Robby Benson is hot. Yes, the star of 1976’s “Ode to Billy Joe” and 1979’s “Ice Castles” is a babe. At least, that’s the word from a young, current-day star, Hilarie Burton, who appears on the WB’s “One Tree Hill” and hosts MTV’s “TRL.”
She has such a crush on Benson that, while a senior in high school, she appointed herself president of the Robby Benson Fan Club. And her own burgeoning stardom hasn’t diminished her affection, as everyone near her trailer on the set of “One Tree Hill” learns.
One of the producers got Burton some autographed pictures, one of which reads: “Dear Hilarie, Thanks for remembering. With love, Robby Benson.”
“That’s so humble: ‘Thank you for remembering.’ No, no, no, thank YOU,” she says, kissing the photo like a moonstruck teen. Never mind that she’s a 21-year-old who appears on one of TV’s hippest music shows and in the first of the WB’s freshman crop to get a full-season, 22-episode commitment from the network.
Airing at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, “One Tree Hill” is about feuding half-brothers Lucas and Nathan (Chad Michael Murray of “Dawson’s Creek” and James Lafferty of “Emeril”).
Lucas is being raised by his single mother, Karen Roe (Moira Kelly), who became pregnant in high school. Lucas’ father, Dan Scott (Paul Johansson), abandoned her for college and his own basketball dreams. Now, Dan’s brother, Keith (Craig Sheffer) is interested in Karen and serving as Lucas’ surrogate father.
The show is set in the fictional town of Tree Hill, N.C.; One Tree Hill is the address of the high school. Although the most of the scenes are filmed on a Wilmington studio lot, the basketball games are shot at the local Laney High School, whose best-known graduate is Michael Jordan.
Dan Scott has returned to town with his wife and their son, Nathan. Conflict arises on the court and off, where — at least at the start of the season — they both loved the same girl, Peyton Sawyer, played by Burton.
If you can’t keep up with all the teen angst, then you’re not alone. Neither can Barry Corbin, the former “Northern Exposure” co-star who plays the high school basketball coach.
“For what the show intends to do, I think it’s good,” says Corbin, who came to the set on his day off in typical Texan rancher attire, complete with black cowboy boots and a beige hat. “It’s not necessarily something I’d go out of my way to tune in. But I’m not too excited about teenage problems.”
Adults are human, too
Still, Corbin says the adults on this show are more fully developed than the few who appeared sporadically on “Dawson’s Creek,” to which “One Tree Hill” is compared. “Dawson’s Creek” also was shot in Wilmington for its entire six-season run.
“It’s so rare to find a script where the adults are human beings,” Corbin says.
Johansson considers his role a coup, the only role in “One Tree Hill” that he’d want to play. “When the show is over, you will remember Dan Scott,” he says. “He is the spice in the stew ... Everything he does influences our protagonists, Lucas and Nathan.”
Sheffer said he enjoyed the way Keith interacts with both the teens and adults, adding that writer Mark Schwahn had worked to make “One Tree Hill” more than “just a teeny-bopper show. He’s done a good job of fitting in the adult story line while holding on to the teen audience.”
The young stars agree that Wilmington is better place to film than New York or Los Angeles, at least when it comes to adjusting to fame.
“That’s the great thing about working here,” Murray says. “You’re kept out of the loop about what type of impact you’re making. You’re getting up, going to work and coming home, like a normal job.”
Except, of course for the perks: handlers who make sure no one takes a photo of one of the young stars smoking, craft services that makes sure co-star Sophia Bush always has a box of her beloved Cheez-Its in her trailer, and the ability to beg the producers to hire your idol as a director.
So far, Burton’s entreaties have failed and Benson hasn’t signed on, partially because he prefers to direct comedies — or so she’s been told. So her line to the network lately has been: “We need something lighthearted. We’ve been pretty moody lately.”
Are you listening, Robby?