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The Transformation Of Chad Michael Murray From Gilmore Girls To Today

Few TV shows of the early 2000s catapulted more teen heartthrobs into the spotlight than "Gilmore Girls." Fans still feel strongly about their allegiances to Team Dean Forester (Jared Padalecki), Team Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia) or Team Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry). Of course, there's also Tristan Dugray (Chad Michael Murray), who shoots his best shot with Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), but ultimately fails in making them Chilton's new it-couple.

Murray always dreamed of becoming an actor, but it wasn't until a near-death experience at the age of 15 — when his intestines twisted and he was bleeding internally — that he took a step toward making it a reality. His nurse, also a model, suggested he pursue modeling and segue into acting. It worked, with Murray landing the part of Tristan on "Gilmore Girls" soon after.

Despite his time on "Gilmore Girls" being rather short-lived (he appears in 11 episodes from 2000 to 2001), his tenure allowed him to become the swoon-worthy love interest in numerous projects of the era, including "Freaky Friday" and "A Cinderella Story," followed by a lengthy stint as protagonist Lucas Scott on "One Tree Hill." Though Murray initially launched his career in the teen idol space, he has evolved into a seasoned actor over the years, taking on horror and action roles, and even went on to portray an infamous serial killer. 

Read on to learn about Murray's massive transformation from his time at Chilton to today.

Gilmore Girls was Chad Michael Murray's first recurring role

It was only a few years after his serendipitous encounter with his nurse that Chad Michael Murray joined the cast of "Gilmore Girls" as Tristan Dugray, marking his first recurring role on television. "For me, I was just getting accustomed to the world, and so I was just kind of holding on for dear life," Murray said in an interview with TODAY. He added that he has fond memories of Stars Hollow, particularly his scenes with Jared Padalecki, who, despite Tristan and Dean's on-screen beef, he was good friends with.

On the character of Tristan, Murray expressed his surprise that fans don't view him as a villain: "No one has come up to me and said, 'Tristan was a jerk. Why did you call her Mary?'"

While Murray would've loved to see Tristan and Rory's connection grow, he admitted that, in the end, it was always meant to be her and Dean. Murray exits "Gilmore Girls" in Season 2 when Tristan's father forces him to go to military school. Behind the scenes, Murray made the choice to leave in order to stretch his wings as an actor. "Sitting in the same character for too long can get stagnant," he told Scott Patterson on the "I Am All In" podcast. "I was so young. I needed to find out who Chad [was]. Who was Chad as an actor? I genuinely wouldn't be the man I was today without making that decision."

He enjoyed working with Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday

Two years after his departure from "Gilmore Girls," and after another recurring role on "Dawson's Creek" as Charlie Todd, Chad Michael Murray landed his first major movie gig as Jake in "Freaky Friday."

With his leather jacket, long hair, and Ducati, Murray takes his on-screen "bad boy" persona to the next level in this 2003 teen flick, which sees Jake awkwardly fall for Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) while she's trapped in the body of her mother Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis). He told Addicted to TV that, although he loves playing the cool bad guy, Jake is similar to Tristan in that, underneath the tough exterior, he's actually a decent person.

While Murray didn't get to ride the Ducati (those scenes feature a stuntman), he did get to share some unforgettable moments with Curtis, whom he idolized in "True Lies" and "Halloween." In fact, the first scene he filmed was Jake's flirty coffee shop encounter with Tess. "It wasn't uncomfortable flirting with Jamie; it was just nerve-wracking to not screw it up," Murray told Vulture. "Like, am I flirting too much? Too little? Am I coming off [as] creepy? You worry about all those things. But Jamie was the best and was right there supporting me."

Murray also got to belt out Bowling for Soup's cover of Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" to Curtis, despite him informing director Mark Waters that he couldn't sing. For Waters, Murray's lack of vocal talent made the scene even better.

Chad Michael Murray found a home on One Tree Hill for six years

The same year that "Freaky Friday" hit theaters, Chad Michael Murray landed what would be the most sizable role of his career to this point: Lucas Scott on "One Tree Hill." At first, producers envisioned Murray in the part of the character's estranged brother, Nathan Scott (James Lafferty). However, he felt a connection to Lucas (both had mothers leave in childhood) and fought to earn the lead role. Plus, Murray was excited to step away from his bad-boy persona for a while and portray a true protagonist.

