On Ashley Graham’s podcast Pretty Big Deal, Sophia Bush recently opened up about the “inappropriate” and sexually exploitative behavior she experienced at the hands of a supervisor during her star turn on The CW drama One Tree Hill.
Bush recalled how, even though she was playing an underage high school student on the show, her boss “kept writing scenes for me to be in my underwear.” She openly refused to shoot the scenes, saying,
“I’m not doing this. This is inappropriate. Like, I don’t think this is what we should be teaching 16-year-old girls to be doing, to be seeking validation this way.”
Bush claims that her boss responded by saying,
“Well, you’re the one with the big f*cking rack everybody wants to see.”
The next time she came to set, Bush showed up in a turtleneck, “just to be spiteful.” She explained,
“I was really ballsy and I didn’t even know it, I just wasn’t wanting to perpetuate this sort of behavior that I didn’t think was appropriate.”
Though Bush didn’t explicitly name the perpetrator during her conversation with Graham, she had signed an open letter back in 2017 addressing One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn’s inappropriate behavior. The letter, which she and her fellow female One Tree Hill cast members signed in solidarity with crew member Audrey Wauchope after she accused Schwahn of sexual harassment, cited a history of behavior by the showrunner that ranged from “deeply upsetting, to traumatizing, to downright illegal.”
Sadly, Bush’s experience on One Tree Hill wasn’t her only brush with misogynistic on-set behavior. While talking to Graham, Bush also briefly touched on the “Me Too hell” that she went through during her time on the television show Chicago P.D., which was so bad that Bush pulled out of her contract two years early, in April 2017. The Harvey Weinstein floodgates didn’t break until July of that year.
Because the Me Too Movement wasn’t yet a reality when Bush was fighting to get out of her contract, she recounted how she was “fighting this battle with no cultural conversation about this in the industry.” And she quickly faced the sobering reality that, “if you stand up for yourself, you can become the enemy.”
But Sophia Bush isn’t going to let other women be disregarded the way she once was. Instead, fueled by her own experiences, Bush has become a “mad and motivated” advocate for marginalized communities. She has a long history of activism, which includes fighting for gay rights, advocating for the environment, and becoming a fixture of Time’s Up.
Though she could’ve easily, and understandably, let the harassment she endured swallow her voice, Bush instead resolved to uplift others who find themselves in the same vulnerable positions she herself once experienced. And, most importantly, she refuses to be silenced. Instead, she focusing on letting the truth speak for itself. Because, as she says, “you get hard to ignore if you’re speaking the truth and you’re speaking facts. You’re hard to ignore if you know how to back up an argument.”
“I have always been really on fire about defending people or places that deserve protection and don’t get it… People everywhere are suffering and it’s our job to take up space and demand change.”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.