Over the course of its nine-year run, One Tree Hill unfolded a poignant tale about brothers, basketball, and surviving high school. It was, at times, both overly earnest and over-the-top, but the writers also crafted addictive stories featuring incredibly relatable characters. Viewers become so invested in their fates that no plotline was crazy enough to drive them away - not even a dog chowing down on Dan’s transplant heart.
Even the show’s most ardent supporters can admit that it continued on past its expiration date, but most fans stuck with OTH to the bitter ends. The series had its fair share of flaws, but it was also nearly impossible to stop watching. Few who started One Tree Hill ever managed to find a way to quit it. The show has been off the air since 2012, but still maintains a very dedicated fanbase.
OTH was incredibly character-driven, so caring about the major players was vital to its success. This would’ve been impossible without some pitch-perfect casting. Thankfully, most of the stars chosen were the best actors for those jobs. However, every series suffers some misfires in this area and One Tree Hill was no exception. It’s nothing against the actors cast, but several stars simply failed to make an impression in the part-- or just made one that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. In many cases, the fault was in the writing of the character as well, but perhaps another actor could’ve made all the difference.
Here are 7 Casting Decisions That Hurt One Tree Hill (And 13 That Saved It).
Fans didn’t really know what to make of Julian Baker when he first showed up. Peyton and Lucas were finally back together, so many viewers weren’t happy to see him. However, it turned out that Julian was there to become a love interest for Brooke instead. Sure, he said “I love you” to B. Davis after dating her for about five minutes, but their relationship did deepen over time and the two eventually got their happily ever after.
Much of the success of Julian’s character had to do with the charm of Austin Nichols.
There was real chemistry between him and Bush - behind-the-scenes as well. Even when Julian was still kind of a question mark, many viewers took to him pretty quickly. Nichols was quite charismatic, but there was a real vulnerability to his performance as well.
Brooke’s season 2 love interest, Felix Taggaro, served little purpose. He wasn’t a particularly interesting character in his own right and he didn’t have much chemistry with Brooke. Perhaps if someone other than Michael Copon was cast in the role, he could've found a way to make Felix more compelling.
Sure, Felix wasn’t exactly well fleshed-out to begin with, but Copon’s performance never felt believable. That, coupled with the extreme lack of sparks between him and Brooke, gave the character a very lackluster arc overall. The guy was rude, smug and more conceited than he had any right to be. Felix was more of an annoyance than anything and no one missed him after he left Tree Hill.
Played by someone other than Hilarie Burton, Peyton Sawyer could’ve been a really annoying character. She was the epitome of angst, which has earned her some haters over the years. However, much like Brooke, Peyton evolved quite a bit over the course of the series. The character who left at the close of season 6 was very different from the girl we met in the pilot.
Despite the fact that Peyton made some bad decisions, most fans loved her and that was due to Hilarie Burton.
She was a complex character and Burton’s performance was a nuanced one. Peyton had a whole lot of drama to deal with on a daily basis, from psycho stalkers to two deceased mothers. Burton was always able to find the truth in these moments, never veering into melodrama.
It’s understandable that writers wanted to give Lucas a new love interest in season 5. After all, much of the drama following the time jump can be traced back to the “will they or won’t they” dynamic between him and longtime love Peyton. However, Michaela McManus turned in such an uninspired performance as Lindsey that fans struggled to understand how it waswas even remotely difficult for Lucas to choose between them.
Chad Michael Murray had major chemistry with both Hilarie Burton and, of course, with Sophia Bush. However, Murray and McManus failed to light up the screen even a little bit. This made it incredibly difficult to buy them as couple. Lucas proclaiming his devotion to her right up until the moment that he chose Peyton just seemed like delusion on his part.
Lucas Scott was the heart and soul of One Tree Hill, at least during the early seasons. However, the actor was hired for his skills as a performer, not for his abilities on the basketball court. Chad Michael Murray was so terrible, in fact, that producers actually had to hire a coach to make him even remotely believable. None of that really matters though, because Murray was the best actor for the job.
He played Lucas with so much heart, making fans root for him from the beginning.
Lucas didn’t always make the best choices, but viewers found a way to forgive him. While it is true that Murray has had roles since leaving OTH, there is no denying that his performance as Lucas Scott was the best of his career thus far.
OTH definitely suffered some growing pains after Murray and Burton exited the series at the close of season 6. New characters had to be introduced and some were far more compelling than others. While Clay stood out thanks to the sheer likability of Robert Buckley, his eventual love interest, Quinn, was twelve shades of bland.
