'One Tree Hill's' Chad Michael Murray talks 'Everlast' and his unreleased poetry collection

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oth-chad-2.jpgAfter making his exit from "One Tree Hill" after Season 6, Chad Michael Murray fell off the map a bit, but now he's back with a vengeance. Zap2it sat down with Murray on the set of "OTH" while he filmed his return appearance in September, and we got the scoop on just what he's been up to (aside from shooting a vodka commercial and a couple TV movies, of course).

He tells us that he took some major time off after leaving Tree Hill. "I left the show and took a year off. I went out into the woods and just traveled. It was incredible," he says. When he emerged from his Thoreau phase, he focused on his graphic novel, "Everlast."

He's not a newcomer to writing, though we wouldn't normally associate him with it. Murray wrote an alternate-reality episode of "One Tree Hill" in Season 6. The episode, which reimagined Tree Hill in the 1940s, was written on spec. "It wasn't like, 'Hey, Chad, you can write an episode.' I knew I was never going to get the chance to write an episode, so I went home, knowing it would probably never see the light of day, and I just wrote it. I handed it in [to executive producer Mark Schwahn] and said, 'Mark, buddy, can we do something with this?' And he put his little Mark spin on it," Murray tells us, admitting that the episode that aired underwent some significant changes from his original draft. "Mine was a little darker. I don't think it'd be good for TV."

That darker tone does work for "Everlast," which was released to moderate reception in December. He used the same approach for "Everlast" that he did for the "OTH" episode, in that he wrote the story (and a short story, "The Phoenix") before looking for a publisher.

"I think anybody in a position to want to write a book is going to think, 'Who's going to take me seriously?' I've always been the kind of guy who just does it and puts the product forward. I think that's the only way to say, 'Now what do you think? Here's the work, give it a read, and if you like it, we'll do something with it," he tells us. "With [Everlast], it's been a big part of my existence for a long time. I write a lot and this was a really good product to start with. It has endless bounds and can go on forever. I don't think a story should be told unless there's something human about it that people can connect with. And I wanted to make sure that's in Everlast."

The protagonist in the story had an unlikely inspiration.

cmm-everlast-getty.jpg"Do you remember the song 'Mr. Wendal' by A Tribe Called Quest?" Murray asks. (The song is actually by Arrested Development. Give it a listen here.) "Here's a little secret -- Mr. Wendal, from the information I've been given, was this homeless poet. [It was written] about a homeless poet who lives in Brentwood."

The same poet gave Murray the idea for "Everlast." "When I was writing my first story I was like, 'I want to make this about a homeless poet.' It was so weird because I was writing it that day and I pulled over in Brentwood and saw him standing on the corner," he tells us. "I watched him for a little while, and there's a little Starbucks across the streets from where he is, so I just went and jotted all these notes down -- about his body and what he did and his presence and his beauty and it just started pouring out of me."

Longtime fans of Murray and "One Tree Hill" might remember that several years back, rumors swirled that he might be publishing a book of poetry. He reveals that the book was ready to go, but he hesitated to release the highly personal material.

"I do have a book that I opted not to release, but it's actually pretty cool," he says. "I have the hard copy. It's called 'Seven Years.; I heard every seven years, we change. Part of us dies, part of us is reborn. There's just a lot of biblical things with seven years and the number seven. And these poems are all ones I wrote within a seven-year span of my life, and there'll be another seven, and another seven. It's funny because I already have a whole book of poems from the first seven years when I started writing. I've been working on the next seven. They're in my iPhone, which is a paper weight now."

Murray wonders whether it's a coincidence that his character, Lucas Scott, who began as an angsty teenage basketball player with an affinity for great literature, grew into a writer. "The correlation between Luke and my own life -- there are a lot of similarities. I don't know where that came from. Mark may have seen it and said, 'Cool. Let's go in that direction. Let's go with what the guy is good at.' Or Mark just went, 'This is what we have, this is our world,' and I happened to go a little too far. But it's been great."

Catch Murray's return to "One Tree Hill" Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. In the meantime, check out his reflections on Lucas [ here] and what cast mates like Bethany Joy Galeotti, Austin Nichols, and Sophia Bush had to say about his return [ here].
Photo/Video credit: The CW/Getty Images