Whatever Happened To The Cast Of The OC?

Despite the fact that it only aired for four seasons, "The O.C." managed to dominate pop culture between 2003 and 2007. Looking back on it, the show's cast boasted a fairly incredible number of veteran actors and brand new faces, including the foursome that made up the show's core teens: Mischa Barton, Ben McKenzie, Adam Brody, and Rachel Bilson. 

Executive producer Stephanie Savage once explained to MTV News what made "The O.C." special from the jump. Unlike a traditional teen soap, which largely fixates on the girls and women in the show, creator Josh Schwartz was focused on the relationship between the characters played by McKenzie and Brody. She said, "I had never seen that before. The idea of a nighttime soap opera that's driven through these male relationships. That was a light-bulb moment for me."

For a lot of people, "The O.C." was a major moment in pop culture history. For many of the teens and adults who starred on the show, it was the catapult that launched their careers. Here's a look at where the cast of "The O.C." ended up after the show was cancelled.

Mischa Barton struggled for years following the show

As fans of "The O.C." know, Mischa Barton played the character at the center of the series, Marissa Cooper. Born to Jimmy and Julie Cooper, Marissa is the oldest of two kids and the neighbor of the beloved Cohen family. She and Benjamin McKenzie's Ryan Atwood connect early in the series, and a lot of plot lines focus on the pair's perpetual "will they or won't they" energy.

Despite being so important to "The O.C.," Barton's character was killed off in Season 3. Her death came as a shock to fans, especially as Marissa Cooper was so integral to the show. Show creator Josh Schwartz was somewhat evasive when explaining to E! News why the character was killed off, saying that while Barton didn't particularly want to leave the show, the decision was based on a lot of things. He said, "It was born out of a number of issues: Creative, cast chemistry, ratings."

Per People, in the years that followed, Barton was open about her struggle with the immediate fame she experienced from the show. She partied alongside Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan, gained and lost weight amid body image struggles, and was committed to a psych ward after suffering a nervous breakdown. However, her IMDb page reveals she has worked steadily since her 2006 exit from "The O.C.," though none of her roles have been as impactful as that of Marissa Cooper.

Ben McKenzie ended up on Broadway

It might be hard for die-hard Ryan Atwood fans to imagine, but Ben McKenzie began his acting career in theatre, and that's also where he found himself again in a post-"O.C." world. After graduating from the University of Virginia, McKenzie first moved to New York to pursue stage work. When that didn't pan out, he moved to Los Angeles and began auditioning for various roles, including "The O.C." McKenzie won the role of Ryan Atwood less than a year after his California move, according to Broadway.

McKenzie explained that his move to Los Angeles happened after a friend offered a spot to sleep on his floor and introduction to an agent. As he told Broadway, the suggestion was more promising than what he was doing in New York, so he acted on it, and the rest is history. After he concluded his fourth season on "The O.C.," McKenzie had several more television roles, including a few stints on "Gotham" and "Southland."

Ben married his wife, actress Morena Baccarin, in 2017, and the pair share two children (per Us Weekly). The family currently lives in New York, and McKenzie signed on for his first Broadway production in February 2020 (via Broadway).

Adam Brody has continued working on TV shows and movies

Like the rest of the teen actors on "The O.C.," Adam Brody, who portrayed the character Seth Cohen, quickly became a household name. Per Wild About Movies, Brody had committed to acting at the age of 19 after dropping out of community college and hiring both a manager and an acting coach. He was eventually cast as Dave Rygalski in "Gilmore Girls" before moving on to the role that has still defined much of his career.

In the years following the cancellation of "The O.C.," Brody has continued to appear on television. He also managed to make the leap from small to big screen and began starring in movies, too. Next to his time on "The O.C.," Brody has said that he's probably best known for his role in the film "Shazam" — even if that's just because audiences recognized the guy who played Seth Cohen and got excited. He explained to GQ, "'The goodwill was there and people seemed to genuinely miss me and miss me as that character, and it made me feel good."

In addition to a successful film career, Brody has also become a husband (to actress Leighton Meester in 2014) and dad to two, a daughter named Arlo and a son (per Harper's Bazaar).

Rachel Bilson has had a successful TV career

Rachel Bilson played Marissa Cooper's best friend, Summer Roberts, on "The O.C." While Summer was initially portrayed as a shallow party girl, the character experiences tremendous growth throughout the series. Bilson told the Observer that she is proud of her character's transition, explaining, "The main thread that kind of goes through the whole series is how strong she is, and I love that. Just to see how far she goes, I feel proud."

