When characters from "One Tree Hill" take a road trip, it's no small feat.
The Wednesday, May 9, episode of The CW drama series proves it. Virtually the entire cast and crew traveled from their usual North Carolina set to Honey Grove, Texas (pop. 1,746), where high-school students made the winning video in a contest to have the show film a story on location.
Co-star Hilarie Burton, who plays often-troubled Peyton Sawyer, made an advance trip to deliver the news.
"Our show takes place in a small town, so it felt really appropriate to go to another one," she explains. "To interact with our fans was kind of unsettling. I'm an old-looking 'teenager,' so it was fun to hang out with real teens and get a perspective on the age we're playing."
The CW and Warner Bros. Television, which produces "One Tree Hill," partnered with the beverage company Sunkist in sponsoring the contest.
Any concerns about Honey Grove residents getting in the way of the actors' work evaporated quickly, according to Burton.
"They were really generous, warm and hospitable," she says. "They got to see what the process was like. We do take after take, and we're kind of a well-oiled machine at this point, since we're in our fourth season. We're also a family, and we just included them in it."
In Wednesday's storyline, Peyton and friends including Lucas, Brooke, Nathan and Haley (Chad Michael Murray, Sophia Bush, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Galeotti) head for Honey Grove to retrieve their pal Mouth (Lee Norris), who has text-messaged them for help after landing in jail. They arrive just as Honey Grove is having its school prom, thus the chance for many locals to appear on camera.
"It turned out to be a lot of fun," adds actress Galeotti, who is pregnant on the show but not in real life. "I grew up in Texas between the ages of 3 and 12, and it was great to drive through Dallas; I had forgotten how beautiful the architecture is. Everybody in [Honey Grove] was really excited, and what surprised me the most was how respectful everyone was. They seemed hopeful, like something new and exciting was happening for their town."
Also a singer who has performed musically on the show, Galeotti admits she has been "eating some humble pie. I thought we were going to have so many problems, with extras looking into the camera, or wandering around and not knowing they were walking into a shot. It was amazing that they were so great. They really paid attention and listened to direction, and they wanted to do the best job they could. It was really wonderful."
On their last night in Honey Grove, some of the actors learned just how welcome they were.
"They have a 'One Tree Hill' viewing party every week, and they invited us over," former MTV personality Burton reports. "There were rules. We were not allowed to have our cell phones on, and we couldn't talk until the commercial breaks. It was really great that we got to introduce them to our process, and that they got to introduce us to theirs."
Following the survival of "One Tree Hill" -- also being repeated weeknights on SoapNet -- from the now-defunct The WB to The CW, both Burton and Galeotti hope it will earn a fifth season. Now co-creating a 1940s-influenced stage musical, Galeotti reflects, "I would love to come back for another 13 episodes, sort of as a last hurrah for everybody, knowing exactly how much time we have. I think that would be great for all of us."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times