Welcome to the 15th anniversary of The O.C., b–ch!
Can you believe it’s been 15 years since that iconic line was said, changing teen dramas forever? It feels like just yesterday we were introduced to Ryan (Ben McKenzie), Marissa (Mischa Barton), Seth (Adam Brody) and Summer (Rachel Bilson), but really, the teen drama debuted on Aug. 5, 2003, and is now just one year younger than the Core Four was when the show premiered. As Summer would say: Eww!
While the Fox soap created by Josh Schwartz ended up becoming a bonafide pop culture phenomenon, it was almost a completely different show. Seriously, in an alternate universe, Ryan and Marissa could’ve been Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde.
In honor of its 15th anniversary, we’ve rounded up these fun facts about The O.C.. Nostalgia, here we come!
1. Seth Needleman?! It almost happened, as Schwartz revealed, “When I first wrote the script the Cohens were the Needlemans.”
2. The first actor cast on the series was Peter Gallagher, Sandy Cohen himself. Who could resist those eyebrows?
“We wanted to send a very clear message that this was a show as much about the parents as it was about the kids, and we had this acclaimed film and stage actor in the lead role, heartthrob himself,” Schwartz said of landing the actor. “And somebody who was a terrific actor who was going to ground the adult world with a lot of credibility.”
3. You can basically thank Brad Pitt for Ben McKenzie landing the role of Ryan Atwood, as Garrett Hedlund originally landed the role, but had to back out weeks before filming began. “Ryan originally was going to be Garrett Hedlund,” Schwartz said. “And he was gonna go in and test for the studio, and then he got Troy, and was suddenly not available and off to have a movie career.”
4. Chad Michael Murray turned down the show to star on One Tree Hill.
5. As for the poor little rich girl next door Marissa Cooper, it was between Mischa Barton and Olivia Wilde, with Barton ultimately landing the role because “Marissa was obviously a character who Ryan needs to save, and Olivia Wilde needs no saving,” Schwartz said at the ATX TV Festival in 2016. “She’s pretty tough.”
However, they always knew they wanted to bring Wilde back, casting her as Alex, Seth and then Marissa’s eventual love interest, in season two.
6. Originally, Rachel Bilson was cast as a recurring character, given three lines in the pilot. She ended up in every episode of the series, being upped to series regular midway through season one with Summer becoming the heart of the series.
7. While Adam Brody made Seth Cohen one of TV’s most beloved characters, Schwartz initially did not want to cast him.
With Seth, we saw a lot of kids. And Adam, when he first came in…didn’t bother to learn basically any of the lines for his audition scene,” Schwartz recalled. I was even like, ‘What scene is he doing; is this from our show? What is he doing? I hate this kid; get him out of here.’ And then we couldn’t find Seth and our casting director, Patrick Rush, was like, ‘We should bring back Adam Brody. I’m telling you, there’s something special about that kid.’ He came back in and did a really great job.”
8. Fox wasn’t exactly as in love with Seth Cohen as viewers were. “I was told at one point that they really did not like the Seth character early on in the pilot process,” Schwartz admitted. (And Seth wasn’t even included in the first posters for the series.)
9. The infamous “Welcome to the O.C., b–ch” line wasn’t in the original script.
10. While the show helped put bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Rooney on the map, and major bands like U2 and The Beastie Boys eventually reaching out to debut their new songs on the show, there was one band that refused to let their music be on the show: Arcade Fire.
11. One of Schwartz’s biggest regrets was not doing more with Luke (Chris Carmack) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong). Admitting their early exits were “not smart” on his part, he said, “If I could go back in time and do it all over again I would have for sure kept Anna and Luke in the show.”
12. In fact, the writer’s room even talked about pairing the two up for an opposites-attract relationship. Other relationships they always considered but never actually acted on? “We always talked about Ryan/Anna. We always talked about Luke/Summer,” Schwartz revealed. “There’s all those kind of combinations – Seth/Marissa, we flirted with the idea.” Can you imagine?
13. After the monster success of season one, Fox wanted Schwartz to work on a spinoff. “They wanted it to be about Anna,” he said, before eventually deciding just to focus on the mother-show.
14. There was almost a crossover episode with Arrested Development, as they both aired on Fox and were set in Southern California.
“[Arrested Development creator] Mitch Hurwitz and I actually spoke at some Fox event together and had even talked about how, at one point, he wanted to have some of The O.C. actors on Arrested Development playing themselves as the actors from The O.C.,” Schwartz said., adding he ultimately felt it was “too meta” to actually have come to fruition.
15. While Fox tried to tease the major death in season three finale, the victim herself, Mischa Barton, spoiled Marissa’s death in an interview just before the episode aired. “My character has been through so, so much, and there’s really nothing more left for her to do,” she told Access Hollywood. Oops!
“That was a very difficult decision creatively,” Schwartz said of killing off the character. “It was born out of a number of issues; creative, cast chemistry, ratings.”
16. So did Barton want off the show? “Mischa didn’t want off the show any more than any of the other kids wanted off the show. [Laughs],” Schwartz admitted. “It was a complicated chemistry with the cast … But she certainly wasn’t actively seeking to leave the show.”
He then added, “I think they had mixed feelings about their fame emanating from a teen drama on Fox. It wasn’t how they sort of imagined their careers going, so that was challenging for sure. There was a lot of studying of how Johnny Depp got fired off of 21 Jump Street.
17. While Shailene Woodley originally played Kaitlyn Cooper, Marissa’s little sister, in season one, Willa Holland took over the role when Mini-Coop resurfaced season later and much older…even though Holland is only five months older than Woodley IRL.
“Well, she felt older,” Schwartz said. “Five months is a lifetime at that age.”
18. The O.C. almost didn’t land its fourth and final season. “There was a version of the show not coming back in season four. We had a new network president,” Schwartz recalled. “They had kind of moved away from doing programming like The O.C., and there was a shot that there was no season four.”
19. At one point, The CW’s then-president was “extremely interested” in airing a fifth season.
20. You can thank The O.C. for reality hits like Laguna Beach, The Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County.
“You’re welcome, America. Yeah, the accidental legacy,” Schwartz joked. “You know, I would have liked to have a piece of the Real Housewives franchise, that’s for sure…You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess is the expression, and so are reality shows based on your show. I’m flattered.”
21. Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson dated for most of the series’ four-year run, breaking up during the filming of the final season, which ended with their characters getting married.
22. Seth and Ryan only hugged twice throughout the entire series: in the pilot and in the series finale. Awww.
23. Berkeley Law School was so proud of having Sandy Cohen as one of its fictitious graduates that there was once a “Sandy Cohen Public Defender Fellowship.”