Why Did Peyton and Lucas Leave 'One Tree Hill' and Break Fans' Hearts?

"It's a section of my life that I deleted. A lot of development, a lot of growth as a human being, and [I] just deleted so much of it."

Melissa Willets - Author

Mar. 7 2024, Published 1:19 p.m. ET

Peyton and Lucas at their wedding on 'One Tree Hill'
Source: The CW

They were known at Leyton, a couple so meant to be that they rose to the level of Meredith and McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy. Indeed, Lucas and Peyton on One Tree Hill went through their fair share of ups and downs, but then just when it seemed fans were going to get to enjoy the characters' happily ever after, it was over before it even started!

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Season 6 of One Tree Hill saw the couple, played by Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton, saying "I do" at last. Unthinkably, before Season 7 kicked off, the actors and their beloved on-screen alter egos were gone.

So why did Peyton and Lucas leave One Tree Hill? Here's the scoop.

Lucas and Peyton dancing on 'One Tree Hill'
Source: The CW
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Fans really need to know why Peyton and Lucas left 'One Tree Hill.'

The year was 2009, and One Tree Hill was at the height of its popularity, as was one The CW show's biggest stars, Chad Michael Murray.

But come Season 7, according to Screen Rant, contract negotiations between Chad and the powers that be at the series fell apart and Lucas was written off One Tree Hill.

Chad later said that he wouldn't even go back and rewatch old episodes of the show, snarking, "It's a section of my life that I deleted. A lot of development, a lot of growth as a human being, and [I] just deleted so much of it."

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As for Hilarie, she has said that her choice to bid the show adieu was a mutual one between herself and the producers.

The actor reportedly didn't regret the decision to move on to other things, which according to IMDb, would include short stints on Castle, Grey's Anatomy, and a longer turn on White Collar.

'One Tree Hill' cast including Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton
Source: Getty Images
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Where did Peyton and Lucas go on Season 7?

While the actors decided that they'd had enough of One Tree Hill, how did writers explain the obvious absence of Lucas and Peyton, two of the show's main characters?

Well, on the show, the newlyweds and their newborn decide that they're ready to leave Tree Hill and go off to travel the world, with Lucas saying he plans to write a book. OK then.

Of course, fans were more than a little put out by the unexpected plot twist.

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Sphia Bush as Brooke in 'One Tree Hill'
Source: The CW

So, do Lucas and Peyton ever come back to 'One Tree Hill'?

Fans couldn't quite understand that even if Peyton and Lucas were supposedly seeing the world with their daughter, they never returned to Tree Hill — apart from a brief Season 9 cameo by Chad to help out when Nathan (James Lafferty) gets kidnapped.

For instance, when Lucas's former girlfriend turned Leyton supporter Brooke (Sophia Bush) gets married, her friends are nowhere in sight.

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Other key moments from Seasons 8 and 9 seem odd without the former main characters coming back.

So, is a One Tree Hill reboot a possibility? Interestingly, Chad has hinted that something could happen, although he doesn't know exactly what it is.

"I just can't see a world where something won't happen," he told E! News in 2023. "Something will happen. Whether we get everybody together and do a live reading of the show, or we create a new fictional future episode, I don't know what it will be."

Fans will be waiting — and ready — to catch up with Lucas and Peyton after all this time.

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