James Lafferty James Lafferty

After eight seasons on One Tree Hill, star James Lafferty knows it's time to move on.

"I feel like I've really grown up in Wilmington, [N.C.], but I certainly can't stay there forever. It's like leaving your parents' house: It's got to happen at some point, you've got to graduate," he says.

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The transformation of Nathan Scott (Lafferty) from unapologetic jerk to devoted husband and father started with his unexpected relationship with "tutor girl" Haley James (Bethany Joy Galeotti). But it wasn't without its hiccups, which Lafferty says are among his favorite episodes. "When we came back in Season 5, four years later in the characters' lives .... it was an exciting atmosphere not really knowing where my character would go, because he was in such a dark place, and [we didn't know] how the family unit was going to stay together," he says.

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Although Tree Hill is known for throwing curve balls at even its strongest couples, Lafferty says Nathan and Haley will weather the remainder of the season. "The audience shouldn't have any doubt that Nathan and Haley are going to [parent] the right way again," he says. "They did it as such a young age with Jamie and learned a lot." While Haley is at home caring for Lydia, Nathan will investigate the hit-and-run accident that almost killed Brooke and Jamie earlier in the season. "Nathan will definitely want to get to the bottom of it and will recruit the help of his friends as well," he says. "Julian feels like he almost lost Brooke that night and Clay will feel a certain professional obligation ... it's going to be messy, for sure, but they're going to have to pursue more information."

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With only four episodes remaining in the season, and no word on a renewal, Lafferty says the cast has approached the season finale with the understanding that it may in fact be the series finale. He also thinks that fans will be happy with the ending. "As the actors who have portrayed these characters for so long, this is the way that we always saw it coming together," he says. "The fans will get what they want."

One Tree Hill airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.