If you were a fan of “Lipstick Jungle” or “Privileged,” Robert Buckley is not an unfamiliar face. And if you’re watching “One Tree Hill” this season, he’s pretty much a household name at this point.
Joining the show as a series regular last month, Buckley plays Clay, Nathan Scott’s agent and a bit of a ladies’ man. One with a good heart however, but a somewhat shady past as well.
Buckley’s take on the whole deal…
You’ve been filming on the “One Tree Hill” set down in North Carolina for while now, no?
RB: Yes ma’am. We started around mid to late June.
Are you getting used to it?
RB: The humidity? No. But the rest of living in North Carolina? So far, so good, yeah.
You like it?
RB: Yeah, I do. I’ve had a blast so far.
Do you get to come back to LA on the weekends?
RB: You know, usually I love to come back as much as I can, and I tried to at the beginning. But the fact is, it really is such a commute. Especially from Wilmington, which doesn’t have any direct flights to the West Coast. A weekend trip ends up taking a lot out of you. So the trend has become less and less as time has gone on. I’ve definitely set up a nice little camp here, with a cozy apartment in downtown Wilmington which is really nice, so it’s not like I have it too bad or anything.
It’s probably easier to get to know your cast mates since you’re all living in this small Southern town, yeah?
RB: Yeah. And it didn’t hurt that they are all extremely nice and did go out of their way to show me around and make me feel at home.
Do you guys hang out off set?
RB: Quite a bit… To the extent that when everyone else is working on a day that I’m off, I suddenly realize how few friends I have off the show. [Laughs] It’s kind of a sad realization. I’m like, maybe I’ll go stop by work and say hi.
Are you having fun playing Clay? Do you like the character?
RB: Yeah I do, quite a bit. [Show creator] Mark Schwahn gave me a lot of gifts with this character. The guy’s got a lot to him, a lot going on. A lot of hurt and mystery in his past, which is a fun thing for an actor to play. Ideally, if you do it right, it’s really entertaining for an audience to watch. It’s always fun when you’re playing a secret or when the audience doesn’t know exactly what’s happening. When everything’s out there, when the character is very obvious — like, these are the good guys, perfectly clean and the guys everyone likes — that kind of gets old. To dirty it up, to mess things up, it’s good. You don’t know whether to love him or to question his motives.
Did Mark tell you right away what was going on with Clay or were you in the dark, too?
RB: At the very beginning, I was in the dark, and then he kind of clued me in. One of our [initial] conversations was, What do you have in mind for this character? I like the idea of him [being] difficult and broken in his path. I want there to be some pain or reason. Have it be convoluted with some mystery to it. And Mark was totally on that page. So he kind of clued me in on a couple of things he was thinking, but no way did he tell me all the different things he had in store for [Clay]. And I think part of that is because he comes up with it as he watches the show evolve and the characters grow with one another. But the stuff he told me about, I liked. And he’s come up with some stuff recently that I think is just fantastic.
Is Clay’s past going to unravel slowly this season, or will there be a big episode where we learn something earth-shattering about him?
RB: You know what, it does start off with a pretty big episode. Earth-shattering? I don’t know. But a big enough earthquake to shake down a small village? Definitely so.
Big enough to shake down Tree Hill?
RB: [Laughs] It would maybe knock over a tree in Tree Hill. But not the whole town. There is one episode that really does unravel the story of Clay’s past and inform his behavior to this point, but it doesn’t end there. That’s just the beginning to this story and where he’s at and him trying to figure out where to go from there.
Do you think the audience will be sympathetic to him as we start to learn more?
RB: I hope so. I think so. When I say I hope so, it’s more a commentary on the viewer than it is on the character of Clay, actually. But yeah, I certainly do think people will be more sympathetic to Clay.
Is Haley’s sister Quinn going to be a major part of his storyline?
RB: You know, Quinn’s the one person I think we’ve seen Clay let his guard down in front of. They’ve definitely started this relationship that is very unique and special. Are the two going to be part of each other’s lives? I think definitely, given what I’ve seen so far and what the viewers have seen so far. But which direction the writers are going to take it, whether it be a romance or just best friends that are there for each other — because they’re both in similar predicaments and they’re both going through really tough times so they’re kind of the touchstone for one another — that’s a tricky question.
Would you prefer to go one way or another?
RB: Speaking personally, I think it would be wonderful if they hooked up, because that would mean that I would get to spend all my days in the office flirting with Shantel VanSanten. Which to be honest, that’s not a bad way to make a buck. I could make a strong argument both ways. I think it could be fun to see Clay open up and actually let a girl in, because so far all we’ve seen is the playboy side of him, and I think it would be interesting to see what he’s like when he actually starts to fall for someone.
How do you feel about his relationship with Nathan? Can you relate to it?
RB: Yeah, in the friendship sense, absolutely. I have a lot of friends, but I’d say I only have a small circle of very close friends and I’m very loyal and protective of them, which I think is very [similar to] Clay’s relationship with Nathan. But I would not say I relate to Clay in the way that he meanders into a bar and gorgeous women suddenly are drawn to him and kiss him and lick his neck and throw themselves at him. I’m still waiting for that part of Clay’s life to come into Robert Buckley’s life.
Really? That doesn’t happen to you?
RB: No, it’s been a while since I’ve had my neck licked.