Hilarie Burton thanks Moira Kelly for saving her with advice

Hilarie Burton credit:Bang Showbiz
Hilarie Burton credit:Bang Showbiz

Hilarie Burton thinks Moira Kelly "saved [her] life".

The 39-year-old actress - who has 11-year-old son Gus and three-year-old daughter George with husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan - will always be grateful to her former 'One Tree Hill' co-star for giving her "permission" to leave the show after six years when she was struggling to make a decision as to whether she ought to walk away because she was so unhappy with the on-set environment.

Joined by Moira for the latest episode of her, Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Lenz's 'Drama Queens' podcast, emotional Hilarie said: "Moira, this is the first time I've seen you since I left the show. I've wanted to tell you this for years and years and years, but in the last episode of the show, everyone in my world was telling me, ‘You can't leave. You can't leave.'

"I didn't direct because I didn't want to be on set all day because it was so bad. You came and you sat next to me and you started off by just joking, and you were like, ‘What's going on?'

"I was like, ‘I don't know what to do,' and you said, ‘Run.' You started it off with, like, a joke, and I was like, ‘Yeah?' You said to me, ‘There's so many chapters in life and this is just one. This is just one.'

"I so valued your opinion of me and of our business and the way you prioritised your family over work, and that's what I wanted—what you had is what I wanted.

"You didn't have to say anything because you lived it and we could just, like, see it…I have wanted to thank you for that, honestly, since I was 26 years old...

"It's like, ‘Oh, my God. You don't know that you saved my life.' I don't know what would have happened to me if I stayed.

"I met my husband. My son exists because Moira Kelly told me to run and so I did. I just think about how different my life would be if she wasn't that one person to give me permission to just go."

Moira, 53, admitted she wishes she had had a "stronger presence" on the set, particularly after allegations against showrunner Mark Schwahn emerged in 2017, when 18 cast and crew members accused him of sexual harassment, because she worries she "let down" her younger co-stars.

She said: "Hearing honestly what all of you young women had to go through—I don't want to get choked up. If I could go back, I would have made my presence stronger there.

"I felt like, you know, being somewhat of a veteran, you were all so very young coming into this situation, there's a part of me that feels like I let you all down.

"If I had been more present, I would have been more aware maybe of what was going on, I surely would have said something.

I surely would have done something, and so, if I could go back and do anything different, I would make my presence so solid on that show and I would have made myself so available to all of you."

Schwahn has never spoken out about any of the allegations.