"[P]laying the moral compass for that show, which is what Lucas was, was a great way for me to learn as an artist, and to start understanding emotions and understanding myself," Murray told Cosmopolitan. "It gave me the opportunity to grow up as a human being, away from Los Angeles, out in North Carolina, which was incredible."

In an interview with Fox 5 New York, Murray praised "One Tree Hill" for addressing many of the country's societal issues at the time, including the Columbine High School shooting. While he isn't jumping at the chance to participate in a reboot of the show, Murray thinks there should be a new generation to shed light on current crises. "Now, whether I'm a part of that or not is something that's neither here nor there," he said. "I just think it's good for the world, in general."

The rocky split from One Tree Hill co-star Sophia Bush

One year after meeting Sophia Bush for the first time on the set of "One Tree Hill," Chad Michael Murray got down on one knee, with the pair soon tying the knot in April 2005. However, following only five months of marriage, the two stars called it quits. Through their divorce, and through Murray's subsequent engagement in April 2006 to "One Tree Hill" extra Kenzie Dalton, a rift began to form between the two. However, the exes cordially worked together as one of the many on-again, off-again couples in "One Tree Hill."

Things didn't get truly messy until 2018, when Bush told Andy Cohen on an episode of "Radio Andy" that she never wanted to marry Murray, but felt pressured into it. Murray clapped back at Bush's comments, with his rep telling media outlets that her story was ludicrous. Additionally, Murray tweeted a GIF of Pinocchio, a character known for getting caught in his lies.

He can now poke fun at A Cinderella Story

In 2004's "A Cinderella Story," Chad Michael Murray returns to the world of feel-good teen flicks (despite being in his early 20s at that point). This time, instead of playing the school's mysterious Ducati-riding cool guy, or a brooding, mold-breaking good guy, he's Austin, the popular jock who is, of course, dating the mean cheerleader. However, Austin starts to fall for his online pen pal, unknowingly one of his classmates, Sam (Hilary Duff), whom he meets at a masquerade dance.

While "A Cinderella Story" cemented Murray's heartthrob status (even Duff had a crush on him), the actor, now in his 40s, is able to poke fun at his earlier work. In an interview with E! News, he comedically bashes Austin for not realizing that the person he's dancing with is Sam: "If you go to a masquerade ball and a girl you see almost every day is wearing a small mask as seen here, and her entire face is exposed but you still cannot recognize her, you should probably see an eye doctor... and a few other doctors," Murray said.

House of Wax marked Chad Michael Murray's first horror film

Growing up, Chad Michael Murray enjoyed horror movies, from "The Night of the Living Dead" to "Halloween." However, it wasn't until producer Joel Silver approached him about being in "House of Wax" that he was able to add one to his own filmography. "Joel came to me and said, 'You've been doing a great job with everything else and would love to have you a part of this film,' Murray told Hollywood.com. "I always thought in the back of my head, 'Can I really do a horror movie?' And I was, 'Hell, yeah! I can't wait to give it a shot.'" 

Though Murray admitted that he was a little nervous about the opportunity, having his old "Gilmore Girls" buddy Jared Padalecki by his side calmed him down. While filming in Australia, the two were roommates and, according to Murray, spent their evenings playing video games and goofing around.

For Murray, it was exciting to play the more mature character of Nick, not another teen heartthrob. "[Y]ou can sit back and watch 'One Tree Hill' and this, and you won't see an ounce of Lucas in this project," Murray said. "[I]t's an opportunity that I had to create a character with mystique and age up a little bit and show another audience what I have to offer."

Chad Michael Murray enjoys the familial aspect of Christmas movies

In 2010, Chad Michael Murray diversified his filmography even further by delving into the world of made-for-TV (and streaming) holiday movies. "Christmas Cupid," a Netflix original, sees Murray take on the role of Patrick Kerns, one of the love interests of PR exec Sloane Spencer (Christina Milian), who makes a few bad choices before (spoiler alert) winding up with him in the end.

Over the years, Murray appears in numerous other seasonal offerings, including "Road to Christmas," "Write Before Christmas" and "Too Close for Christmas." Murray served as an executive producer on the latter, and starred next to Canadian actress Jessica Lowndes from "90210" fame.

