Did you ask for "nostalgia-inducing holiday movies" on your holiday wish list this year? If so, Santa — OK, technically Lifetime — really delivered with not one, but two original movies starring the cast of your fave teen dramedy. The Christmas Contract brings together a handful of One Tree Hill alums, while Hometown Christmas features Stephen Colletti, alongside 7th Heaven's Beverley Mitchell, in case you're craving an extra dose of early 2000s joy. And if you're already fainting at the thought, the OTH stars tease they want to work together again in the future.
"This is a formula that I want to do year after year after year, where we get to trade off. Danneel [Ackles] is the bossy one next," Hilarie Burton, who played Peyton in One Tree Hill, tells Bustle in late September, surrounded by her castmates. "Like, take turns, pass the baton... I would love to bring Paul [Johansson] into the fold."
"[The movies] are fun 3-week adventures that we get to do with people we already know and love," Burton continues. "So there's no reason not to do one of these every single year," and for "every single holiday," she says.
Antwon Tanner, who played Skills, even compares it to a "paid vacation, because you're gonna have fun when you go." But Burton jokingly draws the line: "If I see Gossip Girl copying us or The OC ripping this reunion thing, I'm going to be really testy about it."
In The Christmas Contract, airing on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. EST/PST, Burton's Jolie pretends to date Robert Buckley's Jack, who happens to be the brother of Danneel Ackles' Naomi, who is married to Tanner's character. (Buckley and Ackles played Clay and Rachel on OTH, respectively). In the movie, Jolie and Jack draft up a relationship contract, slightly reminiscent of the plot of Netflix's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. The goal is for Burton's character to bring home a guy for the holidays after discovering her ex is in a new relationship.
And even though Colletti stars in a different Lifetime movie Hometown Christmas, airing Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. EST/PST, he makes a cameo in Christmas Contract — sort of. "Stephen was essentially there," Burton says. "We actually had Stephen's face on the cover of a romance novel."
"[Buckley's] character is a novelist, so they had him reading one of his novels. I'm on the cover. I don't even know if it makes it in," the Laguna Beach alum says humbly, to which Burton adds, "You're romantic-looking."
Burton teases there are a "bunch of" easter eggs for dedicated One Tree Hill fans. For instance, OTH Clean Teen Shelley, played by Elisabeth Harnois, appears in an improvised scene, playing Burton's cousin. "She was simultaneously shooting her own Christmas movie in the area, and we were like, 'Hey kid, wanna come to a party?'"
This year, networks and streaming services are putting forth tons of holiday-themed movies, many featuring nostalgic stars of your favorite shows growing up. The trend of tapping into the seasonal hunger for this genre — mixed with the surge of nostalgic reboots, revivals, and reunions — creates the perfect recipe for accessible movies that viewers are going to cozy up to in the dead of winter.
"Rom-coms were the highest-rated movies when we were in high school in the '90s," Burton says. "You went to the theater to see Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts." Although rom-coms are once again on the rise in a post-superhero adventure movie era, Burton says that "our age group in particular still craves [the rom-com] genre." She cites Lifetime as one of the few networks to create these films, and as a result, "Of course, people flock to it. They become movies that people watch year after year, and particularly these holiday movies."
Colletti adds of the rom-com appeal: "It's a sense of comfort... There's a little bit of that nostalgia in there. It's like a simpler time kind of, not so much consumed by technology. I feel like people yearn for that."
While the cast is all about rom-coms and Christmas movies, there's a few other movies Burton would love to see. "Listen, my beef with holiday films... it's always just the holidays," she begins. "I think you can start holiday programming an entire month early with Halloween programming. Danneel and I have been talking about making Christmas witches, since like Season 3 of One Tree Hill."
Burton's movie idea "writes itself," she says, continuing, "Santa loses his powers, he's in a lot of trouble, and he needs some witch b*tches to help him out. I'm telling you, it's a hit."
Fans will be excited to know some of the cast reunites for a special airing on Lifetime at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving called 'Tis the Season: A One Tree Hill Cast Reunion — featuring festive games and an audience Q+A, along with a performance from Tyler Hilton, who played Chris Keller on OTH. Hilton also makes a musical cameo in Christmas Contract (which, BTW, airs on his birthday and he teases, "All I want for my birthday this year is for [fans] to see it.")
This may not be the full One Tree Hill reboot we've all been hoping for, but it will certainly make do until Burton's made-up Halloween movie (hopefully) premieres.