Not a single episode of One Tree Hill goes by that Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton Morgan, and Bethany Joy Lenz don’t bring up the quality of Paul Johansson’s acting as “everyone’s favorite Bad Dad, Dan Scott.” So they are beyond thrilled for him to join them on this episode of Drama Queens to talk about how he got the part, his legit basketball prowess, his approach to the character, how people have reacted to seeing Dan Scott in real life, his own traumatic childhood, and so much more. Paul had never intended to become an actor; he actually thought he might be a priest or play basketball for the U.S. Olympic team. But a theatre owner saw his potential and set him on a path to stardom – and One Tree Hill.
Paul’s character could be a very one-dimensional villain, but instead, he manages to make Dan Scott a human being. Paul jokes that when he read the script for the pilot, he told the producers, “I would have rather been Keith!” But right away, “I wanted to be more than just a bad guy.” He decided that “Dan’s biggest secret is that he deeply loved both Nathan and Lucas.” So when he crossed boundaries with them or was tough with them, he felt he was doing it in their best interest. Giving the character that dimension paves the way for his eventual redemption, and makes his moments of softness more powerful. And Paul knows a lot about dealing with generational trauma the way Dan is; his own father was “a mean drunk, very violent,” up until he found religion and got sober when Paul was 14.
He’s also a killer basketball player, just like Dan; in fact, that’s how he got the role. He was playing on an entertainment league with producer Brian Robbins as well as fellow Hill star James Lafferty, and “everyone kind of hated me!” he laughs. “George Clooney threw the ball at my head!” Because he had actually been on a path to playing professionally, he was really good – and really cocky. That “hyper-competitive streak” must have spoken to Brian, because he offered him the part. And the rest is Tree Hill history. Hear this great conversation with "Dan the Man" on this episode of Drama Queens.
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