying, “Chad

is no longer on the show and has no comment regarding the new season.”]

What was your last day on the set like?

BURTON: We wrapped together. We were the last two in the last scene,

and we opened up a tab across the street for our crew to say thank you

and cried a bunch.

Lucas and Peyton don’t really get an official sendoff next week. Is that disappointing?

BURTON: It’s like when you leave for college but you know your parents

still have your bedroom set up. You never know if you’re going to have

to come home… I got really lucky with my character; I got a

full-circle story. It was, “Lucas and Peyton: Are they going to be

together? Are they not going to be together?” And as we saw in this

week’s episode, my character got everything she ever wanted.

Might you make the occasional guest appearance?

BURTON: Never say never. They didn’t kill us. There’s nothing vengeful

about it, and I think that’s because as much as we

love them, they love us back.

What are you going to do now?

BURTON: One Tree Hill was a great learning opportunity for me, and I’m

excited to go and apply that elsewhere and see where I end up. I’m

hoping the fans support whatever my next endeavor is. I’m actually

curious what they want me to do… On the blog that I have for my

production company, we’re producing a web series that we’re going to

start shooting on Memorial Day. We’ve also got a television show that we’re

turning into a graphic novel, and we’ve got a film we’re raising money

for. I’m busy. And I’m keeping my business down in North Carolina. I’m

still going to be in the neighborhood; it’ll just be in a different


Last question, and it’s a biggie: What happens to Peyton’s record company?

BURTON: Who knows? Maybe she’ll take it with her. I get to be a fan

of the show now, which is cool. I get to sit back and be a fan. I’m personally very

excited to see where it goes. I understand they’re introducing some new

characters… I have no doubt they will come up with something to reinvent

the show yet again.

One Tree Hill

  • TV Show
  • 9
  • Off Air
  • WB
  • The CW