Mischa Barton Reveals She Had a Choice to Come Back to ‘The O.C.’

Any diehard fan of The O.C. knows how shocking it was when Marissa Cooper was killed off at the end of Season 3. After falling victim to a car crash, thanks to her ex-boyfriend, Kevin Volchok, she died dramatically in the arms of Ryan Atwood on the side of the road. Naturally, fans of the show were shocked about Marissa’s death. As Mischa Barton (who was cast in the role of Marissa) had been a key part of the show since its inception, fans wondered the reason behind the polarizing choice. Now, over a decade later, we finally have answers.

The O.C. cast : Rachel Bilson, Adam Brody, Mischa Barton, and Ben McKenzie
Rachel Bilson, Adam Brody, Mischa Barton, and Ben McKenzie | Frederick M. Brown

For years, fans of The O.C. have speculated about why Barton’s character was booted off the show. Rumors about conflicts and the younger member of the cast hating the show have swirled for years. Back in 2017, Josh Schwartz (who created the show) tried to provide answers to curious fans. But still, he didn’t seem to give any concrete reasoning for the decision.

Mischa Barton wasn’t trying to leave ‘The O.C.’

“It was born out of a number of issues: Creative, cast chemistry, ratings,” The O.C. creator revealed to The Daily Beast. “Mischa didn’t want off the show any more than any of the other kids wanted off the show. It was a complicated chemistry with the cast…but she certainly wasn’t actively seeking to leave the show.”

Barton reveals she was bullied while filming the show

Now, Barton is speaking up about her own personal truth. In a recent interview with E!, Barton revealed that she was bullied a lot on the set of The O.C. and that the environment wasn’t the best one for someone as young and sensitive as her. It’s worth noting that the actor was only 17 when the show first aired, making her the youngest lead character. Barton also revealed that there had been talks about killing off her character as early as Season 2. However, when the producers finally decided to pull the plug on Marissa, Barton was given a choice: death or a potentially temporary departure.

Barton reveals the producers gave her a choice about Marissa Cooper dying

“This has been said before, but they kind of gave me an option,” Barton reveals about how her time on The O.C. ended. “The producers were like, ‘Well, do you want your job and to sail off into the sunset and potentially you can come back in the future in some bizarre TV scenario or we can kill your character off and you can go on with your career that you want and what you want to do?'”

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Ultimately, Barton chose to have her character be killed off. Not only did it give her the chance to explore different facets of her career, but she also thought Marissa’s death was fitting for someone who was such a tragic character.

Fans of ‘The O.C.’ still have a visceral reaction to Marissa’s death

“But I also do really love that she had this epic death and that it ended like that because it’s memorable and it’s not just another flash in the pan,” Barton confessed. “People still come up to me to this day and they’re like, ‘I remember where I was when your character died!’ And they’re still emotional about it, like it was really me. I think that that’s cool that people actually took something away from it. There were lessons to be learned from Marissa, for better or for worse.”

We’re sure fans of The O.C. can understand why Barton ultimately chose the decision that she did. Considering she was being pushed off the show either way, it’s nice that she had a bit of agency over her character in the end. “They made me feel like the show is going to go on with or without you and it is what it is,” Barton recalled. “So I was just, like, OK, cool, then let’s go out with a bang.”