‘The O.C.’: Rachel Bilson Wanted to Play Marissa Cooper

Rachel Bilson portrayed Summer Roberts in all four seasons of The O.C. but initially she wanted to play another character. The former O.C. cast member revealed on the debut episode of the Welcome to The O.C., B*tches! podcast that she originally wanted to audition for the part of Marissa Cooper. 

The Summer Roberts actor ‘loved’ the part of Marissa Cooper

Rachel Bilson looks on
Rachel Bilson | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

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Bilson’s already dropping behind-the-scenes details about The O.C. on her first episode of Welcome to The O.C., B*tches!. She co-hosts the rewatch podcast with fellow O.C. alum, Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper). 

In the episode that aired on April 27, 2021, Clarke and Bilson spoke with Josh Schwartz, the creator of the show. They broke down the pilot episode scene by scene and discussed the casting process. 

While Clarke said she initially auditioned for the part of Kirsten Cohen, a role that went to Kelly Rowan, Bilson shared she was drawn to the character of Marissa. 

“I had read the material before I got the audition for Summer and I was like, ‘I want to read for that part, I loved it,'” she said. “I got called in for Summer and was like, ‘Man, I really wanted Marissa,’ and here we are.”

Mischa Barton landed the role of Marissa. She, Bilson, Adam Brody (Seth Cohen), and Ben McKenzie (Ryan Atwood) went on to become The O.C.’s “core four” characters. 

Rachel Bilson guest-starred on ‘The O.C.’ before becoming a series regular

The O.C. cast members Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody smile for the camera at a preview party
Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody | Donato Sardella/WireImage

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Bilson didn’t get cast as a main cast member on The O.C. right away. She appeared in the pilot as a guest star. As Schwartz told Entertainment Weekly in 2015, Bilson’s journey to becoming a regular on The O.C. started with just a few lines. 

“Summer wasn’t a series regular in the pilot,” Schwartz said. “She had three lines and one of them was, ‘I have to pee, do you have to pee?’ But she [Bilson] really sold that line and got it in all of its complexity.”

“And then over the course of the first six episodes, the more we gave her to do, the more she was really knocking it out of the park, so after the Tijuana episode, she was made a series regular,” he added.

From that point on Bilson played the role of Seth’s love interest and Marissa’s bestie until The O.C. went off the air in 2007. 

Peter Gallagher was the first person cast on ‘The O.C.’

Adam Brody and Peter Gallagher pose together during a radio interview with the cast of 'The O.C.'
The O.C. stars Adam Brody and Peter Gallagher | Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic for UsWeekly Magazine

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Schwartz also discussed casting the rest of the parts. Other actors almost played Ryan Atwood besides McKenzie. It came down to him and Garrett Hedlund with McKenzie getting the role.

The outsider from Chino wasn’t the first person to get cast on the show. Peter Gallagher (Sandy Cohen) signed on for The O.C. first. As Schwartz said, he wanted The O.C. to have something for adult viewers as well as kids. 

As for Brody’s O.C. audition, Schwartz recalled not being impressed at all. The actor barely knew any of his lines. Auditions for the part continued until Brody returned for a second reading and got the part.

New episodes of Welcome to The O.C., B*tches! air every Tuesday.