NEW YORK — Back in 2000, a Virginia girl named Hilarie Burton made her TV debut on "TRL," and everything changed for her.
"I got out of high school and showed up in New York, and next thing I know, I'm working here, dropping out of college," the "One Tree Hill" star told Tim Kash backstage at Sunday night's "Total Finale Live."
Shortly after winning a competition to star in a segment of "TRL," Burton was asked to stay on as a full-time VJ. "They've ruined my childhood and stolen my youth, and now we get to celebrate this tonight," she joked.
She added that without then-host Carson Daly there to show her the ropes, she wouldn't be where she is today. "I haven't seen him in forever," she said. "I live down in North Carolina, where I shoot my show. I'm excited to see Carson. He was like my fairy godfather. He bestowed this career on me."
Burton thinks that "TRL," which she called "kind television," filled a void on TV, and she isn't sure what will happen now that it's off the air. "We were never out to make anybody look stupid — we were out to make sure kids had a good time on television with their friends and their signs," she said. "Now there's a lot of shock value out there and not a lot of kindness."
Burton left "TRL" in 2003 to pursue a career in acting, joining the cast of "One Tree Hill" as Peyton Sawyer. But working on "TRL" gave her the opportunity to become the hip young woman she is today. "We did a lot here on 'TRL,' " she said. "Like when U2 played upstairs on the balcony, I was a geeky kid."
The former VJ recalled geeking out when she met Angelina Jolie during the star's appearance on the show. "I had a big crush on her, and Carson threw me to the wolves when she came," she said. "She's kind of a babe."
Above all, one serious event showed Burton the power that "TRL" had to bring kids together. "Coming back after September 11 was a very big deal," she said. "I think it was very important — music is such a healer. It helped people through a traumatic time. Just coming to work was a frightening thing, but I was proud to be a part of it."
For everything on "Total Finale Live," including bonus performances, behind-the-scenes action and more, head to TRL.MTV.com. Plus, check out our stage-door interviews with 50 Cent, Taylor Swift, Ludacris and many more superstars at the big show.