'One Tree Hill': James Lafferty says it's marital bliss for Nathan and Haley

one-tree-hill-james-joy-cw.jpgEveryone's favorite "One Tree Hill" couple, Nathan ( James Lafferty) and Haley ( Bethany Joy Galeotti), have certainly weathered the storm.

But when a relationship has survived a high school marriage, a teen pregnancy, murderous in-laws, an ill-timed concert tour, the NBA, a bout with depression, and an endless string of promiscuous psychos... what's left?

"Marital bliss," Lafferty tells Zap2it. "At this point, we've been going so long, and it just feels like every curveball that could have been thrown at the Nathan and Haley relationship has been thrown. What else could possibly come at them?"

He says that this season's lack of crazy nannies and creepy NBA groupies has been a welcome relief. "Sometimes it gets a little bit exhausting to continue fighting and fighting against all of these crazy things that happened," he says. "It's kind of nice to have them find that solid ground. They're just looking forward to their family growing. Feeling secure in the marriage frees them up to tackle other challenges in their lives."

He's not kidding about those challenges. This season, Nathan had to give up his dream of becoming a basketball player, but that paled in comparison to the struggle of almost losing his best friend and sister-in-law to a shooting. (Yes, another one of those Tree Hill psychos got loose.)

While Clay ( Robert Buckley) was in the hospital, Lafferty gave some of the most honest and emotional performances of his eight years on "One Tree Hill."

"They are difficult," he says of the more heart-wrenching scenes. "But it is what you look forward to. You always learn a little bit about yourself when you're tackling those emotional scenes and everything that comes with them. It's kind of terrifying, you know, getting to that place in your head, but at the same time, it's exhilarating."

This season, Lafferty directed his third episode of the series. When we asked him about the pros and cons of directing a show he's starred in for 8 years, he is quick to praise his co-stars for making the experience a good one.

"I've been working with these actors for so long, and I know that they know their roles better than anybody else," he says. "I can trust them. I know they're going to be prepared and that they know those characters on that deep level. It kind of takes that load off of me as a director."

He admits that the actor who gives him the most trouble is himself. "It's really hard to direct another actor while you're in a scene with them. Trying to observe the scene and trying to really be in the scene are two completely different mindsets. It's a bit of a tightrope that you walk. It's one of my least favorite things about directing -- acting while I direct."

He's not the only cast member to suffer through that particular trial, of course. Sophia Bush has directed two episodes. Galeotti, Lafferty's on-screen love, directed Tuesday's Nov. 16 episode, titled "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace," in which the whole Tree Hill gang sits down for a rowdy Thanksgiving dinner. oth-family.png

"I think that's going to be an episode that the fans really enjoy because it's almost all of the cast in the same room. There's a lot of drama that happens, there's a lot of emotion," Lafferty says.

He laughs. "There's also a lot of the sort of snarky nit-picking that our show does so well between characters. Joy did an amazing job cultivating the chemistry in those scenes and I think it's going to turn out really well."

We're impressed by Lafferty's continued enthusiasm for the work and the show, even as he crosses the halfway point of the show's 8th season. The CW makes sure to note that no official decision has been made as to whether it's the final season or not.

So what's the trick to loving your job 8 years in? Lafferty credits his cast mates -- one, in particular.

Jackson Brundage, the nine-year-old actor who plays Nathan and Haley's son Jamie, keeps even the veteran cast members psyched to come to work. "To this day, after all the hours that he's worked and all the time he spent on the set, every day there's something new that he finds to be excited about," Lafferty says fondly. "That, in itself, makes everybody else excited to be there."

As for how he'd like Season 8 to end, Lafferty, like many of the fans, would like to see some familiar faces return. Creator Mark Schwahn has confirmed that Tree Hill would like to welcome Lucas ( Chad Michael Murray) and Peyton ( Hilarie Burton) back one last time before the finale.

"I think that's what the fans want. They want to see Lucas and Peyton come back one more time and they want to see everybody together again," says Lafferty. "I think that's a healthy reward for the fans, after watching for so long. At this point, eight seasons in, what I want is to see the fans get what they want."

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Photo: CW

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