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The O.C. was a groundbreaking FOX series that aired in 2003. The teen drama introduced audiences to a whole new cast of heartthrob roles including Ryan Atwood and Seth Cohen.

While fans know and love Ben McKenzie as Ryan Atwood from The O.C., casting him for the part proved to be challenging for showrunners. Find out which actors from shows like This Is Us and movies like Star Trek went out for a role in The O.C. 

Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton from the cast of 'The O.C.'
Ben McKenzie & Mischa Barton | Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

Of ‘The O.C.’ characters, Ryan Atwood was one of the most sought after roles 

Before The O.C. could make a cultural impact, casting directors had to find the perfect actors to fill the roles in the series — both young and old. O.C. creator Josh Schwartz emphasized landing the best talent for the show’s adult and teen roles, despite the show’s main focus on the teens of Orange County.

When casting The O.C., Schwartz says they didn’t consider anyone but Adam Brody for the role of Seth Cohen (Daily Beast). Ironically, Brody initially auditioned for Ryan, but Schwartz knew he was right for Seth. Meanwhile, Mischa Barton and Olivia Wilde, who would later guest star on the show, were competing for another leading role — Marissa Cooper. 

When it came to casting Ryan Atwood, several talented actors read for the part: a sensitive bad boy from Chino who must adjust to his new life in Orange County. McKenzie auditioned for the role, but so did other up-and-coming actors at the time. 

‘This Is Us’ and ‘Troy’ actors were almost cast in ‘The O.C.’ 

The O.C. Casting Director Patrick Rush was a guest on the Welcome to The O.C., B*tches podcast. “We saw Garrett Hedlund for [the role of Ryan Atwood],” he explained. “We wanted to test him, but he got Troy, the Brad Pitt movie, at the same time.” 

Schwartz also recalled Hedlund’s audition in his interview with Daily Beast. At the time, they thought Hedlund was the one for the role. But when he landed Troy, Schwartz said: “Sh*t where are we going to find Ryan?” 

At the time, McKenzie was reading for a UPN show. According to Schwartz, the part was for the “fifth lead” in the series. Schwartz felt ultra-confident inviting McKenzie to read for one of the leads in The O.C.


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This Is Us star Justin Harley also reportedly auditioned for the role, according to Rush. And so did Riverdale actor Chad Michael Murray.

“Chad Michael Murray read for Ryan [too],” Schwartz mentioned to Daily Beast. At the time, he had just landed the role of Lucas Scott on One Tree Hill

Chris Pine’s acne prevented him from being cast on ‘The O.C.’ 

Pine is best known for his roles in movies like Wonder Woman and Star Trek. But before he was starring in blockbusters, Pine got his start in the early 2000s doing TV series like ERThe Guardian, and CSI: Miami. One of the roles he auditioned for but didn’t get was Ryan Atwood on The O.C.

“We saw Chris Pine,” Rush explained on the podcast, much to the surprise of the hosts and O.C. stars Melinda Clark and Rachel Bilson. “Chris Pine was really, really, really good. But there was — this was painful — Pine’s skin was really bad, and that broke my heart because I was a kid with acne.” 

While Rush thought Pine was talented, he wasn’t what they envisioned Ryan Atwood to be. Ultimately, McKenzie ended up being the one for the role.