No one really liked Haley’s sister, Taylor, but at least Lindsey McKeon made her memorable. It didn’t help that Haley’s other sibling, Quinn, was written to be way too perfect. Shantel VanSanten’s performance did nothing to improve upon this already poorly developed character. The most interesting members of One Tree Hill are made so by their flaws and Quinn kind of didn’t have any. This may have been fine if she was played with a bit more personality, but sadly, we’ll never know.
Unlike his onscreen brother, James Lafferty exhibited some impressive skills on the basketball court, having played on his high school team. If everyone’s being honest, though, Lafferty - eighteen at the time of his casting - took a while to really learn how to act. However, once he did, the actor turned in one of OTH’s most believable performances.
It’s not easy to make viewers go from really hating your character to loving him, but Lafferty managed to do just that.
At the start of the series, Nathan Scott was much more antagonistic and he did some pretty terrible things. He did, however, find redemption in his relationship with Haley. Together, they became the show’s emotional anchor. Viewers watched Lafferty's believable transition from a spoiled, selfish kid into a supportive husband and loving father, making Nathan a fan favorite.
Brooke Davis played such a pivotal part in One Tree Hill that many forget that she wasn’t actually in the pilot. Most fans would agree not only that Brooke was one of the show’s best characters, but also that Sophia Bush was the perfect actress to portray her.
Viewers might be shocked to learn that Bush had to audition for the role three times, almost losing out on the part altogether.
The actress may have struggled to win the role of B. Davis, but everyone can agree that she completely nailed it. Brooke wasn’t always perfect. At times, she was downright unlikable. However, Bush made hating Brooke impossible, no matter what. All the characters had their ups and downs over the years, but Brooke was universally beloved throughout OTH's entire run and that speaks volumes about Bush’s performance.
There is a reason that, despite Lucas and Peyton being endgame, fans rooted for Jake and Peyton. That reason is Bryan Greenberg. He gave a subtle and unforgettable performance as single father, Jake Jagielski, and most fans were at least a little bummed when he was no longer a part of the series. The actor also does a pretty great Elliott Smith cover.
Not only was Jake a great boyfriend to Peyton and an excellent friend to Lucas, but he was also one of the show’s few unquestionably good characters. He served as a moral compass at various points during his tenure on OTH. Greenberg and Burton also had good chemistry, and there were plenty of fans who felt that their characters should’ve wound up together in the end.
Much like her brother, Felix, Anna Taggaro added little to One Tree Hill. Daniella Alonso brought neither heart nor humor to the role, keeping Anna from resonating with audiences.
This is unfortunate, as she was one of the show’s only LGBTQ characters.
The storyline about her coming to terms with who she was could’ve been a very powerful one for OTH, but no one liked Anna enough to really care. Most fans just focused on her lack of chemistry with Lucas, as well as her cowardice in regard to her friendship with Peyton. Perhaps if Alonso had rendered the character more relatable, Anna could’ve played an integral role in the series. Instead, fans were just glad when she and her brother vanished and were never mentioned again.
Although One Tree Hill was undeniably a teen drama, some of its most compelling characters were adults. It’s unlikely that fans would’ve come to care so much about Lucas’s mother without a fantastic actress like Moira Kelly in the role. So much of Lucas’ own story is tied up in his mom’s tragic history. Karen refused to be defined by this and had gone to great lengths to retain her independence.
Kelly played Karen as both incredibly strong and undeniably vulnerable.
As a mother, she was tough, but compassionate. She was more than just Lucas’ mom. Karen was a mother to every character on the series who needed one. Many fans wished for a parent more like Karen and so much of this was contingent on the warmth radiating from Kelly’s matriarch.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Miranda Stone ever existed, considering the lackluster performance given by India de Beaufort. To be fair, it was definitely not all the fault of the actress. Miranda was a poorly written and pointless character. Originally a bit of a foil for Haley, the writers desperately tried to spin Miranda into something more important as her story continued.
As OTH became a bit aimless in later seasons, fans were forced to endure romances that they neither asked for nor cared about. The worst of these was probably the one between Miranda and Grubbs. Again, no worries if his name doesn’t ring a bell either. She wanted him to make an album. He wanted to make an honest woman out of her. Most viewers were glad when Miranda retuned to the mother country and Grubbs followed.
As much as viewers wanted to hate Chris Keller, Tyler Hilton somehow managed to charm most of them into at least kind of liking him. Sure, it was rough to watch him come between Nathan and Haley, but no one can deny that the guy made things more interesting. Every good drama knows that a happy couple is a boring one.
