Audiences who catch Tuesday, Sept. 23’s premiere of The WB’s drama “One Tree Hill” may feel a little overwhelmed as they tried to wrap their minds around a large cast of characters bearing a dizzying history among them.

Set in the small fictional town of Tree Hill, N.C., the show focuses on teenage half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott (Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty). Lucas’ mom, Karen (Moira Kelly), has raised him on her own since Dan (Paul Johansson), her high-school boyfriend, abandoned her to pursue college and a career in professional basketball. Dan’s older brother, garage mechanic Keith Scott (Craig Sheffer), has tried to serve as Lucas’ surrogate father, while quietly carrying a torch for Karen.

Dan’s hoops career doesn’t pan out, so he has returned to Tree Hill with the well-to-do wife he met in college and Nathan, the only son he publicly acknowledges. Lucas decides he’s ready to take on his arrogant half-sibling on Nathan’s own turf: the local varsity basketball court. Also at stake: the romantic interest of Nathan’s beautiful head cheerleader girlfriend, Peyton Sawyer (Hilarie Burton).

“Yeah, that first episode kind of said, ‘I’m a pilot,’ didn’t it?” Murray says, taking a cigarette break inside his dressing room trailer in Wilmington, N.C. “I loved the way Mark [Schwahn, the series creator] just drops you into the middle of this very complicated world, but yeah, it was a lot to take in.

“This second episode is even better, though. In fact, one scene toward the end made me cry — and I do not cry when I read scripts,” he adds, tapping a table with his index finger for emphasis.

WB viewers may know the 22-year-old actor from his recurring role as high-school rogue Tristan DuGrey on “Gilmore Girls,” his stint on “Dawson’s Creek” or the title role in an ill-starred 2003 pilot for a projected “Lone Ranger” series.

On this rainy late-summer afternoon, with a large, friendly dog aggressively competing for his attention, however, Murray looks less like the golden boy from WB promos than a serious young actor who recognizes a major career break when he sees one.

It also helps that he feels deeply connected to Lucas — “Luke,” to his mom and close friends.

“I was kind of an outcast in high school,” Murray volunteers. “I had no friends. I was a nerd, and I was from a family with a history that a lot of people knew about, and because I didn’t have a lot of money, while everybody else was getting into trends and fashion, I would wear Payless shoes, a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt every day, which only kind of excluded me further.

“I enjoyed the educational part of it, and I did well in my classes, but I wasn’t one of the guys who thought, ‘Wow, how great is high school.’ Even then, I was looking past it, wondering what was out there … .”

If that isn’t enough, Murray also understands Lucas’ most personal source of pain: a parent’s abandonment.

“My mother abandoned us when I was 10, so I grew up with just my father raising us,” he explains. “I don’t think you can understand what it’s like to be a kid who has a parent just walk out of your life like that unless you’ve actually been through it. I’ve lived it. In a lot of ways, Lucas’ story is my story.”

“It must be a wonderful, freeing opportunity for Chad to bring so much of his personal experience to this part, use it and then let it go,” says Kelly, Murray’s TV mom. “While I think the dynamic is maybe a little different in that he grew up with just a father, as opposed to just a mother as Luke did, it’s obvious Chad feels very connected to this character.”

The actress, who is expecting her second child in November, croons “Hide the bay-beeee” as crew members artfully drape the shirttails of her costume to shield any sign of her off-screen pregnancy. Kelly says viewers will see some very different aspects of her character in the second episode.

“Karen seemed very strong in the pilot, confronting Dan about the way he has ignored Luke growing up. But in this next episode, you see more of her vulnerability. You get a sense of what she’s had to bear during those years of raising Luke by herself, and a little of what those years have cost her.”

During a company dinner break in a nearby church basement, Burton, best known to young viewers as an MTV VJ, also says she loves the way Schwahn’s new script delves more deeply into the reasons for Peyton’s feelings of discontent.

“Peyton is questioning a lot of things in her life right now, and she doesn’t share the same sense of what’s important as her friends,” Burton says. “And I think she picks up that same vibe from Lucas, which is probably why she starts to look at him differently. In the pilot she was kind of cranky about what was wrong with her life, and I like that in the second episode you begin to see some of the things that she really cares about, like her art.”

Lafferty, freshly showered after braving the local humidity for several takes of an outdoor jogging scene with TV dad Johansson, says he thinks viewers are just going to have to deal with Nathan’s dark side for the time being.

“I can’t really think about how the audience feels about Nathan right now, because my first allegiance is to the character. I hope we find that he has some redeeming qualities down the line, but don’t be surprised if he gets worse before he gets better.”

That tension will only make for more compelling drama, Johansson says.

“I like the ‘Dynasty’-like family drama that goes on in [this show], the fact that people of the same blood are so at odds with one another, because in life those are often the people who are hardest for us to get along with,” he says.

The show’s senior cast member, Barry Corbin, who plays coach Whitey Durham, also thinks “One Tree Hill” has a shot at attracting a wide audience.

“I might not normally watch a ‘teen show’ like this one in some ways, but our show has enough balance with the older characters that I think it can be enjoyed by both younger and older people,” he says. “Everyone I’ve shown it to has really liked it.”

Article taken from: ZapTV