Hilarie Burton with Chad Michael Murray, <EM>One Tree Hill</EM> Hilarie Burton with Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill

In stark contrast to the tough, artsy and brooding Peyton Sawyer on the CW's One Tree Hill (Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET), hearing Hilarie Burton's sweet, Southern gab was a welcome change when TVGuide.com caught up with her to get the goods on OTH's final episodes and major (but pending) change for next season. Plus, we sought the scoop on the nail-biting continuation of her on-screen stalker story and all the drama that comes with prom season in the teen drama's first new episode in 10 weeks (!).

TVGuide.com: What have you been doing during One Tree Hill's break?
Hilarie Burton: Well, I'm down here in North Carolina and I've actually started a production company [Southern Gothic Productions]. Right now we're in our fundraising period for a movie we want to shoot in Wilmington, because Wilmington really is such a gem. It's a great place to work, and to be able to exist in this business outside New York or L.A. is really exciting because you have a private life. I'm confident One Tree Hill is going to go on for at least one more year, if not two or three or four or whatever, but after that it would be really good to be self-sufficient and maintain a film community down here in Wilmington. So that's the goal I'm working towards.

TVGuide.com: When we last left Tree Hill, psycho Derek was at Peyton's door the night of prom. Will Peyton make it to the dance?
Burton: I don't know! But yeah, it's dramatic and fun and everybody should have a good-looking stalker every once in a while, so I got really lucky with Matt Barr, who plays Derek. He's so much fun to work with and we had a lot of fun shooting that episode, so I'm glad it's finally going to air. Peyton gets tossed around a little bit, so who knows if she's going to make it out....

TVGuide.com: Are we going to see any of those boxing moves she was practicing in previous episodes?
Burton: I will tell you, I've gotten really, really strong — like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 strong — so every little bit of training helps. Derek might not know what he's in for!

TVGuide.com: Will Derek be in several returning episodes?
Burton: I can tell you that he's in more than one....

TVGuide.com: You filmed the prom episode in Honey Grove, Texas, as part of the "One Tree Hill Films in Your Hometown" contest, right?
Burton: Well, not this first prom episode — this is just Tree Hill High School Prom. But a little bit after the Tree Hill Prom goes down, we decide to go on a road trip and that's when we end up in Texas, which was really fun. We also get a little bit of a prom experience down there. So it's double the prom for your money.

TVGuide.com: Does that mean the extras in that episode are real students?
Burton: Oh, yeah! It was awesome. We're twentysomethings playing high schoolers and we've been in Wilmington for a very long time and getting in the groove of doing our show and what we think high schoolers do — because god knows I'm not in high school, and haven't been for years. So it was great to go back to a real high school and have a real prom with real kids and just touch base with where our characters are at and get that reality check. We got to share those memories with kids who have been watching us since their freshman year and now they're graduating with "us."

TVGuide.com: So, they're just part of your road trip?
Burton: Yeah, they have a pretty kickass prom that we get to crash.

TVGuide.com: Will we see Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti) and Nathan's (James Lafferty) baby before the season finale? Maybe an early delivery?
Burton: Ohhh, I don't know.... Babies are fun, right? You know what they say, though, that the two worst things to work with are babies and animals. So, I don't know how much we're going to see, because inevitably, every time you take the kid out of the mother's arms, it starts crying. So yeah, Nathan and Haley have a really fussy baby. [Laughs] I already had my fill of babies when I had my story line with Jake Jagielski, so I gladly pass the torch.

TVGuide.com: Also, are Brooke (Sophia Bush) and Mouth (Lee Norris) finally going to hook up or what?
Burton: Oh, I don't know. But you know, Mouth has become quite the Casanova over the course of high school. He had a crush on Gigi and Shelley and Brooke and Rachel.... He's kind of the hero of our group, the kid who was hanging out on the River Court, not really talking to anybody and wasn't necessarily an all-star athlete, but he was a nice one and I like to see nice guys finish first. We're rootin' for Mouth.

TVGuide.com: What can you tease about the season finale?
Burton: Because it is the end of high school and we're putting that chapter to rest, there are a lot of open doors as to what's going to happen to the kids of One Tree Hill now. I think what we really tried to do is solidify the group, because we all came into the show from different backgrounds — you had the River Court kids, the popular kids, the athletic kids — and the overwhelming story line of our show has been to pull everybody together. It doesn't matter what clique you're in, you can find something in common with everybody, and I really think that's the message we wanted to go out with. It's a time for reflection, a time for talking to people you wouldn't normally talk to. And we have a good party! End of high school, man!

TVGuide.com: OTH creator Mark Schwahn told me about his plan to bring the show back this fall fast-forwarded to five years in the future. What do you think about that? Is it a done deal?
I don't know if it's a done deal, but I've already started doing interviews where I'm acting like it's a done deal, because I really want it to happen. It's one of those, "If you build it, it will come" situations. We've been talking to fans about it, like, "Yeah, we're totally coming back years later," hoping that the network will like the idea as well, because it gives us so much more to do. We would get to play our real age, which is cool, and the one thing that's happened over the course of our show is that we don't really have any bad guys anymore. Who knows what's going to happen in the years that we're jumping ahead?

TVGuide.com: That's what's so great, that you can do flashbacks to college or wherever you guys went after high school.
Burton: Yeah, it really opens the door for us to experiment and play. We have really, really smart viewers and I think they like the challenge of figuring out mysteries, so if it comes back four or five years later and has all these loopholes, that's a challenge that, as an actor, I'd like to take on. I think our viewers would like to take that on as well. Everybody's into it because look at any show that's gone to college....

TVGuide.com: That's what I was thinking. This is live-or-die here.
Burton: Exactly. We could follow the path of what every other show has done and know what our outcome's going to be, or we could try something new and see if it works.

TVGuide.com: Is there a specific date when you'll find out about the "time jump"?
Burton: The [CW] upfront [revealing the fall 2007 schedule] is May 17, and I think the official announcements are the day before. So within the next couple weeks we should know.

TVGuide.com: But will you know then if the show will jump to the future, or just if it's coming back for another season?
Burton: I hope we'll know [both], but if not, I can't wait to start asking all sorts of questions [of the writers/producers]. "Hey guys, good to see you! Now, about what I want...."

TVGuide.com: I'd rather see you guys jump ahead, because sending a show like this off to college doesn't work very often, if at all.
Burton: And we've already done all the things college kids do anyway — we've had the keg parties, we've traded boyfriends, we all live without our parents already. It's kind of a been-there, done-that situation and I'm excited at the prospect of trying something totally new.

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