‘The O.C.’: Ben Mckenzie Describes Mischa Barton’s Exit as ‘Odd’, ‘Dramatic’ for Her Character

Fans of The O.C. mourned the death of Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) at the end of the teen drama’s third season. A controversial moment on the show, the loss of the fictional Orange County It-girl marked Barton’s departure.

Not only that it ushered in a major change for the show’s fourth and final season. More than a decade later, audiences still remember Barton and her character’s exit. Ahead, find out what her co-star, Ben McKenzie, has to stay about her final scenes. 

Mischa Barton and Ben McKenzie play love interests on ‘The O.C.’

Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton pose together at a kickoff party for 'The O.C.' in 2003
Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

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When The O.C. debuted on Fox in August 2003, it introduced the world to Ryan Atwood (McKenzie). A teen with a troubled past, Ryan finds himself living with the Cohen family in the affluent Southern California town of Newport. 

Apart from bonding with Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Ryan finds himself with a crush on the girl next door, Marissa. Even though she’s dating someone else at the time, there’s an obvious spark between them.

Over the course of three seasons, Ryan and Marissa’s love story plays out with plenty of ups and downs. 

Ben McKenzie describes Mischa Barton’s exit from ‘The O.C.’ as ‘odd’

Marissa and Ryan’s romance comes to an end in The O.C. Season 3 Episode 25: “The Graduates.” At the time, Barton wanted out of the show, and to wrap up her character’s storyline, Marissa died in a tragic car accident. 

During a 2020 interview with Entertainment Weekly, McKenzie reflected on The O.C. and Barton’s departure specifically. 

“It was … very odd to have someone who was in it from the beginning leave, but you know, it was dramatic in all the O.C. ways,” he said. 

McKenzie added that they “gave her a proper sendoff, hopefully.”

Mischa Barton fought hard for Marissa Cooper’s death on ‘The O.C.’

Years after her exit from the show, Barton revealed she fought hard for Marissa’s death. The show’s writers had suggested the character move away but Barton didn’t consider it a “proper goodbye.” 

“I just don’t think sailing off into the sunset’s the proper goodbye,” she said. “She’s one of those burnout characters where I don’t know how much more we could have done with her anyway.” 

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Ultimately, Barton prevailed and Marissa died, leaving the Cohen family and the Cooper family to pick up the pieces of their lives. After Marissa’s death, The O.C. went on for another season before going off the air for good in 2007. 

Adam Brody thinks Marissa Cooper should’ve gone to rehab

Brody, one of the show’s “core four,” doesn’t think Marissa should’ve gone out the way she did. In 2019, Brody said rehab should’ve been next for Marissa

“Put her in rehab! That’s what you did with Shannen Doherty on [Beverly Hills] 90210,” he said. “Do a rehab season for her. Put her somewhere. It’s fine.” 

Differing opinions aside, Barton’s time playing Marissa may not be over just yet. Even though her character died, she’s “more than willing” to reprise her role as Marissa in a reboot.

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