When word of a new CBS medical drama called “Good Sam” first reached Sophia Bush, back in pre-pandemic 2020, she wasn’t quick to jump on. Having spent nine seasons on “One Tree Hill” and another handful on “Chicago P.D.,” network television wasn’t exactly calling her name.
“I think I was just open… Let me think about that,” Bush says with the attentiveness she gives to every question, over the phone from Toronto. “What was I hoping for? I’m always hoping for a good script, so that’s the beginning. I read a lot and out of what I read, I try to figure out what it is I want to do and what I might be available to do. But for me, I spent 10 years in North Carolina, I spent almost five years in Chicago. Getting up and packing up and leaving home is hard, she continues. “It’s a thing people don’t really want to hear actors talk about because there’s a lot of misnomers about the privilege of this job. And people don’t want to hear people who they think are privileged complain about anything. But it can be really difficult to get up and leave. And so it has to be something tremendously special for me to do that again.”
“Good Sam,” it turned out, was just that special — enough for her to pack up and head to Toronto for months on end, and enough for her to sign on as a producer, something she’s been exploring more in recent years.
“Honestly, when I was first pitched the script, I said, ‘I don’t know if I really want to do network TV. I just don’t know if that’s my goal.’ I’d done 15 years of it. And the agent who was walking me through the script just said, ‘Trust me here. I know your taste. I know what you respond to. And I know you’re going to love it,” she says. And [series creator] Katie Wech and I went to dinner and she just verbally, from memory, pitched the show to me. And it was the most interesting and dynamic television pitch I had ever heard from a writer. And that was the beginning of what has proven to be one of the most restorative, creative, uplifting and joyous partnerships I’ve had in my entire working life.”
Bush, now 39, has been famous ever since “One Tree Hill” became a staple of American teen living rooms in the early Aughts, first on The WB and then The CW. In recent years, armed with a built-in following and now social media, Bush has emerged as an activist, using her Instagram for constant news sharing and engagement, as well as hosting two podcasts, one called “Work in Progress” and another more recently with her “One Tree Hill” costars Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz, “Drama Queens.” She’s also the founder of I Am a Voter, a pro-voting rights nonpartisan organization, and Fashionkind, a sustainable luxury fashion retailer.
“I’ve always been really naturally inclined to the interview space,” Bush says. “What I love about podcasting is it is so different than what often happens in my line of work, which is you get five minutes to talk to this person on the red carpet. It’s not about sound bites, it’s about deep conversation. I’ve had podcasts last an hour, I’ve had podcasts last over three hours. And to be able to just sit and really dig in feels incredible. It feels like more of what we need in the world. We don’t need 280 characters in 10 salty tweets or a perfectly produced video on an Instagram story. We are craving connection and depth and a way to get to know each other.”
Bush has a very natural openness to her that makes it immediately clear how such podcast conversations could go on for hours — she just wants to get to know what she doesn’t. It’s this openness and energy that drove her to production.
“To spend days showing up for people, working with people, working on scenes with them, developing these characters with them, hearing what their stories are and then taking those things back to the writers and helping to inform these characters that way — it feels like such an excellent way to spend the privilege that I have spent 20 years of my career earning,” she says.
In addition to doing the “Drama Queens” podcast with Burton and Lenz, the three are having a “One Tree Hill” reunion on the March 23 episode of ‘Good Sam’ — something that, Bush says, was “a crazy kismet-y thing,” by the way.
“They came up here to do the episode. They were here on the 23rd and that was the day our New York Times feature about the podcast came out. And you know, 23 is the sacred geometry of “One Tree Hill.” And now their episode of ‘Good Sam’ is airing March 23,” Bush says. “I’m like ‘I don’t know what’s going on here but the universe is giving us every green light that could possibly be given and I’m here for it.’”
Their podcast has been running since summer 2021, and Bush says its grown to be a favorite part of her life — something that fans of “One Tree Hill” surely are delighted by, but also a restorative project for her in this stage of her career.
“The three of us are a home to each other in the way that we can share where we come from. And it’s something that only we know; only the three of us girls had that experience together as women, starting in 2003,” she says. “For us, sharing the lessons we’ve learned and what it makes us reflect upon, all of those things really lit that spark for me.”
After several months in Toronto “Good Sam” finally is wrapping, and Bush is headed home for a solid six months or so. Her younger self would’ve been eager to sign up for the next project, but now she finds herself wanting to take a breather and put the workaholic lifestyle aside.
“I’m going to take a little time off. I’m going to go skiing with my fiancé. I’m going to have a moment. It’s been such a gift to have the working experience I’ve always desired to have on ‘Good Sam.’ And I am on set 16 hours a day and I podcast full-time so I really don’t have days off. I’m so excited to go home and take my dog for walks and see my friends and see my family. I’m really going to relish in a moment of life,” she says. “I used to be the kind of person who would say, ‘OK, if I’m wrapping my show on this day, what movie can I start two weeks later?’ And I don’t have that workaholic craving anymore. I want to do exactly what I love and I want to do it to the fullest extent of my ability. And then I also want to be quiet.”