One Tree Hill’s Anna Finds Courage – and Romance?

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Schwahn doesn’t have control over how the show is marketed, however, so the promos are sometimes sensationalized even when the episodes themselves aren’t. “I asked the promo department, who can often be adversarial with us, not to show the [Petyon-Anna] kiss in the promo, because it wasn’t about that,” he says.

They didn’t show the kiss, but they did show an angry Peyton ripping off her “dyke” t-shirt in the school hallway. “I was actually disappointed they showed Peyton taking her t-shirt off in the promo,” Schwahn says, “because it made that moment seem like we were trying to grab attention with it. But the point wasn’t to see Hilarie Burton in a bra. The point was her defiance, and her taking a stand and trying to be supportive even though she herself wasn’t gay or bisexual.”

On this Tuesday’s episode, “Something I Can Never Have,” Anna finally comes out to her homophobic brother, Felix. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had acting,” Alonso says of filming the coming-out scenes with Capon. “It was the saddest, but the most fun. Paul Johansson, who plays Dan on the show, was a fantastic director, and we were crying, and then shooting, crying, then shooting for seven hours. It was amazing.”

Next, Alonso shot her scenes with Sprague Grayden (Joan of Arcadia), the actress who plays Anna’s ex-girlfriend Darby–and fortunately for Alonso and viewers rooting for Anna, they involved less crying. “I didn’t get a chance to meet Sprague beforehand, because they flew her in the night before. So the first time we met on the set, at like 6am that morning, I said ‘hey, let’s talk,’ and we just started talking, developing some kind of relationship, creating back history for Anna and Darby. She’s awesome, a great actress, so I had fun with it.”

Schwahn was happy to cast Grayden in the role. “[The WB] brought in some real pinup-y looking girls,” he recounted, “and I thought that really just took you out of the story. It felt disingenuous to the storyline. When I saw Sprague, I said ‘this girl’s fantastic.'”

Darby’s visit to Tree Hill awakens old feelings for Anna, which only intensify her introspection–and prompts her to make some hard decisions about who she is and what she wants. “We thought, ‘why don’t we make this journey about what everyone else’s journey is on this show?'” says Schwahn. “This is about a girl who wants to fall in love, and wants to be in love, who says, ‘Why not me?’”

But enough about Anna for now–what about all those Brooke and Peyton rumors? “I’ve seen the message boards,” laughs Schwahn. “I was really surprised in the finale of last year, when they were lying in bed together, and it was the end of a journey for them–they had had a falling out and come back together–and I was surprised that the audience read that that there was some sexual tension there. It wasn’t intended. We haven’t steered away from it, but we haven’t written into it, either.”

There are indeed many message board threads online devoted to the possible pairing of these two, and Bush and Burton even joke around about it in the Season 1 DVD commentary. “Brooke and Peyton are not lovers, thanks, lets just establish that right now,” Bush says on the commentary. Burton responds, “That’s true. At least not in season one,” and Bush fires back, “not till season 3, Hil, come on!”

Bush and Burton did raise the issue with Schwahn after the first-season finale. “I think Sophia and Hilarie were concerned that we were sort-of winking at the audience and telling a story that wasn’t there,” Schwahn recounts, “and I said to them ‘Look guys, I’ll be upfront with you about whatever tales we’re telling. As far as I’m concerned, these two are best friends.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re both attractive, and when you have two attractive girls in bed together, somebody’s gonna go there.’ But right now that’s not what I have planned for you.’

“But it’s a long journey in Tree Hill,” he finishes with a laugh, “so you never know.”

Exactly how long the show’s journey will be remains to be seen. One Tree Hill has definitely grown its fan base in its second season, but it still struggles with ratings at times, and many critics have placed it among the list of shows on the bubble for renewal next season.

But Schwahn believes pick up for a third season is right around the corner. “I would be shocked if we weren’t renewed, based on the conversations I’ve had with the network and the studio, and I think they’re going to pick us up for even more episodes than the normal season, like 24 or 26,” he says optimistically, then adding cautiously “but it hasn’t happened yet, so who knows.”

Regardless of what happens next season, the next part of Anna’s story–coming out to her family, making sense of her feelings for an ex-girlfriend–offers several scenes which may seem at least vaguely familiar to lesbian and bisexual teens and adults.

“I really think this show is at its best when someone I’ll never meet, someone our writers will never meet, can take away from our show something that resonates in their life,” Schwahn asserts. “We do our water-cooler moments, we do our soapy moments, but I also believe the show can serve a higher function.”

“If this show can help someone, that’s what we should be doing.”

One Tree Hill airs Tuesdays at 9pm on the WB;

find more on the show in our One Tree Hill section

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