Murray revealed to HollywoodLife the reason why he finds himself returning to these feel-good flicks every few years. "I think a big part of it is I'm a dad," he said. "I'm a family guy. Put God and family first, that's how we run, and these cater to that in a large way. They're family films. I believe in that. It feeds the soul for the current place that we're in, and I personally think that the world needs more of it. I think the light there is good for the world. It feeds the spirit and that's what we need."

Entering the MCU as Jack Thomspon wasn't so easy

Chad Michael Murray branched out once again in 2015 when he entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Jack Thompson, a United States Army Lieutenant and chief of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, in the ABC series "Agent Carter."

In some ways, Jack is similar to Murray's past brooding characters, including Jake in "Freaky Friday" and Tristan in "Gilmore Girls." Deep down, Jack is a good guy with a sound moral compass, but the norms of the period the show takes place in, as well as his prioritization of personal ambition over anything else, make it challenging to see the good in him. He's a product of his drive and of the time," Murray told Marvel Entertainment. "He is going to customize himself in his environment to get to the best and the top level that he can."

Murray added in an interview with Cosmopolitan that it was difficult to portray a character who treats leading lady Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) so poorly. "The hardest thing about playing these characters that have an opposition against Agent Carter is that today, we don't even think twice about having respect for women," Murray said. "So to put yourself in a place where, in the '40s, they had little respect for them and saw them as the weaker sex, it's a bizarre [role] to find yourself in."

Much research was conducted to portray Sam Phillips in Sun Records

Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records who turned Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and more into household names, has been hailed over the years as the inventor of rock and roll. Talk about big shoes to fill for Chad Michael Murray, who portrays the record producer in the 2017 CMT original series "Sun Records." The show provides a rare look into the artists' rise to stardom from Phillips' perspective. Murray told BUILD Series that, upon receiving the script, he was extremely interested in the project. However, he only had two days to research Phillips before his first scheduled meeting to discuss the role.

"And so in 48 hours, I spent — mind you, raising a kid — 20 of those hours doing constant homework and studying," said Murray, who praised his wife Sarah Roemer for her support during this time. "It was just about listening to him and finding out where his drive really came from." Murray poured over old interviews and recordings, including an interaction between Phillips and Lewis while in the studio. "It's just really great material to absorb and to create the character to give an honest portrayal on camera," he said.

"Sun Records" ran for eight episodes after it was originally supposed to be a three-night event, according to CMT's head of development Jayson Dinsmore. While fans have petitioned for a Season 2, future episodes are unlikely.

Chad Michael Murray joined Riverdale at the encouragement of his wife

Following his stint on "One Tree Hill," Chad Michael Murray chose projects that went against the grain of his initial teen heartthrob image. However, in 2019, he found himself back in the teen drama space when he joined the cast of "Riverdale." This time, instead of portraying the hunky love interest of the leading lady, he plays Edgar Evernever, leader of the Farm cult.

"It's trippy, but at the same time, I'm loving every minute of it," Murray told Vanity Fair on returning to a teen-based show. "It's fun because it may fall into the same teen culture, but at the same time, I'm not stuck in a box. There's opportunity to really create a character and have a little bit more fun — within a certain parameter."

Murray's eight-episode run on "Riverdale" may not have happened without the encouragement of his wife, Sarah Roemer, a massive fan of the show. According to Murray, when presented with the chance to appear on the series, Roemer told him that he had to do it, especially given the part that was up for grabs. "Anything to please the Mrs., I'm in," he said. "As an actor, it's kind of on that list of things like, 'You want to play a cult leader?' The answer is always, 'Yes.'"

He got to work with his childhood hero, Bruce Willis

In 2020, veteran actor Chad Michael Murray continued to achieve career goals that he never dreamed possible, including sharing the screen with one of his biggest influences: Bruce Willis. The pair star in the action thriller "Survive the Night," which sees Murray play disgraced physician Rich, who, along with his father, Frank (Willis), are held hostage by two criminals. 

"Before we started, there was this incredible anticipation, like, 'What is Bruce going to bring to the table?' First off, he's a great guy," Murray, a huge "Die Hard" fan, told Express. "I got starstruck in some instances, because you're looking into the eyes of your childhood hero. And now, you've been given the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with him in a scene and tell a new story on-screen."

