Wow, what a great interview! As Heather and I are both Christians as well, we love how she’s vocal about her faith and one reason I was glad to see her play in The List.
As for spoilers for next season, she seems to be mum about the whole thing except she does mentions going back to work this week and seems to want to explore her family more in Season 6. Anyway, here ya go.
In a day and age when the world is infatuated with the scandalous side of celebrity and the misadventures of some of today’s young female stars, One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton is a breath of fresh air. In fact, she’s living proof that rising female stars can provide hope to those in need within their own generation through strength and positive messages. Although TV fans know Burton as the brooding and artistic teen harlot, Peyton Sawyer, on One Tree Hill, Hilarie recently got the chance to show a completely different side of herself next to Malcolm McDowell and Chuck Carrington in the southern faith based thriller, The List, which is now available on DVD (as of June 10).
Much like her character in The List, Hilarie Burton found herself on a journey of exploration that allowed her to reaffirm her own faith and belief in a higher power. On Monday, Hilarie phoned in to The Deadbolt HQ to talk about her time on The List, her views on faith and what it means to be a Christian girl in Hollywood, how she navigates the real world evils of the industry, how she’s different than her character on One Tree Hill, her USO tour of Guantanamo Bay … AND, whether Dan will be returning to the series and if we should all have faith that Peyton Sawyer could be making wedding plans this season.
THE DEADBOLT: So I guess the best question to start with is, did you have faith The List would finally be released on DVD?
HILARIE BURTON: Oh yeah, that was never a question. Gary Wheeler is so good at his job. Not only is he a phenomenal on-set leader, but he understands how to maintain his integrity and his ethics in a business that can be kind of seedy. So I think anybody who meets him and encounters him automatically recognizes that. So I never doubted for a second that he wouldn’t go out there and sell this movie.
THE DEADBOLT: Is it tough to be one of the 50 Sexiest Women and still be religious?
BURTON: [laughs] What? Where did that come from? I didn’t know about that. Is that your own personal list?
THE DEADBOLT: No, but you’ve been on a few.
BURTON: A couple of them – sexy is as sexy does. I think I went through a very awkward stage growing up. I had three brothers and every girl likes to say she’s a tomboy because they think that’s what boys like to hear. I was painfully tomboyish for awhile and it wasn’t something to brag about [laughs]. So I think once you’ve experienced that level of awkwardness, any kind of accolade about your physical appearance is always just kind of unsettling. So I don’t pay attention to that.
THE DEADBOLT: I guess it would be kind of weird.
BURTON: Yeah, it’s totally weird. I met a guy from Europe recently that was talking about how gorgeous women were – gorgeous, gorgeous – and I was like, “Listen buddy, here in the States woman don’t want to hear they’re pretty. Every once in a while, maybe, but American women like to hear they’re capable and really smart. That’s what keeps us going. Tell me how smart I am.” [laughs]
THE DEADBOLT: So what was it exactly that spoke to you about The List?
BURTON: For me it was the opportunity to play a Christian woman that wasn’t a geek. There’s that stereotype that the bible-toting Christian woman is a dork, and that’s a stereotype I grew up with and never really agreed with, and so I was very excited about the opportunity to show a different side to my fan base. I’ve got impressionable teenage girls who watch One Tree Hill and I wanted them to know you can be cool and still be devout and still be strong in your faith, and you don’t have to keep it a secret either. People are like, “Wow, you’re pretty vocal about your faith.” And I’m like, “Yeah, well, that’s part of it. That’s part of being a Christian, you have to announce it.” It’s not a secret.
THE DEADBOLT: Since there’s such a strong sense of faith in the film, why do you think it’s so strong in the south?
BURTON: I don’t know that it’s stronger in the south. My mother’s family comes from Iowa and Minnesota and they’re some of the most devout people and their entire communities are super devout. I think, given the climate and how warm it is, people get out and mingle more. So maybe there are more arenas to get out and talk about it, to go to church. I think church in the south is – it’s our history, our tradition, it’s where we go to see our neighbors. That’s not to say that that’s all entirely wholesome, half the time you’re just there to check out other people’s outfits. But I think it’s so ingrained in the southern culture that there are just more arenas to talk about it perhaps.
THE DEADBOLT: When connecting to your character, Jo, were you faced with a similar questioning process of understanding her in the same way she had to understand her own future?
BURTON: I think for me, in playing the part of Jo, a large part of it was that I’ve been playing a character on One Tree Hill that I, as a younger person, did have a lot in common with. Peyton Sawyer was very similar to how I was in high school. So being able to play someone closer to me was important. And I also wasn’t lost, but searching for a way to use the leverage I gained on One Tree Hill for good, you know. I mean, you can go to all of the fashion shows you want, go to all of the parties, and get in all of the magazines and take pictures, you can do that all you want, but unless you’re using your status for good it’s kind of pointless. So getting to play Jo, I knew that it was going to bring my fan base to an entirely different genre, which was important to me. But also, I knew I was going to have an opportunity to do things like this, like promote the film and be asked about my faith. When I do stuff for One Tree Hill, I don’t get posed those types of questions. If I’m going to share any part of my personal life with my public, I think attesting to my faith and what I believe in is probably one of the only valid things I should be sharing.
THE DEADBOLT: In relation to your own faith, how does Peyton give you a broader perspective on the world, or the lives of people like her?
BURTON: You know what? I was nervous for a little bit that I was going to be accused of being a hypocrite. They’re two different kind of people. We had a screening where Gary Wheeler was sitting next to me and a man was not pleased with the fact that this character, Jo Johnston, was cast by a girl that plays a teenage harlot. So that was something I was very nervous about. But I think my thing is: whether you’re playing the prudish Christian woman, like in very typical Christian films, or you’re playing the drugged out prostitute, the grace of God becomes glaringly obvious through human error. It is because we’re human and it’s because we’re imperfect and because we’re sinful creatures that God can manifest himself and show himself to us in really beautiful ways. And even so, Peyton Sawyer does things I would never ever do. I think that the consequences of her actions have always been shown, and you know you don’t get away with making bad decisions. I think that she, herself, whether or not she’s vocal about it – you know, I’ve gotten to do some scenes where my character prays on the show and those are the some of my favorite scenes. My character turns to God in her time of need while Jo Johnston in The List would turn to God every day. So people relate to God in different ways and I’ve been fortunate enough to play a couple of characters that have all gotten to find him in one way or another.
THE DEADBOLT: For someone like The List’s lead character, Renny, how hard do you think it is in today’s world to decipher good from evil, especially with so many mixed messages in various mediums?
BURTON: In acting, the best thing about the bad is that he doesn’t know he’s the bad guy. And I think that’s true in real life. Right now, in this moment, you are probably the bad guy to somebody. I know I’m probably the bad guy to somebody, because I know there are people who are the bad guy to you and the bad guy to me. But everybody can justify their own actions. So I think it’s difficult to tell good from evil and that’s where you have to follow your heart and what your gut tells you. If you make it a practice to ask God to guide your heart, I think those decisions become easier and easier to make.
THE DEADBOLT: Given the dark side of the industry, how do you navigate the real world evils? Is it tougher for young females?
BURTON: I mean we’re in a lecherous business, but we also hold a lot of power. And that’s something I didn’t recognize early in my career. I was very upset I wasn’t a male. I thought I would totally have a leg up if I was a male. But, you know, for women to hold a certain level of power in this industry that’s something you don’t want to abuse or exploit. So it is a very fine line. There are some days where I can justify certain aspects of the industry and there are other days where I’ve just had it.
THE DEADBOLT: How important is it for people to have faith?
BURTON: I can’t tell anyone to have faith. That’s not something I can do. What I can tell people is that if there’s a void, don’t ignore it and search and search until you find the thing that is going to fill it. For me, I can’t love anyone else, whether it’s my family, friends, a spouse, until all of my voids are filled and I’m a full person and I can give my full self over. So in creating my full self, I turn to God and I find a lot of fulfillment and guidance there and I’m very lucky. I would hope that other people can experience that and I know a lot of people who do experience that. It’s a personal journey for anybody. I guess I talk about it more so people know it’s out there and it’s something worth searching for.
THE DEADBOLT: That’s good. It’s kind of refreshing that you talk about it.
BURTON: Thanks. [laughs] I’m waiting to have this major life’s mess up and everyone will be like, “We thought she was a Christian!” And I am, but I’m also human.
THE DEADBOLT: So, I hear Dan is coming back next season on One Tree Hill.
BURTON: Is he? I don’t know. He did get hit by a car pretty bad. Yeah, he bit it. We have great stunt guys. I wasn’t there when they shot that scene. I just remember watching that episode going, “What the… What was that?” It was exciting.
THE DEADBOLT: Well, since faith is so important, should we have faith that Peyton will be making wedding plans this season?
BURTON: I don’t know. I start work tomorrow and they’ve kept it a secret from me. They’re very scared about spoilers. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. You know, I think any of the girls are going to be very lucky and you can justify him being with any of them. Our show has been good, even if our storylines aren’t about a love interest, we still have interesting things to do. I feel lucky to have a character that has been empowered and started her own company and has other stuff going on other than who she’s making out with.
THE DEADBOLT: So, if it’s not Peyton, how would you like to see her evolve next season?
BURTON: I think Peyton has a lot of holes in her life. We’ve been introduced to her father, but he’s been away for years now. We’ve been introduced to her half brother who’s a marine, and that’s really something I’d like to see Peyton explore. Last week I went to Guantanamo Bay to do a USO tour with the military, and my father’s an ex-green beret, I grew up around the military, and it’s something I have a great deal of respect and awe for. So I went down to Guantanamo and got to hang out with the men and women that serve down there and really educate myself to what the situation is down there with the detention center.
I went into a detention center. And separating fact from fiction, the myth that exists right now about what goes on at Guantanamo and the false information that has come out, almost this mass hysteria of abuse and torture and all of this kind of stuff, it’s very unsettling to me. And it’s very demoralizing to our troops, who are actually doing a fantastic job over there, so I volunteered. I was talking to the USO and I let them know that I’ll volunteer to go over to Iraq or Kuwait and the Persian Gulf at some point later this year. I think Thanksgiving is going to be the best time to go when I can get off of work, so I’d love to be able to serve Thanksgiving dinner to our troops. I would love to see Peyton kind of mirror that in the show because it’s something I feel so passionate about. I wish she could interact with her brother and his marine buddies some more