The O.C.’s been off-air for over a decade now, but the nostalgia for the amazingly chaotic teen drama is still strong. Mischa Barton recently did an interview with E! about the reason why Marissa was tragically killed off at the end of the third season. She claimed that the conversations about her leaving the show came “pretty early on,” and she tied Marissa’s death to co-star Rachel Bilson being added “in last minute after the first season” as a series regular. According to Barton, Bilson joining as a core cast member meant showrunner Josh Schwartz and the producers had to “even out everybody’s pay.” She also alleged that she was bullied by men on-set, though she never clarified if that was by Schwartz or her male co-stars.
But in the latest episode of their podcast Welcome To The O.C., Bitches!, Bilson and Melinda Clarke (who played Marissa’s mom, Julie Cooper), addressed Barton’s allegations, admitting they don’t think they’re an accurate portrayal of what led to the actor being written off the show. Bilson noted that she wanted to discuss what Barton said “in hopes that Mischa would hear us talk about it and would be willing to come join us on the show, so we could hear her entire perspective and what she is saying that she experienced.”
“With total honesty and transparency, I cannot speak for somebody else’s experience—and we have talked about this Rachel, that someone who is 15,16, 17, 18—that amount of hours of work [and] pressure at such a young age, at best you’re exhausted, and at worst it’s overwhelming and chaotic, so it kind of breaks my heart a little to know…we knew there was a lot of pressure, but if it was really that bad of an experience, that’s not right for any young person,” said Clarke. “But some of the comments were very perplexing to me, so I don’t know what the truth is about that.”
Bilson added, “The one thing that I can say, in one of her first comments, she says that I was added at last minute after the first season, which is actually completely false and not what happened. In starting out that way, that’s misinformation. Where are [we] going with this and what is she trying to say? Which, I would actually like to talk to her and find out what her experience was from her perspective, because I found things differently.” To clarify, Clarke said, “We were originally supposed to be series regulars during the pilot, and they do that because they see a future for these characters. But then the powers that be said no, you’re going to have to wait, you’re going to be guest stars for the first—I think—11 episodes and by episode nine we became series regulars.”
Here’s hoping Barton accepts Bilson’s invitation to join the podcast and clear the air with her former castmates, so we can understand what actually happened on the O.C. set.