An off-screen romance and 6 other things happening behind the scenes of The O.C.

Welcome to The O.C. bitch! 

The O.C. content is seemingly always relevant, even after we celebrated the seminal '00s series' 20th anniversary in 2023. The series revolved around the privileged lives of seaside American teens, and made household names of stars Mischa Barton, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson. 

From the quotable dialogue ('Chrismukkah!) to the iconic soundtrack ('California' by Phantom Planet), The O.C. was a cultural reset upon its 2003 debut. But the series also stirred up a bunch of drama between its young stars, and we've rounded up the most disturbing stories. 

Mischa Barton and Ben McKenzie dated during filming.

The romantic relationship between Marissa and Ryan spilled out into real life, with Mischa Barton revealing in an interview with Call Her Daddy that she dated Ben McKenzie during filming.

"It wasn't just on-screen either," Barton shared.

"I mean it was kind of complicated for me because like I said, I went into that like a virgin, like a kid.

"I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like I needed to catch up — I think — a lot of the time."

When filming for the show began, Barton was 17 and McKenzie was 25.

"That was my first. I had no idea what I was doing," she said.

"And I think that set things off on the wrong foot too because it was like, people hook up on these shows and whatever and these things happen, but we threw ourselves into it all very fast.

"It definitely was tricky that [the relationship] happened right out of the gate. I felt overwhelmed and not ready for that."

She said that producers intervened.


"I remember they were like, 'Mischa's disappeared with Ben and like, she's only 17-and-a-half, 18…,'" she said. "The producers went to my parents. It was kind of a whole ordeal."

She was eventually the one to end things.

"[It was one of those things] where you're so young and you're like 'I'm not ready for this,'" Barton revealed.

"I think he was really angry with me, to begin with, and I felt the punishment of that. I felt that from the producers as well that they were not happy about that."

Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson reportedly didn't get along.

They might have played besties Marissa and Summer on the series, but rumours of a rift between Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson plagued the series. 

In a 2004 interview with ELLE, Barton made a bizarre comment on Bilson's appearance that did little to quash rumours. "She's way more overtly sexual than I am," the actress said. "She is so petite and I'm so tall and lanky. I think I'd be scared of having her voluptuousness. I like being understatedly sexy."

Then in 2021, when asked what prompted her decision to leave the series at the end of season three, Barton gave an interview with E! News that hinted that Bilson being cast as a series regular played a part. 

"It had a lot to do with them adding Bilson in last minute as, after the first season, a series regular and evening out everybody's pay," she said. 

Bilson responded to this comment on the Everything Iconic podcast. "That's misinformation," she replied. "Where is she going with this, and what is she trying to say? I would actually like to talk to her and find out what her experience was from her perspective, because I saw things a little differently." 


But never fear, the co-stars buried the hatchet when Barton appeared on Bilson's rewatch podcast Welcome To The OC, Bitches in January 2023. 

During her Call Her Daddy interview, Barton said the complex on-set relationships were "typical".

"It's typical that in these sets not everybody is gonna get along.

"There are gonna be clashes. There's gonna be people who create rumours and make stuff up. I think I was very sensitive to that because I was so young.

"It felt like high school but in the real world and very elevated and very magnified."

Creator Josh Schwartz initially 'hated' Adam Brody.

The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz apparently wasn't a huge fan of Adam Brody, who became a beloved character playing Seth on the series.

Schwartz told The Daily Beast that "When he first came in to audition, it was pilot season and he was going on dozens of auditions, and he didn't really bother to learn the lines, so he just came in and I was like, 'What scene is he doing? Is this even from our show?'"

"We tried to find other actors, and our casting director, Patrick Rush, told me, 'I'm telling you, this Adam Brody is very special.' And I thought, 'That guy? I kind of hated that guy. He didn’t even learn any of the words'," Josh recalled. 

Quick! Listen to The Spill about Rita Ora and Taika Waititi. Post continues after podcast.

A love triangle spilled from the screen to real life.

Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody famously dating throughout the series, but it turns out they were in a love triangle that reflected a storyline in the series: a triangle with Samaire Armstrong, who played Seth's love interest Anna. 


Bilson claimed that she grew 'jealous' of Armstrong for passionately kissing Brody in a scene. "When Seth is in the bedroom with Anna and she goes to kiss him, I see Samaire, like, slip tongue. I get transported back to 18 years ago," Bilson admitted on Welcome to The OC, Bitches.

"I get a little jealous and I'm like, 'Um, what are you doing slipping tongue in his mouth?',” Bilson said. 

"There's no tongue in television!"

The love triangle caused 'tension' between the two actors. “I feel like it definitely played out a little bit in real life for a minute, even though not really-really. But I remember the tension with Samaire, like, a little bit because it was just this triangle or whatever," she said.

"It was like the real-life triangle playing out as I'm watching it."

The young cast developed 'bad attitudes' after fame.

Tate Donovan played Marissa's deadbeat dad Jimmy on the series. He confessed that he found it difficult working with the young rising stars while he was directing an episode, as he recounted to Vulture.

"By the time I started to direct, the kids on the show had developed a really bad attitude. They just didn’t want to be doing the show anymore. It was pretty tough; they were very tough to work with," he said.

"The adults were all fantastic, total pros. But you know how it is with young actors... when you achieve a certain amount of success, you want to be doing something else. I mean, one of them turned to me and said, 'This show is ruining my film career,' and he had never done a film before. You just can’t help but sort of think that your life and your career are going to go straight up, up, up. So they were very difficult."


One actor didn't have any positive memories of working with his co-stars.

Cam Gigandet broke into television as bad boy Volchok but according to an interview with ELLE, he didn't exactly enjoy his time on the series. "The things that I remember now—none of them are good," he said in 2014. 

"It was only the third or fourth season. Those kids were fucking miserable. They were just—they would not remember their lines on purpose. They were young."

The Twilight actor also didn't have fond memories of his co-stars. "Ben McKenzie was kind of mean to me. I hadn't done anything at that point and he was a little bit of an ass," he said.

And as for his on-screen love interest Mischa Barton? "Was she there?" he said. "I don't even have memories of her." Yikes. 

Season three was apparently a big mistake.

According to Josh Schwartz, season three was a bit of a mess, the creator told Vulture. Apparently at the time, the network made several requests for new characters and extra melodrama.

"We were just told we had to add an adult female character. It went nowhere, and we had no plan for it, and it just didn’t fit the show," he said. Schwartz is referring to the addition of Jerri Ryan's Charlotte, a character who tried to scam money from Kirsten.

The creator also took issue with Marissa's surfer friend Johnny. "And then we went down the wrong road with this kid playing Johnny. It was just flat," he said.

"All of a sudden, everything the show mocked, it kind of became."

The O.C. was canceled after four seasons.

This article was originally published on August 8, 2023 and has been updated.

Feature image: Getty + Fox. 

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