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‘One Tree Hill’ actors return to North Carolina city for new series

By Hunter Ingram, Wilmington StarNews

The boys are back in town. Kind of.

Early on in the first season of James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti’s new series “Everyone Is Doing Great,” which debuted on Hulu, the two actors find themselves on some familiar ground – Wilmington.

Both spent some of their most formative years in Wilmington as stars of The CW’s “One Tree Hill,” forging a bond with the region they still refer to as home.

So when the story they wrote for their new series took their characters out of Los Angeles, they knew exactly where they wanted to go.

“Initially, we had it in the script as New Orleans because we know the indie film community down there is strong,” Lafferty said just hours before the show’s debut. “But when we started to think about it, we asked ourselves why aren’t we utilizing Wilmington? It would be an awesome little Easter egg for all the people who backed the campaign that were fans of ‘One Tree Hill’ and we know the area so well. We could pick all the locations we’d need from our minds. So it ended up being this cool natural and organic thing for our show.”

“Everyone is Doing Great” is the brainchild of Lafferty and Colletti, who have carried it to term as creators, executive producers, writers, actors and, in Lafferty’s case, director.

Back in 2018, they first looked to their friends and families to help support their darkly comedic vision of a series about two actors and best friends coming off a beloved teen drama who find the world of Hollywood not as welcoming as they had hoped. They shot a pilot with a shoe-string budget and splinter crew, and then they put a call out to their fans to help crowdfund the rest of the eight-episode season.

They raised more than $260,000 from more than 5,000 fans, taking the money to produce a show they built from the first line to the final shot.

“The fans put their faith in us and the show, and it really propelled us through the unknown times when you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you and you don’t know where the show might land,” Colletti said.

Late last year, they answered that last question when they struck a deal with Hulu to distribute the first season.

The series follows their characters Seth (Colletti) and Jeremy (Lafferty) as they face the endless cycle of auditioning, finding their identity beyond their past projects and battling their own personal struggles.

It’s undeniably infused with Lafferty and Colletti’s own experiences coming off of the nine-year run of “One Tree Hill,” and making Wilmington a part of the show was a no brainer.

“It just felt right,” Lafferty said. “Obviously we had a stripped-down production, or I would call it a splinter unit. It wasn’t a studio television shoot and it felt different than shooting anything else really. But it felt right. It felt like it fit our show.”

Within the show, Seth books a role in a horror movie called “The Shadow Stabbers” that’s filming in Wilmington.

Problem was, the actors didn’t have a bottomless budget in the bank to fly the whole production team cross country. So in order to make it work, they piggybacked on a planned trip to Wilmington in 2019 to appear at one of the many “One Tree Hill” reunion conventions that have drawn fans to town in recent years.

While in Wilmington, their two television worlds collided for the first time as they met with “One Tree Hill” fans at the convention and craved out time for a whirlwind tour of town to get footage for the third and fourth episodes of “Everyone is Doing Great.”

“We went around town, shot a few select scenes and got some establishing in downtown and the Cape Fear River,” Lafferty said. “We went out to some neighborhoods in the middle of town and around UNCW. We got just enough to cut it into an episode and make it look like Seth (Colletti’s character) was in Wilmington the whole time.”

In the show, Wilmington will play itself, which is something it doesn’t always get to do.

Eagle-eyed “One Tree Hill” fans will also notice that Lafferty and Colletti returned to Battleship Park adjacent to the Battleship North Carolina where “One Tree Hill” built and maintained its iconic Rivercourt for the entirety of the show’s run.

Although hundreds of “One Tree Hill” fans were in town that October weekend for the convention, the actors said their efforts to film the show were never impeded as they worked at break-neck speed. In fact, a few lucky fans even got an unexpected peek into the production.

While shooting in the front lawn of a local home, a “One Tree Hill” filming locations tour van happened upon the production and stopped to say hello and take pictures.

“If nothing else, it was awesome for a few fans to get a very unique experience,” Colletti said.

With more than three years of work finally getting out to the fans that, in more than 5,000 cases helped make it, still hasn’t sunk in for Lafferty and Colletti.

The series will debut at midnight on the West Coast and 3 a.m. on the East Coast, and Lafferty said he might be staying up late and pressing the refresh button to see their journey reach the milestone.

“I don’t even know what to do with myself,’ Lafferty said. “I might have to stay up until 3 a.m. to see it on the platform just to know this is real.”

But they aren’t calling it the end of the road for this passion project and both men are hoping the response to the series is strong enough to support a second season.

Nothing is concrete as for how or when that may happen, but with the hard work of building the show behind them, they want to spend more time with their creation.

“It took us a really long time to incubate this and get it out into the world, but that’s because we were learning along the way,” Lafferty said. “There was trial and error, and there were growing pains, but now we kind of feel like we are primed to work more efficiently and streamline the process if, audience willing, we do get a season two. It is a much smoother process and we can have a lot of fun with it.”

Regardless of its future, “Everyone is Doing Great” is, in a way, the fulfillment of a promise they made to themselves and each other when the time came to finally close out their “One Tree Hill” chapter and leave Wilmington back in 2011.

“To go back and film in Wilmington was truly something special because we left saying we would be back at some point,” Colletti said. “To do it with our own show was pretty special.”

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