Hilarie Burton
Source: Getty

Hilarie Burton's 'One Tree Hill' Exit Is Still a Sore Subject for Fans

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Oct. 26 2021, Published 6:08 p.m. ET

It was a dark day for One Tree Hill fans when Hilarie Burton and Chad Michael Murray left. And even though it's explained in the show that their characters, Peyton and Lucas, leave town after she gives birth to their daughter, fans are still mad about their departure after all these years.

So, why did Hilarie Burton really leave One Tree Hill?

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Hilarie's character, Peyton, goes through a lot during her time on the show. When she eventually leaves Tree Hill with Lucas and their baby, it makes for a fitting ending. They literally drive off into the sunset. But that still hasn't stopped fans from wondering why Hilarie had to leave the series for good — even if most of us begrudgingly forgive her for it.

Peyton, Lucas, and Haley in 'One Tree Hill'
Source: The CW
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Hilarie Burton and Chad Michael Murray left 'One Tree Hill' at the same time.

Most fans will agree that it never really made sense for Lucas and Peyton to leave One Tree Hill. In the Season 7 premiere, Lucas and Peyton are finally together for good. And they even discover that Peyton is pregnant. What follows is a whirlwind engagement, a wedding, and Peyton almost dying while giving birth to their daughter. Are you really surprised? This is One Tree Hill we're talking about.

But when Hilarie left the show as Peyton, Chad's Lucas also did. According to a leaked video, Chad left because the CW wouldn't pay him what he felt he deserved as one of the leading actors. Contract negotiations led to Chad's departure from One Tree Hill, and to Hilarie leaving with him.

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Hilarie Burton and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Source: Instagram

But why did Hilarie Burton leave 'One Tree Hill'?

Although Chad claimed his One Tree Hill exit was due to salary disputes, Hilarie's reason was vastly different. Shortly before her final One Tree Hill episode in 2009, she spoke to Entertainment Weekly about why she left. Hilarie explained that it was a mutual decision between herself and producers and that she appreciated the six-year run she had on the show.

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In an October 2021 episode of Hilarie's One Tree Hill podcast, Drama Queens, she shed a little more light on what made her decide to leave the show for good. She explained that her co-star, Moira Kelly, who played Chad's on-screen mom, had urged her to "run" when she felt she was ready to leave the show behind.

While some fans have speculated in recent years that Hilarie left One Tree Hill because of sexual assault and harassment allegations against creator Mark Schwahn, Hilarie herself hasn't outright confirmed this.

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Hilarie Burton hosts a 'One Tree Hill' podcast with some of her former co-stars.

Even though Hilarie left One Tree Hill a few years before viewers saw the Ravens play their final basketball game on the home court, the show still holds a special place in her heart. In fact, she hosts the Drama Queens re-watch podcast with fellow former One Tree Hill stars Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley) and Sophia Bush (Brooke).

Together, they recap a different One Tree Hill episode every week and go into detail about behind-the-scenes secrets fans may not know about.

Hilarie might have exited One Tree Hill before many of the other core cast members, but she still seems to look back fondly on the memories she made with her co-stars and real-life friends.

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