Exclusive Interview: Mark Schwahn and Joe Davola, executive producers of One Tree Hill (Part 2)
Part 1 / Part 2

I know you plan to do the jump, but have you guys gone into any sort of planning for any specific storylines going into the next season, like for instance, will basketball still play a part in the show?

Schwahn: Yeah it will. We’re gonna lay the ground work for a lot of it, it’s a good question. We’re gonna lay the ground work for season five over these last six episodes. Now as you know we return to air Wednesday night and we’ve gotta take three in a row and then a one week break and then our final three. All excellent episodes, all are done, all are locked. I sound mixed episodes 20 and 21 this week but other than that everything is done and locked and they’re really special episodes for the show. I mean that sincerely, not just hype. We’ll be laying the ground work for journeys that most of our characters will take if we do jump ahead.

Basketball will certainly still be a player and I think that arena is important to us. It’s sort of, you know, in the way that ER has its examination rooms and CSI has its mysteries of the crime solving as its backdrop. I think basketball is the backdrop of this show, it’s sort of our home base. The show is never about basketball but I just think that that suit the brothers were in and it feels like that will still be a player if we jump ahead. As will the music storyline with Haley and Peyton, the fashion storyline with Brooke, because I feel like…you know, I have a room full of writers who see this as the chance to rewrite a pilot and rewrite a show with characters that the audience is familiar with. And while that’s certainly true, I do think that there has to be some certain familiarity with the world because you’re taking this big leap ahead. But I think the characters, they could have strayed and then certainly one or two of them will be ghastly different than who we knew them as in high school but there also has to be an anchor to the world. There has to be something that is familiar to the audience and I think that we’ll see that with some of the characters as well.

Davola: What it does also is it adds a sort of mystery element to the show which basically gets carried out every year. The first year was who were these people, and what are their connections and the second year was who started the fire the third year and the fourth year dealt with Keith and sort of the murder and stuff like that. So, now it’s going to be what has happened to these people and what has made them become who they are. So in addition to moving ahead with our cast members there will also be flashbacks to show where they’ve been over the past four years but really the critical moments, the moments that shaped them into who they are. So we have a little mystery running through the whole year also.

You guys have been on a pretty long hiatus.  Up till now your schedule is kind of different than the rest of TV, I know you end in June. Do you guys have any kind of say in the scheduling? Do you like how the episodes linger on up to June?

Schwahn: Well, we can say “Damn it!” which is what we said.  You know, the CW has been a good partner. As a young network they’re still finding their way but you know they’ve been pretty good to us. Quite frankly, the Pussycat Dolls show was doing better and its rerun in our timeslot than it was doing in its first run in Veronica’s timeslot. So, when they see that and they see a return on their investment and they can show a good rating and they can make a few bucks, for a young network that’s gonna be important.

What was interesting was that when they called us about it and they said they were gonna hold us even longer than anticipated, it was fairly last minute, we were I think due back that week. But the fact of the matter is that they didn’t try to spin it with us. They just said “Look, the show is performing better than we thought it was going to in its slot, it's a good fit with Model,” and we feel like that for several reasons whether it was ratings or money or whatever, it’s important for us to go in that direction. So the good news was that they said it sucks for you guys and it sucks for your fan base but it’s what we have to do with the network right now for various business reasons so we just rolled with it, you know. To answer your question, no, we really can’t control it all. We can chime in as what Joe and I do with our two cents, we can speak to what the fans might be feeling, to what we might be feeling, to what momentum we creatively might have. But at the end of the day we all work for the man and the man’s gonna tell us where we’re gonna go and how we’re gonna do it, so that’s what happened.

Davola: The traditional television model, I think, is changing.  It sees the way things are running at the other network and stuff like that and I feel like the TV season is starting to go the way of AM radio. I would prefer if we ran eleven episodes and took a break and come back and run another eleven. I think that’s the way or audience would prefer watching the show, I would avoid doing repeats because I think we get a big core audience viewing the first time out and then having to put the available episodes on the web or having them available on iTunes and if the network goes in that direction I’d be happy about that. I’d rather tell a big chunk of episodes in a row than take a big break and come back with another chunk, I think it’s more satisfying for our audience.

