Mischa Barton Said She Didn’t Feel “Protected” by the Cast and Crew on ‘The O.C.’

The actress finally opened up about what sparked her exit from the show.

We’re on the verge of celebrating the 20th anniversary of The O.C.—does anyone else feel extremely old right now? LOL—a drama TV series that followed the lives of the wealthy upper class teens of Orange County, California. If you were to ask any O.C. fan at the time, or possibly even now, who the breakout star of the show was, it’d be Mischa Barton hands down. While viewers absolutely adored watching Barton play Marissa Cooper every week, Barton didn’t have the same positive experience. In a May 18th interview with E! News, the actress is finally opening up about her time on set and the real reason why she was *spoiler alert!* killed off in Season 3. 

“I was working so hard, the longest hours probably out of all the characters. It wasn’t an easy character for me to play because it wasn’t me, which is why I think people liked it or thought Marissa was funny and latched on to her,” she explained. 

However, things really started to get complicated with newcomer and fan-favorite Rachel Bilson came into the mix. 

Barton recalled being on the receiving end of a lot of bullying from a handful of the men on set, in addition to having a pay cut as a result of making Bilson a series regular. “[I] had to build up my own walls and ways of getting around dealing with that and the fame that was thrust specifically at me,” she continued. “Just dealing with like the amount of invasion I was having in my personal life, I just felt very unprotected, I guess is the best way to put it.”

It also didn’t help that Barton felt so estranged to her character, who she described as a ditzy L.A. rich kid.

“I’ll be very honest, everyone’s got their strengths and their weaknesses and coming from a theater and indie background, my weakness was being ditzy.” Barton notes this was a major decision factor into making Marissa into more of a rebel character with a darker side. “I think they started to write more serious stuff for me because I wasn’t good at the, like, ‘Oh my god, let’s go shopping or get our nails done!’ kind of stuff. So then they added her first kiss with a girl and her getting drunk at her dad’s party or the scene where somebody gets shot. They needed stuff that played into more of my serious side.”

Ultimately, it was the chaotic and toxic work environment along with the limitability forced on her by the show, that she stepped away.

After Season 1 aired, Barton found herself as the “it” girl of young Hollywood. Movie scripts were arriving at her front door, which she had to turn down because of her hectic filming schedule for The O.C. She said Season 2 included a lot of “doubling up on episodes,” so there really wasn’t time for anything else, let alone filming another show or movie.

Producers were aware that Barton was looking for a way out. Per Barton’s recollection, they told her she could “sail off into the sunset and potentially you can come back in the future in some bizarre TV scenario,” or she could be removed from the show (industry talk for “be killed off”) and “can go on with your career that you want.”

Seeing as her dream was to always be in a lead role, she chose the latter. “It just felt like it was the best thing for me and my health and just in terms of not really feeling protected by my cast and crew at that point.”

Looking back, Barton has no regrets about leaving the show or as to how it all went down on TV. It comes across as though she truly is appreciative for what The O.C. did for her and her career, despite the negativity.

“Nobody loves their job more than me. For me, acting is a passion and something I genuinely love and it was something that I super enjoy, but also I can always see things for what they are in the business. I was raised with pretty clear vision as to the workings of the industry and the trappings of it and my parents always made that very clear to me. Honestly, 15 years on, I do think it’s sad that there wasn’t a better way that it could’ve been handled.”

Wishing all the best to our girl, Mischa!

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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