Most casts of hit shows are plagued by their iconic characters and forced to replay them in B-grade movies or pilots for years to come. Sometimes they score new shows that bomb in the ratings (Keri Russell's "Running Wilde," Eliza Dushku's "Tru Calling," etc.). Sometimes their master plan to ditch their hit series to become famous movie stars doesn't pan out (*cough*Mischa Barton*cough*). And sometimes they're forced to marry for money (Come on, you know I'm talking about Katie Holmes). Worst case scenario though is that they have to wait an undetermined amount of time for everyone to forget who they used to play. That is really the best part about Hollywood though: It's so fake that you can reinvent yourself every five years and reinvigorate your career. That's why Mark-Paul Gosselaar ("Saved by the Bell"), Matt LeBlanc ("Friends"), Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser"), Christina Applegate ("Married with Children"), and Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek") have hit shows. Just the right amount of time has passed for the viewing public to finally accept them as a new persona. I mean, did any of us predict Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek") would one day become an Oscar nominee. Uh, no.
However, instead of benching our Tree Hill homies, who've, let's be honest, have been in career limbo for the last five years and have seriously paid their dues, why don't we see what they have on the horizon and suggest a few career moves:
Chad Michael Murray - Lucas
Years Active: 2003-2009/2012
Films Filmed During the Series: Murray was a bonafide heartthrob in the early 00s, securing films opposite the most popular leading teen queens of the time: Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday) and Hilary Duff (A Cinderella Story). However, his star power took a hit the year that he was accused of cheating on his co-star and wife Sophia Bush. Then for some inexplicable reason he costarred with Paris Hilton in the horror flick House of Wax and that ironically put the final nail in his film career's coffin.
Films Filmed After Leaving the Series: Ah, ABC Family. Where child stars and B-list actors go to prosper. Murray costarred with former pop star Christina Milian in Christmas Cupid.
Upcoming Films: The indie music bio drama Renee with Kat Dennings and the horror thriller The Haunting in Georgia.
Future Prospects: Murray runs a real risk of getting stuck in the B horror movie world, but he has been cast in the ABC pilot "Scruples." Set in the 70s, it follows a rich and powerful clothing designer in a world of sex, revenge, and scandal. (That seems to be going around.) If the series becomes a hit, he'll get street cred for not only making a comeback, but for getting co-signed by the Oscar-winning co-producer Natalie Portman. Either way, I don't think he should get comfortable. Sure, it's been proven that he's best on the small screen. Anyone who's seen him in "Gilmore Girls" knows he can own the screen if he wants to. He was a rich bad boy before Chuck Bass even knew what "talking in the third person" meant. But he needs to explore more of those darker roles, because nobody's buying the sweet boy-next-door thing anymore. I could really see him on shows like "Justified," "Sons of Anarchy," or "Boardwalk Empire," even if it's just for a brief story arc. You never know what it could lead to.
Years Active: 2003-2012
Films Filmed During the Series: Lafferty has never had a burgeoning film career. It might have something to do with the intense acne problem he struggled with at the beginning of the series. S. Darko, the incredibly bad sequel to Donnie Darko, was his only notable flick.
Upcoming Films: The indie drama Lost on Purpose, and the indie rom-com Sam with fellow child star Anna Chlumsky (My Girl).
Future Prospects: I always found that Lafferty's best scenes were when he was struggling or in anguish. Indie dramas could be his bread-and-butter if he found the right ones. But if he wisely searched for a steady gig, I would suggest joining a rookie cop series like CBS's "NYC 22" or ABC's "Rookie Blue."
Bethany Joy Lenz - Haley
Years Active: 2003-2012
Films Filmed During the Series: Probably in a sad attempt to play against type, she played a bitchy cheerleader in the straight-to-DVD sequel Bring It on Again. Great idea. Horrible execution.
Future Prospects: Lenz was originally a singer, which is why her transition into playing a singer was so easy. While her Michelle Branch-esque tunes are sweet on the ears, I don't think she should retire from acting just yet. She's more malleable when it comes to genres than most of her cast members, so she could easily fit into "Hart of Dixie" as one of Zoe's saner townie friends or even on "Justified" as Raylan's surprisingly tough-but-sweet new partner slash love interest. Either way, there's one thing fans of the show can agree on: we love to watch her fall in love.
Hilarie Burton - Peyton
Years Active: 2003-2009
Films Filmed During the Series: Burton did a few indies (Our Very Own, The List, Normal Adolescent Behavior, and Solstice) that no one saw, and co-starred in the adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees alongside Queen Latifah, Alicia Keyes, Jennifer Hudson, and Dakota Fanning.
Films Filmed After Leaving the Series: The romantic indie drama Bloodworth with Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, and Hilary Duff that you probably didn't know existed.
Upcoming Films: The indie drama Plastic Jesus.
Future Prospects: Burton was originally a VJ on "TRL" who seemed too cool for Hollywood at first, but then she caught the acting bug and landed herself a role on this series. She and Murray were notorious for asking to leave the show before the creators were ready to end it. The assumption was that both of these seasoned thespians were going to graduate to films, red carpets, and stardom. Instead, fresh off a divorce from a "One Tree Hill" assistant director, she started dating actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Magic City") and gave birth to his son a few months later. She has since then gotten back into the swing of things with a guest star on "Castle" as a vapid celebutard and with a recurring role on "White Collar" as an insurance company investigator and Neal's catty love interest. I honestly never would've pegged her for a designer-wearing opportunist who can be as antagonistic as she is thoughtful. But if Neal ever ditches her for his one true love Kate, she could always join "Revenge" and give Emily a run for her money or go toe-to-toe with misogyny in USA's "Suits," HBO's "House of Lies," or "Mad Men."
Sophia Bush - Brooke
Years Active: 2003-2012
Films Filmed During Series: Bush filmed a few little-seen indies (Learning Curves, The Narrows, Table for Three, and Chalet Girl), the racing drama Supercross, the horror gore flick Stay Alive, the teen comedy John Tucker Must Die, and the remake of the road trip thriller The Hitcher.
Future Prospects: Bush is actually working on the CBS half-hour comedy pilot "Partners" with CBS alum David Krumholtz ("Numb3rs"), Michael Urie ("Ugly Betty"), and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns). I'm assuming from the fact that Urie and Routh play lovers and the title that the series will be about relationships between both sexualities. A comedy is a good choice for Bush because she's always been the comic relief of this series and her electric spunk is delightful. That's not to say that I'm putting any bets on her new series, which is run by the creators of "Shit My Dad Says," a huge miss after the ratings gold of "Will & Grace." I would actually prefer for her to continue Brooke's mantra of "Hos over Bros" and be this generation's Carrie Bradshaw. Maybe the "Sex and the City" clones "Lipstick Jungle" and "Cashmere Mafia" didn't work back then, but I think they could work now, especially in the absence of "Desperate Housewives" and the appearance of ABC's "GCB" and HBO's "Girls." I think she's got it in her to be a lead, instead of just somebody's girlfriend.