Schwahn: Yeah I would agree with Joe, you know, the trick is, Oscar, is that we start shooting…if we get picked up, we’ll start shooting in mid-July and if we air in September, or late August, eventually because we’re an 8-day shoot and then you have weekends, and you’re airing every seven days, eventually you’re airing schedule catches up with your post schedule and you can’t make episodes fast enough. But we’re game to start a little earlier. I think we would love the experiment of getting eleven episodes done and getting them aired and then taking a big break and shelling another eleven because I think the audience knows you’re on, they strap in for that long journey. It allows us to write two really great cliffhanger episodes at the end of that run and you’re not running into reruns which can be sometimes erratic. We just feel, as storytellers, that we’re in a vacuum, we don’t have to worry about the business of it as much as we have to worry about the show of it. But for me, to tell eleven and to tell the final eleven would be wonderful.

It seems to me that the CW is pretty willing to do stuff like that; not showing reruns and insteadjust plugging in sort of an eight episode reality show like Beauty and the Geek or Pussycat Dolls.

Davola: It keeps the clients here alive which is a good thing. I’d rather not burn off the show in our timeslot over the repeats in there, and keep the time period alive, so at least when we start again, we get a jumping off point, it’s gonna help us. If you look at the show’s ratings, we grow as the episodes grow. What kills us is we go off after nine episodes so if we can squeeze two episodes on each side, it’s just gonna be better for them and it’s gonna be better for us. Back to you, Markie.

Schwahn: I agree with you, Oscar. I think that because it’s a young network, I thought it was really smart of them to put our episodes on the CW website and you could view them you know if you wanted to watch them again you could go to the website and view them for free. I thought that was great. So I do think there are smart people there and they’re willing to try new things. You know, sometimes just as the machine can be really big and sort of slow moving and resistant to change and I think that’s always the challenge when you’re working in that corporate level.

Can you guys talk about tomorrow’s episode and what we can expect to see in coming episodes?

Schwahn: We were very fortunate in the fact that…we actually…down the line you know the way we wrote episodes nine and ten…those were the state championships with Haley’s car accident and then the return of Keith. We’re sort of writing this dual cliffhanger episode because our air date schedule was kind of shifting. So, we were very fortunate in the fact that originally, this first episode back to air which is episode sixteen for us originally that was planned to be our big cliffhanger episode and what happened was they decided to take a break a week early so we ended up ending with the psycho Derrick punching Peyton when she opened the door on the night of prom. We kind of anticipated that because the CW was smart enough to tell us that it might be a week early, it might be not. So the fans got a bonus because that means this comeback episode could have been our cliffhanger episode and it’s also loaded with incident. So it’s really great, I mean we have the allusion of what happens after Peyton opened that door with psycho Derrick.

But it’s also prom night which is significant to our kids who are seniors. Nathan and Haley have a really great storyline as they head into their final prom and obviously Rachel is planning to leave town so we left her at the airport because of the whole scandal over the calculus exam. So Miles and Rachel and Brooke, Peyton, Lucas and, you know, Lucas is hunting around the whole murder thing. Dan is feeling the pressure of who knows what he did, and all of that information like significant moments in terms of the resolution of the Dan-Keith murder plot, are in 4-16, are in our first episode back Wednesday night.

Alright, Mark, Joe, I appreciate you stopping by. Good luck and we all hope the show gets picked up.

Davola: Thanks for all your support.

No problem.

S: Yeah, you guys have been really great to us so we do appreciate that. BuddyTV has a great site and I think you guys are really doing some things really well over there, so thanks for the support and this episode brings us back to the air for the final six and again not do we only have the psycho Derrick storyline, the resolution in a big way of Dan’s murder subplot, you know we took a road trip to Honey Grove, Texas and did a really great unprecedented episode that some kids helped us with and then we’ve got these significant, like I said, moments for our seniors which is graduation, prom, Haley’s pregnant, Karen’s pregnant, there’s a lot going on in these final six and I think the fans, certainly the loyal fans of the show, will find it very satisfying, but I think that may have had a look and left along the way, these six episodes are the best foot forward if they want to take a look again.

Part 1 / Part 2

(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
(Image Courtesy of The CW)