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‘UnReal’ Showrunner Recalls Mark Schwahn’s ‘Frat House’ Vibe in the ‘One Tree Hill’ Writers Room

Mark Schwahn
Writer, producer and director Mark Schwahn attends "The Royals" New York Series Premiere at The Standard Highline on March 9, 2015 in New York City. Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

Stacy Rukeyser now runs UnREAL, one of the most female-empowering shows on television, but it wasn’t always that way. From 2004 to 2006, she was a writer for One Tree Hill, working under Mark Schwahn.

Last week, 18 women who worked on The CW drama came forward claiming sexual misconduct against Schwahn. Hilarie Burton, who starred on the drama, also detailed alleged assault, claiming that the showrunner forced himself on her multiple times. Following the claims, Rukeyser shared her story in a guest column published on Monday, November 20.

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“I worked as a writer on One Tree Hill for two seasons. In my first, I was one of two female writers on staff. In my second, I was the only woman on staff with 11 men,” she wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a notable imbalance on any show, but it is particularly egregious on a show about and for teenage girls. To say it was an uncomfortable work environment would be an understatement. Showrunner Mark Schwahn created, from the top down, a writers room that I described at the time, perhaps naively, as a frat house — and that I now see as a misogynistic quagmire.”

She explained that she was looked at as a “buzzkill” by the men in the crew, as she couldn’t “hang with the guys.”

“When the other writers decided on Hooters for lunch, I was faced with a daunting decision — do I ‘suck it up’ and go along, so as not to miss out on any ‘work bonding,’ or simply laugh it off and let them go without me? I went with option C, and told them it made me uncomfortable (they went anyway, of course — ‘they have the best wings in town!’),” Rukeyser continued. “I was ridiculed, harangued and called names. I was also the one who had to plead with Mark to stop one of our EPs from bringing over the hot tub that he was excitedly planning to install out back behind the writers’ office. I’m sure Mark would say now, ‘It was a joke!’ But at the time, I had to explain to these baffled men how, particularly as the only woman, I might feel uncomfortable having to strip down to a bathing suit in order to break story.”

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The writer then pointed out that women never lasted long in the writers room on the show, and she ended up breaking her three-year contract after two years. In the process, she burned many bridges.

“But the bottom line is, I left. I kept writing,” she explained. “I found other mentors — male and female — who have been incredibly supportive. And now, I’m trying to do more. What are the solutions? Hire women. Mentor women. Help them rise up to positions of power. And get rid of the idea that doing so will somehow diminish the fun you’re able to have along the way. As any writer on UnREAL would tell you, it is quite possible to have a bawdy, R-rated, even outrageous level of discourse with smart, strong women in the room.”

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Schwahn was suspended from his role of showrunner on E!’s The Royals on Wednesday, November 15, two days after the One Tree Hill cast came forward. On November 15, 25 cast and crew members on The Royals also spoke out, also accusing the writer of “repeated unwanted sexual harassment.” E!, Universal Cable Productions and Lionsgate Television are investigating the allegations.

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