In 2003, television viewers met Nathan Scott, a cute but cocky, athletic but academically-challenged high school junior. In the nearly seven real-time years that have passed, we’ve slowly seen Nathan transform into a handsome but humble, career-minded but family-focused husband and father.
Who will Nathan be in another year? James Lafferty, who spoke with me earlier this week about the past, present and future of One Tree Hill, hopes we’ll be able to find out. But before we could get to that, Lafferty turned the tables on me. See for yourself…
James Lafferty: So you’re TeenDramaWhore.com.
TeenDramaWhore: What do you think of the name?
Lafferty: That’s such an admission of guilt! It’s good, though. It’s straight to the point so people know what they’re getting.
TDW: That’s right. I admit I am obsessed with teen dramas and I wanted to create a place for fans just like me to discuss the shows.
Lafferty: Is that going well for you?
TDW: It’s going great. I love it. And I love getting to interview people like you!
Lafferty: Awesome. So where do we rank on your teen drama list?
TDW: Oh, goodness. That’s such a hard question!
Lafferty: I get to ask you one hard question and you get to ask me 20 easy ones.
TDW: Okay. I’ll take that deal. I would say you guys are in a three-way tie for number one.
TDW: My all-time favorite is the original 90210. But tied with it would be Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill.
Lafferty: So we’re in a three-way tie with 90210 and Dawson’s Creek?
Lafferty: Oh, c’mon! You can’t ask for anything more than that. That’s the hall of fame right there!
TDW: That is the hall of fame. So, of the current shows on right now, that means you win.
Lafferty: That does mean we win. Okay, I’m happy with that.
TDW: Great! My turn! There are just four episodes left in One Tree Hill’s seventh season. How would you describe them?
Lafferty: You know, I have only seen the finale. But I think all the episodes are going to come together really well. We had sort of an all-star lineup of directors for the last few. Pete Kowalski directed one. He’s been our director of photography for so long and has directed episodes before. He’s phenomenal. [Executive producer] Greg Prange directed one and he’s just a veteran. He knows the show so well. As a director, the only person who knows the show better is probably [creator] Mark Schwahn. And Schwahn directed the finale. So we’ve got a lot of really strong episodes coming up for the audience to look forward to.
TDW: Greg worked on Dawson’s Creek before One Tree Hill.
Lafferty: Yes, he did. It’s funny–Dawson’s Creek was actually shooting their finale when we shot our pilot back in 2003. Greg was still working on Dawson’s at the time and was not involved in our show. But once [The WB] picked us up and we were coming to Wilmington, it seemed like a great fit to have Greg Prange and [producer] David Hartley come on and sort of help guide us here in Wilmington.
TDW: That’s awesome. I really love how these two fantastic teen dramas have come out of that one area, with the same soundstages and everything.
Lafferty: I think it’s a testament to the area, to Wilmington. It inspires and encourages this really great, classic, sort of American setting. I think that’s why so many productions come here.
TDW: That’s right. So one thing in the promos for the upcoming episodes that has everyone talking is that Haley [Bethany Joy Galeotti] doesn’t seem like she’s doing too well. Do you have anything comforting you can say to the fans about that?
Lafferty: Yeah, absolutely. Haley is obviously grieving because she’s lost her mom but these things, it’s like “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” I think Haley’s journey through this process is going to bring the Scott family unit together and also her friends are going to have to be there for her. So what that means from an audience standpoint is you’re going to see the whole group sort of banding together to make it through this and it’s going to be a really positive experience.
TDW: What is it about Naley, do you think, that has earned the couple such loyal fans?
Lafferty: I think, to start with, the likelihood of the situation, of Nathan and Haley coming together, was so small. In our first few episodes, the characters were worlds apart. It didn’t seem like it would be a good fit. But sort of against all odds, they continued to make it work over the years and they fought through adversity. I think they’ve become a couple that you don’t take for granted because they’ve been up against so much. So you root for them.
TDW: People are rooting for them. I think they root for Jamie [Jackson Brundage], too. One thing that has stuck out to me is that a lot of people have said this season how quickly Jackson is growing up before our very eyes. And it got me thinking that you kind of grew up on the screen before us, too. Weren’t you just 17 when you were cast in the show?
Lafferty: Yeah. I hadn’t turned 18 yet. I did my senior year of high school during the pilot. I was out here [in Wilmington] with my mom for three weeks shooting the pilot.. And then the next time I was here was when the show got picked up and we were shooting the first episode. I was 18 and I was out here on my own in an apartment. I lived with Brett Claywell, who played Tim on the show. I always say that One Tree Hill has kind of been my college. I guess now that means I am working on my master’s degree or maybe my Ph.D.
TDW: Maybe. Seven years is a long time.
