'One Tree Hill's' Shantel VanSanten talks Chad Michael Murray and a future for Clay and Quinn

oth-shantel-907.jpgWhen Shantel VanSanten joined "One Tree Hill" in Season 7, she and co-star Rob Buckley were brought on to fill the spaces formerly occupied by series vets Hilarie Burton and Chad Michael Murray. She'd never actually met Murray, though, until he arrived on set in September to film his return appearance for tonight's episode.

Zap2it was on set when Murray and VanSanten shot their scenes, which involve Lucas (Scott) meeting Haley ( Bethany Joy Galeotti) and Quinn (VanSanten) at the airport to take Haley's kids out of Tree Hill while she handles the horrifying reality of Nathan's kidnapping.

Sitting down with us between scenes, VanSanten admitted that she was a little bit nervous about meeting Murray. "I never knew what to think," she says. "I know he was such a big staple on the show and everyone was devastated when Peyton and Lucas left the show. Coming in, [Rob and I] weren't always very well received. I know people thought we were here to replace them. But I think [Chad] is really great. He's been so much fun to work with."

The interaction between Lucas and Quinn isn't the focus of his return, of course, but VanSanten tells us that she did consider how the two characters would relate to each other. Though they've never been on screen together, there's an assumption that as Haley's childhood BFF, Lucas would know her older sister relatively well.

"We're aware of each other. It's a tricky one, and Joy and I try to talk about it for back story," she says. "I was two years ahead of her in high school, but you never really saw me, even though we're supposedly really close... We just always said I had my own life, and she had hers, and when we were home, we were sisters. I know how much [Lucas and Haley] helped each other through life. It's a mutual respect, and the way he's coming back as well, there's a respect for his character. They don't give us a whole lot of development, but it's there, and you can see the history."

VanSanten thinks that though Murray's return is brief, fans will be satisfied by their last glimpse of their old favorite. "Yesterday I was watching a scene between him and Joy, and I felt like a fan!" she says. "I'm watching him and his mannerisms, and for the fans, it's going to be like old Lucas coming back. The storyline Mark made for him to come back is pretty great... The show benefits from it, the fans will be so excited."

She also notes that Chad gave her props for what she and Buckley brought to the show after his exit. "I was sitting in a car with Chad and he said, 'It's crazy to see you interact with people I interacted with for years, and to see the show went on, and not only did it go on, but it's still successful and I can come back and see it from a different perspective.'"

oth-clinn.jpgMurray didn't get to work with Buckley, which he told us was a bit of a disappointment, despite the fact that he admits he didn't watch the show when he wasn't on it. "I'm just not really an avid television buff," he says. "I've got my few guilty pleasures, but the rest of the time, it's just been a very busy three years, so I haven't had the opportunity to see what's been going on. But I got here and there are all these new faces! The one person I really wanted to meet was Robert Buckley. I never got the chance to meet him, and I hear he's fantastic. I wish I would've gotten the chance to see him. It's funny, I'm in his trailer. I'll leave him a little note."

Speaking of Buckley, Clay and Quinn have been on a roller coaster ride this season as he revisits some private demons in an attempt to improve his declining mental health. Their relationship has taken some major hits, but Quinn has steadfastly refused to let it fracture under the strain.

"I feel like this season really tests Clay and [Quinn's] relationship," VanSanten tells us. "Not in a way that we're in comas or it's life-threatening, but it really tests the strength of our love for another and the foundation that we started our relationship from. I think that if we make it through... there is a place where forever exists for them."

We can confirm that before the end of the season, a couple will get married, but VanSanten plays coy as to whether that's Clay and Quinn. "I don't know if I want us to get married!" she says. "A part of me likes being non-conventional. I have my own ideas, by the way. I wanted Clay to come to Quinn and give her six carrots and be like, 'Here's 6 carrots. Will you marry me?' I feel like [executive producer Mark Schwahn] has done an amazing job of everyone having their own fairytale and everybody having their love story. People can hold onto one thing they love or relate to, something in someone's relationship, and I want us to be quirky and unconventional. That kind of love."
Photo/Video credit: The CW