Aside from his ability to stir the pot, Hilton’s charismatic performance is what caused the writers to make up reasons to bring him back time and time again. Chris was funny and far more sensitive than he initially let on. Hilton found a way to showcase this range of emotion, all the while delivering a performance that made the character quite likable.
Speaking of characters with a propensity for pot-stirring, Rachel Gatina is another player who would’ve been easy to hate had she been portrayed by a lesser actress. Danneel Harris, now known as Danneel Ackles (she’s married to Supernatural star Jensen Ackles), really seemed to have fun with the character.
Rachel did some awful things, but no one could deny that she was also a great addition to the series.
OTH has featured a lot of terrible moments for women and although Rachel and Brooke were off to a rocky start, they eventually forged a pretty awesome friendship. Although in later seasons, it seemed that the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with Rachel, she was still always a safe bet to bring the drama. Despite this fact, Harris never made her feel like a caricature.
Although Antwon “Skills” Taylor originally kind of seemed like “River Court extra #3”, over the years he was established as so much more. The character proved himself not only a loyal friend, but a pretty spectacular babysitter as well. Antwon Tanner not only brought so much warmth and heart to the role, but some much needed humor as well.
Skills was always there when his pals needed him, whether he was a shoulder to cry on or a partner in crime. Appearing from the pilot until the finale, Skills may not always have been at the forefront of the narrative, but he was certainly an important fixture of the series. Much of the love for this character comes down to Tanner himself.
We get it, Nicki was never supposed to be a likable character, but Emmanuelle Vaugier was so over-the-top that she was practically twirling her mustache. The actress has done a fine job in other shows, but Vaugier was all wrong for Nicki. Again, some of this also comes down to the writing, because Jake’s ex was pretty two-dimensional.
Nicki could’ve been more interesting if she had been played like less of a caricature.
No one will ever get over the fact that she stole Jenny or chased Jake out of town. She was always going to be a villain, but a different actress may have had better luck bringing some actual depth to the role.
One Tree Hill needed a Big Bad and Paul Johansson gave us a pretty incredible one with Dan Scott. While undeniably a monster, he was also a fully fleshed-out character. Dan had clear motivations and the ability to almost elicit sympathy from the audience, despite doing terrible things. This was only possible due to the depth that Johansson brought to the role.
Although the writers chose to have Dan attempt to find redemption in later seasons, he never really had a chance after taking his brother’s life. However, the fact that OTH even attempted to rehab his image late in the game was obviously due to Johansson’s impressive performance. Fans will never truly forgive Dan, but most were still sad to see him go. Thankfully, that didn’t happen until the series was almost over anyway.
This entry is bound to upset some fans, but let’s face it: Chase Adams was boring. Sure, Stephen Coletti was likable and the character was serviceable enough.
As the actor was given more and more screen time, it became apparent that he should’ve had less.
Had Chase remained Brooke’s season 4 love interest, that would’ve been okay, but the writers brought him back the next year, giving him one bland storyline after another instead. Was anyone even remotely interested in whether or not Chase would wind up with Alex or Mia? These were just more storylines that the writers threw at viewers, hoping to distract them from the fact that the more interesting romances had already left the building. Coletti was fine, but in a series full of actors that were perfectly cast, he stands out as particularly underwhelming.
As much as Paul Johansson managed to make Dan Scott sympathetic, there was one reason that fans would never forgive him regardless: Craig Sheffer as Keith Scott. Keith was there for both Dan’s ex and his son in a way that the younger Scott brother never was. By the time Dan took Keith’s life, Keith was already one of the show’s most beloved characters. This is due to Sheffer’s performance.
Much like Moira Kelly, Sheffer emanated warmth and viewers were rooting for him from the start.
Keith may have had his issues, but nothing substantial enough to outweigh all of the good that he did. The guy had a positive effect on pretty much everyone. Very early on, he was established as everything that Dan was not and Sheffer did an excellent job of portraying that.
Bethany Joy Lenz kind of had a tough job early on. She had to play Lucas’s best friend, but still remain sympathetic, despite falling in love with his nemesis. This didn’t last too long, as Nathan soon redeemed himself. However, Lenz always had a lot of complex emotions to play, from her rock star aspirations to becoming a teenage wife and mother. Despite all that drama, the actress was always believable.
Haley James Scott was an incredibly layered character and Lenz’s performance reflected that. She always seemed to radiate love and good intentions, even when she was making poor life choices. Those were few and far between, as Haley often served as the show’s moral center. In later seasons, much of the heavy lifting plot-wise fell to Lenz and Sophia Bush, both of whom rose to meet the challenge.
Which casting decisions do you feel hurt or saved One Tree Hill? Let us know in the comments!