Lafferty: It is a long time. And I’ve been thankful for every year. I’d be grateful for another one.
TDW: Next week, I believe, is the show’s 150th episode.
Lafferty: Oh, that’s right. Greg Prange, fittingly, directed our 150th episode. We had a little impromptu celebration on set when we wrapped that episode.
TDW: Did you? That’s great.
Lafferty: Yeah. It’s such a good milestone. For me, it’s just as big as 100. Not a lot of shows go for 150 episodes. The fact that we have seven complete seasons–we never had a season that just went for 13; we’ve had seven very complete seasons–it kind of blows my mind to think about it.
TDW: When you look back on the all the stories you’ve done in 150 episodes, what stands out to you? Do you have a favorite storyline or episode?
Lafferty: I’ve got a couple. There’s just like these “moments.” When we shot the state championship episode [Episode 4.09, Some You Give Away], that was huge. We went to Raleigh and we shot in N.C. State’s arena. I think it’s called the RBC Center. Greg Prange directed that episode. We were up against it. We had not a lot of time to shoot it. We had to be out of that RBC Center by a certain time. We just had a mountain of set-ups to shoot for all the basketball action. It was really a testament to the work this crew can do. Brendan Kirsch, who does all the sports coordination, pulled everything together and we really made those two days happen. We got an amazing episode out of it, amazing basketball action. And that was so gratifying for me, because I was so connected to the basketball part of it. Then another one is sort of a basketball one as well, when Nathan took the court at the Bobcats arena [Episode 6.24, Remember Me As A Time Of Day] for the NBA. We went to Charlotte to shoot that and we actually went and shot half-time at a game. They said, “You have four minutes to get what you need.”
TDW: Oh, wow.
Lafferty: Literally, in four minutes, we ran out there, took a steady cam out there and we had all of our guys dressed in Bobcats clothing. There were 26,000 fans in the arena. The announcer came on and announced Nathan Scott. All the graphics were up all over the screens. It was just this surreal moment when I literally felt like I had won the lottery. That just doesn’t happen. For me, it’s always been a dream to take the court at an NBA game and even though it didn’t “really” happen, just even shooting that and being in front of that many people, having that moment happen for the character, was just really awesome. So those are just a couple of moments that stand out for me as really defining times.
TDW: Speaking of the basketball, this season, we haven’t really seen you play outside of the River Court. If we get a season 8, will Nathan get back to that?
Lafferty: I don’t know. Possibly. It’s difficult to say where Nathan in particular is headed in his career. He could continue playing for the NBA. He could realize he really cherishes his time and loves his time being a father and a husband and wants to be close to his family. I think Nathan will always be involved in basketball. Basketball will always be a part of his life. But in what way has yet to be defined.
TDW: I know you’ve been back a few weeks already but you guys went to Utah to film the finale. I imagine it took you out of your comfort zone a little bit because it’s not the Wilmington weather and it’s certainly not the California weather.
Lafferty: We were definitely out of our element. It was funny–we actually had one of the coldest winters ever here in Wilmington this past winter. It had just started getting warm here and we decided to go to Utah. I called it “chasing winter.” We basically chased the winter to Utah and got back into that really cold environment. We had this hybrid crew of local Utah people and the people from Wilmington we brought out. That worked really well. There were a lot of things we were up against that could’ve hurt us or held us back a little bit but we got through it and we got everything done, got everything we needed. Mark Schwahn got us to do some really good days. It was a great experience.
TDW: What have you heard about a season 8?
Lafferty: I’ve tried not to pay too much attention to it because there’s so much speculation. There’s hundreds of questions and no answers. It’s really hard. If you listen to everything that’s out there, and if you really invest in everything that’s said, it can be emotionally taxing. We’re talking about our lives here. I think for me, I’m trying to sit back and just wait. I’ve heard a couple of different things here and there but for me, it still seems to be a coin toss. I think the fan support really does help. So if you’re a fan of the show, continue to voice your support.
TDW: If this is the last season of the show, what would you want the show’s legacy to be?
Lafferty: Well, I think the show’s legacy is already defined. I think the way that you put it at the beginning of this interview, of you ranking us up there with 90210 and Dawson’s Creek, that’s really our show’s legacy. I think we’re going to go down as one of those great teen dramas that hopefully a generation identified with. That’s really what I hope for. That people look back on the show and say “That was a sign of the times.”
TDW: What message would you want to give to the fans?
Lafferty: I’m a sucker for happy endings. I would like to leave the fans with a happy ending. I think we go to the movies, we watch our TVs so we can be told stories and I would love for our story to be one that ends positively.
Come back tomorrow night at 8pm eastern for my live-blog of One Tree Hill 7.19, Every Picture Tells A Story.
Be sure to also come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview.