After eight seasons of hoop dreams and relationship drama one could hardly fault James Lafferty for wanting to hang up his sneakers. But just how serious is he about preparing to say goodbye to Nathan Scott, the character he has been playing since he was 17 years old? We recently caught up with the actor to find out just that, as well as have him reflect on ONE TREE HILLS’ remarkable longevity as we head towards what may-or-may-not be the hit CW show’s final act.
Did you ever imagine that eight years later you’d still be shooting ONE TREE HILL?
James Lafferty: Not really. I think it was kind of impossible to imagine that we would go eight seasons like that, especially having been on the bubble after pretty much every season where we never really knew our fate. That said, I think just to have that streak of being on the bubble for so many seasons, is just as unprecedented as actually going the eight seasons.
What was your mindset when it came to shooting the upcoming season finale, not knowing if it really was the end or not?
We’ve made the last episode of season eight with an eye on the fact that it could very well be the last episode of the show. So if season nine does come along it’s always welcome, but at the same time if this is actually the last episode we’ll be more grateful on looking back on everything we’ve accomplished than we would be disappointed in the fact that maybe we didn’t get to accomplish something. We’ve really covered all the basis and are so grateful with the eight seasons that we’ve gotten, everything else would kind of be a cherry on top.
How much do you think shooting the show outside of Hollywood — where young actors with a lot of disposable income have a history of getting in trouble — helped contribute to the longevity of the show?
You know it would be difficult to say whether or not ONE TREE HILL would be ONE TREE HILL if it was shot in New York or Los Angeles. The show’s heart is in its small town identity and its small town people. And I think when all of the cast is in Wilmington (North Carolina) it’s easier to focus, live that small town lifestyle our characters are living and separate ourselves from all the rest of the rat race that goes in either New York or LA.
Over the years the show has been very adept at introducing and weaving character in an out of Tree HIll. Was there ever any serious talk about a spin-off?
I think that every different version of the show has kind of been joked about over the years, but I don’t really think that there’s too much of a possibility of that happening. I think at this point it seems like our show is centered around the couples. And in terms of what ONE TREE HILL actually is, I think that everybody being there in the same place, in the same town, and experiencing the same things that they do together as a community is really what the show is about. It’s about that tight knit group of friends and how they navigate life. So while we’ve joked about, I don’t really think that there’s too much of a possibility of that actually happening.
And while we’re on the subject of couples, the Nathan/Haley relationship has for the most part remained ONE TREE HILL’s one constant. Looking back, do you have a favorite moment?
The episode I directed in season 7, that focused on tearing down Renee’s claim that she was the mother of Nathan’s illegitimate child, that was a pretty monumental moment for Nathan and Haley’s relationship because Haley really did stand by Nathan through the entire thing. And as embarrassing and humiliating as it was for her she really made the choice to stick by Nathan and I think Nathan was really honest and understanding about his wife’s reaction. It was an episode that very easily could have torn the family unit apart but they overcame it. And to me, that was really a sign of their relationship, which might have faced the toughest test in their entire roller coaster of a relationship and marriage. They overcame it, they were better for it, and both Nathan and Haley learned from it.
Putting on your writer’s cap for a moment, how would you like to see Nathan end the series?
Well, I think that Nathan, right now is where he belongs, with his family. For so long he bounced around the country trying to pursue his dream of basketball and as much as basketball is really a part of who Nathan is his priority is always his family, which I think is what he is most proud of in life. So for me, if the show ends this season, that’s where I’d like to see Nathan. With his family.
And finally, in preparing for this interview we came across your latest project that sees yourself, brother Stuart, co-star Stephen Colletti and Award-Winning Nature Photographer Ian Shive chronicle your adventures in the great outdoors. What was the inspiration for the project?
We just have a great respect for the outdoors, love to be in the outdoors and really have grown up that way. So you know I think all of us being friends decided we wanted to go and take a trip that would also give the National Park system and these places that our so accessible to everybody in this country [America] a little bit of exposure. This generation — and we’re all guilty of it, I myself spend far more time in front of my computer and television than I probably should — needs to be reminded to experience the outdoors. And we wanted to show other people just how easy it is to get out there and have fun and we’re really proud of the way it turned out because I think it just makes the entire experience look like a blast. Hopefully it will inspire people to get out there, do the same and support a National Park near them, because really that’s how these Parks continue to stay alive — through the support of the people that come, camp, buy passes and see what they have to offer.
ONE TREE HILL airs Tuesday at 8PM on the CW