When “One Tree Hill” premiered on The WB on September 23, 2003, I was a 16-year-old high school senior. I watched it because “Dawson’s Creek” was off the air and I had nothing better to do once I’d finished my physics homework.
It was almost 8 years later to the day that I, a real live adult, visited the set of the show to conduct interviews with the cast and observe while they filmed one of the final episodes of the series.
I sat behind the camera on set at Karen’s Cafe, watching Sophia Bush’s effortless transformation into Brooke Davis, as directed by Greg Prange. The scene wasn’t sad or even particularly poignant — she was flirting with her husband before he spotted something on the street and rushed outside. It was practically filler. But I blinked back tears anyway, because in that moment I felt instantly connected to my 16-year-old self, and, simultaneously, uncomfortably far away from her. It hit me that in a few months, I’d say a last goodbye to a childhood friend.
When Brooke made her first appearance in the second episode of “One Tree Hill,” she could have easily been written off as a brainless, slutty cheerleader. Initially, she was — her best friend labeled her as shallow, her parents nurtured her with their wallets. Boys pitied her as she propositioned them, naked in locker room showers and backseats.
At the time, I couldn’t have told you why I related to Brooke. At 16, I wasn’t promiscuous — I wasn’t even brave. I kept up a solid B+ in honors and AP classes, kept the bench warm for my teammates, and when my parents were out of town, I always volunteered to host parties, because that way, I knew I’d be invited. My journals from senior year alternate between wondering if people didn’t like me, then wondering why they did like me, back and forth.
Somehow, though, in Brooke, I found a fictional comrade onto whom I could easily project all of my problems and heartache and self-indulgent teen angst. In a Season 4 episode, Brooke confesses to a friend that she lied to him. “I was worried I wouldn’t be enough for you,” she says. “That’s what I’m afraid of, not being enough. Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough.”
And there it was. For all of her brash, naked-in-the-backseat bravado, Brooke was a girl who frequently fell short of who she wanted to be. People had low expectations for her, and often they were wrong, but sometimes they were right. She had her heart broken, repeatedly, by people she trusted, and she forgave them, disarmed and unprepared for the next painful twist of the knife. She made bad choices and suffered consequences.
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