They also star together in "Survive the Game," "Fortress" and "Fortress: Sniper's Eye." In the latter, Murray plays Balzary, who leads a group of criminals in capturing former U.S. intelligence officer, Robert (Willis). While discussing "Fortress" with Celebrity Page, Murray recalled how, during their fight scenes, Willis wanted him to give it his all, much to Murray's hesitation. "He's, 'Haul off and hit me. Hit me on this one. Come on, let me have it,'" Murray said. "I'm like, 'You sure? I can't be the guy hitting Bruce Willis, come on, man. You're not 30 anymore, let's lay off the gas. And he's just committed still and he wanted me to do it."

Chad Michael Murray shed light on the monster that was Ted Bundy

Thanks to serious roles like Sam Phillips and Jack Thompson, Chad Michael Murray managed to distance himself from his early image as a teen heartthrob. However, if anyone still questioned Murray's range as an actor, his take on a notorious serial killer in 2021's "Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman" likely silenced the doubters.

When the film, which follows two FBI agents' manhunt to capture Bundy, was announced, many were not pleased at the idea of another project spotlighting — and possibly glorifying — the murderer. However, Murray stressed that glorification isn't the goal of "American Boogeyman," which he said peels back Bundy's charming persona to show that, out of the public eye, he was a monster.

"It wasn't a love letter to Ted Bundy, which I feel like so many times has played him up to be an antihero, and there's nothing about him that's heroic," Murray told TV Fanatic. "He was an awful, disgusting human being who caused so much tragedy and pain to so many. And so, I didn't want to glorify him. If anything, this was the anti-Ted Bundy film." While production was underway, Murray, who feared for his mental state while portraying such a dark individual, relied on his family for support.

He reunited with Gilmore Girls co-star Scott Patterson in Sullivan's Crossing

"Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman" may have been a tough project for Chad Michael Murray to film, but he got a much-needed breather when he joined the cast of the light drama "Sullivan's Crossing." In the show, adapted from author Robyn Carr's New York Times bestselling novels, Murray plays Cal Jones, who is helping Harry "Sully" Sullivan (Scott Patterson) around the house while trying to heal, that is, until neurosurgeon Maggie Sullivan (Morgan Kohan) returns to her small hometown and estranged father Sully.

"He's found Sullivan's Crossing to be a home, and this very magnetic woman comes walking in the door onto the campground and boom, sparks may or may not fly," Murray told CP24. "This show is really about discovery, mystery, the trials and tribulations of life, and just being human and trying to heal, recover, which we all are in some fashion."

Not only was it enjoyable to reunite with Patterson, his old "Gilmore Girls" co-star, Murray, along with his wife and children, fell in love with Nova Scotia, the filming location of "Sullivan's Crossing." The family immersed themselves in the community, with his daughter taking dance classes and his son joining the Dartmouth Destroyers. He expressed his hope that they can permanently move to the area, which he described as extremely welcoming and picturesque.

He takes pride in his family, health, and faith

Chad Michael Murray and his wife, Sarah Roemer, have been going strong since 2014, when they met on the set of "Chosen" and quietly tied the knot in January 2015. They now have three children (one son and two daughters), who they work to keep away from the public eye. 

Still, Murray has shared glimpses into their life, which includes reading a few chapters of the Bible each day and night. He holds fast to his faith, and has even turned down some roles because they didn't align with it. "I feel stronger and safer walking onto my sets every day knowing that I have God with me every day," he told Fox News Digital. "Jesus is there with me every day."

While Murray's family and faith help him to stay spiritually and mentally strong, he has his own ways of remaining physically fit. He told GQ that he enjoys old-school, Rocky Balboa-esque workouts, and doesn't give in to food cravings. "I'm not a foodie, so that helps," he said. "I eat out of necessity, not out of desire. I bring my own food to work — have done for the last 10 to 15 years. I live on the same thing every single day: nuts, coffee, Kind bars. I bring tuna to work every day for lunch with some Wheat Thins — American Wheat Thins." However, Murray does splurge a bit at night, snacking on some Airheads to help him fall asleep.