Hilarie Ross Burton (born July 1, 1982) is an American actress and producer. A former host of MTV’s Total Request Live, she portrayed Peyton Sawyer on the WB/CW drama One Tree Hill for six seasons (2003–2009). Burton gained wider recognition with leading roles in the films Our Very Own, Solstice and The List. In 2010, she began starring as Sara Ellis on the USA crime drama White Collar, and had a recurring role as Dr. Lauren Boswell on the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy in 2013.
Burton was born on July 1, 1982 in Sterling, Virginia. Her father is a former Green Beret. She is the eldest of four children with three brothers. She graduated from Park View High School in 2000, where she was student council treasurer her second year, vice-president her junior year, and captain of the cheerleading squad, student council president, and homecoming queen her senior year. Burton attended New York University and Fordham University.
Burton’s first big break came when working as a VJ for the Total Request Live on MTV. She was supposed to be a guest commentator for one segment, but producers decided to offer her a permanent job. Burton went on to present at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards and MTV’s Iced Out New Year’s Eve. Burton went on to portray herself on The WB teen drama television series Dawson’s Creek in 2002, which was marked as her television debut.
In April 2003, Burton was cast in The WB drama pilot, One Tree Hill. Burton portrayed the role of Peyton Sawyer, a fiercely independent visual and musical artist and cheerleader. The series premiered on September 23, 2003 and went on to be the network’s top rated program of the year. The role was considered Burton’s breakout role and is her best-known to date. For her role in the series, Burton was featured on the cover of Maxim, American Cheerleader Magazine and People. Her performance received critical praise and she earned three Teen Choice Award nominations. In May 2009, The CW announced Burton would not be returning for the show’s seventh season based on her own decision not to return, contrary to rumors she left due to salary issues.
In June 2005, Burton made her feature film debut in the independent drama film Our Very Own. The film centered on five small-town teenagers who dream of a better life. The film starred Allison Janney and Cheryl Hines and was released to positive reviews from critics. Burton and her fellow stars in the film received the “Outstanding Ensemble Acting” award at the prestigious Sarasota Film Festival. In September 2007, Hilarie appeared in the Lifetime drama film Normal Adolescent Behavior. Hilarie played the role of Ryan and followed a group of friends whom are in a six-way polyfidelitous relationship. That same year Burton co-starred in the supernatural horror film Solstice opposite Amanda Seyfried and Elisabeth Harnois.
In June 2008, Burton starred in the independent thriller film The List. Burton portrayed the role of Jo Johnston and was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina while Burton was on production break for One Tree Hill. The film was released for a limited release and went on to make $132,863 in the US alone. That same year, Burton had a small role in the Fox Searchlight Pictures drama film The Secret Life of Bees. Burton played Deborah Owens, the deceased mother to Dakota Fanning’s character.
In January 2009, Burton was cast in another independent drama, Bloodworth. The film is an adaptation of Provinces of Night by author William Gay. Filming also took place in Wilmington, North Carolina in April and May that same year. The film also starred Hilary Duff and Val Kilmer and premiered at the 2010 Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February 2010. The film later went on to a limited release on May 20, 2011 to positive reviews from critics and over $12,971 worldwide.
In July 2010 Variety announced Burton would have a recurring arc in the USA Network crime drama series White Collar playing Sara Ellis, an insurance investigator in the second season. In February 2011, Burton was upgraded to a series regular for the third season which premiered on June 7, 2011. The series was renewed for a fourth season in August 2011 with Burton reprising her role, credited in the recurring cast.
On January 23, 2012, Burton guest-starred on the ABC police comedy-drama Castle, in season 4: episode 13 titled “An Embarrassment of Bitches” portraying Kay Cappuccio, a reality television star who is accused of the murder of a famous dog trainer. In May 2013, Burton began a recurring role in the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy for the final three episodes of the ninth season, playing Dr. Lauren Boswell.
In August 2013, Burton began work on CBS’s Hostages as Samantha, the mistress of lead character Brian Sanders.
Burton resided in Wilmington, North Carolina, where One Tree Hill was filmed. In 2004, Burton married One Tree Hill assistant director Ian Prange, son of executive producer Greg Prange. They divorced in 2009. She has a cat named after writer Edgar Allan Poe, and is close friends with fellow One Tree Hill stars Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush, Danneel Harris, James Lafferty, Chad Michael Murray and Elisabeth Harnois.
In 2007, Burton created her own production company called Southern Gothic Production (SoGoPro) along with Nick Gray, Kelly Tenney, James Burton and Meg Mortimer.
Burton is also on the North Carolina Film Council. Burton has been in a relationship with actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan since 2009. The couple welcomed a son Augustus “Gus” in March 2010.