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Actor Hilarie Burton’s breakout performance was in the WB drama series One Tree Hill. Burton portrayed Peyton Sawyer, an independent visual and musical artist and cheerleader. Peyton’s curly blond hair in the first two seasons of the show made her one of the most recognizable characters on the show. 

However, those blond locks were gone by season 3. So what happened? Let’s take a look at the drastic character change and why it was necessary as well as recap how Burton’s life is going these days.

Hilarie Burton smiling
Hilarie Burton | Peter Kramer/Getty Images

Peyton’s curly locks came with a price

Fans began to take notice that Peyton’s hairstyle began to change during the course of the show. The biggest change was between seasons 2 and 3. This was not, in fact, part of the script for the show. Sadly, it was a necessary change.

Burton had to color her hair numerous times for the role and maintain near-constant styling in order to totally turn into Peyton. Unfortunately, the result was that Burton’s hair became so damaged after two seasons that she had to chop it off to keep from going bald. This resulted in a major hairdo change for Peyton.

Burton’s character adopts a more natural look

For season 3, Peyton’s hair is shorter with looser waves, as a result of the damage from seasons 1 and 2. Stylists needed to mitigate the damage done from over-processing and the best solution was simply to change her character’s hair. Fans on Reddit have mixed feelings about the change, but understand that it was necessary.

Burton says that her hair is naturally tight and curly. However, they had to loosen the curls to create Peyton’s loose curls. Peyton’s hair in season 3 more closely resembles what Burton’s hair color looks like naturally. However, it is straighter and slightly thinner, which may be a result of the damage that was done in the first few seasons.

Burton’s departure from ‘One Tree Hill’


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Burton told Entertainment Weekly that her decision to leave One Tree Hill was a mutual decision between all parties involved. She says, “I think everyone was kind of agreeable about the situation. There were a lot of really wonderful conversations. It wasn’t a rash decision. A lot of thought, emotion, and kindness was put into it.”

However, a new memoir from Burton called The Rural Diaries paints a different picture. In it, she details the alleged abuse she suffered while on the set of the show. Burton, along with other of her former costars and One Tree Hill staff members, came out in 2017 to say that creator Mark Schwahn had subjected them to sexual assault and harassment. Burton remembers being “groomed” on set by Schwahn, whom she said was verbally abusive and kissed her without her permission, according to Variety.

Since leaving the show, she and her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan of the show The Walking Dead have been busy raising their children on a piece of property dubbed Mischief Farm in upstate New York. The 100-acre farm is home to cattle, miniature donkeys, chickens, dogs, ducks, and alpacas.

In 2021, Burton appeared with Morgan on The Walking Dead as his wife Lucille. Morgan’s character on the show, Negan, named his beloved bat Lucille on the show. The episode created closure for fans who were curious about Negan’s backstory, the name he chose for the bat and why, and shed some light on how his character became one of the most loathed and most loved characters on the show.

Even though Burton endured some tumultuous years on One Tree Hill, she acknowledges that she did make some lifelong friends on the show. She and her husband are enjoying farm and family life these days. As far as the actor’s hair is concerned, a little TLC and a little less product have saved her gorgeous locks.