In the years that followed the show, Bilson built quite a successful television career while also becoming a mom. Per Us Weekly, she and ex-boyfriend Hayden Christensen welcomed their daughter Briar Rose in 2014. As Hello! Magazine explained, Bilson told Entertainment Weekly that she quickly became quite adept at balancing the demands of motherhood and work, often with the help of her then-partner Christensen and her mother, who Bilson refers to as her daughter's "granny nanny." For example, her mother was able to take on nanny duties while Bilson filmed a role on the TV series "Nashville" for around four months.

Bilson's additional TV credits include four years on "How I Met Your Mother," five seasons on "Hart of Dixie," and several episodes of "Take Two."

Peter Gallagher was successful before and after the show

While all the then-teen actors on the show were more or less entering "The O.C." as novices, there were also plenty of acting veterans in the cast. Enter Peter Gallagher, who, alongside his famous eyebrows, was cast as the Cohen family patriarch, do-good lawyer Sandy Cohen. Audiences loved Gallagher's portrayal of Sandy Cohen, and it turns out the actor loved the show right back. As he told People, "We really had something with that show, and the audience felt the same way."

Gallagher also told People that as soon as he read the script for "The O.C.," he knew it was something that the country needed. He's the type of star that has been lucky to have lightning strike again and again in his career. Long after his time in Orange County came to a close, Gallagher was offered a part on "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" that appealed to him much in the same way "The O.C." did. He explained to People why, saying, "There are so many efforts by people to divide us, but 'Zoey's' is about what connects us."

Gallagher has also recently entertained audiences on Netflix's hit series "Grace & Frankie," where he worked alongside veteran actor Mary Steenburgen, who also played his wife on "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" (per Decider).

Melinda Clarke started a podcast about The O.C. with Rachel Bilson

Melinda Clarke is one of those actors who seems only too happy to celebrate the roles she's had in the past and present no matter what, which can definitely be a refreshing trait. As Julie Cooper, who later became Julie Cooper Nichol, Clarke was both loved and hated. Like Rachel Bilson's Summer Roberts, Clarke's character was initially presented as superficial and vain but the actress was able to masterfully create a character who had the capacity to grow, love, hurt, and scheme — a character who revealed she wasn't as one-dimensional as we all thought. Clarke told Refinery29, "She's a human being on a journey of discovery, which takes her through so many different aspects of what's important in life. ... The character was super rewarding."

These days, Clarke has returned to "The O.C." by way of one of the most popular forms of media this days: a podcast, aptly titled "Welcome to the O.C., B***es!" She and Bilson host the show, during which they dig into episodes of "The O.C." and bring on guest stars (read: their former co-stars) to weigh in on what happens. Clarke told The A.V. Club that recording the podcast is delightfully different from being on a TV show, explaining, "I think that's what's unique about podcasting for us; there's no script or lighting or editing. It's not being put out as a product. It's perfectly imperfect."

Autumn Reeser is well-known on Hallmark these days

Autumn Reeser joined "The O.C." in season 4 following the death of Marissa Cooper. As Taylor Townshend, Reeser played a high-achieving student, and it turns out that the character might not be that far removed from what the actress is like in real life. As shared by Romper, these days Reeser is busy balancing her successful acting career with her all-important mothering duties. In the years that have followed the cancellation of "The O.C.," Reeser has made a name for herself by starring in a string of Hallmark films.

Even though she's often busy with her two sons, Reeser told Romper that having kids has actually helped her career tremendously. For one thing, she believes in the roles she accepts more than ever. She explained, "Being a mother has really helped me trust my instincts. I've been better able to find the stuff that I genuinely want to do, and [projects] I am genuinely interested in."

Reeser is also the founder of lifestyle e-magazine Move Lifestyle, which aims to help support working moms. As a mom who sometimes has a demanding schedule filming 12-16 hours a day, Reeser told Career Contessa that she prefers to look at work-life balance through a year-long lens as opposed to a daily one. It's insights like that which definitely help her appeal to her fellow working mothers.

Tate Donovan still acts and has become a director

As Jimmy Cooper, Tate Donovan played husband to Julie, father to Marissa, and ex-boyfriend to Kirsten Cohen. He and his family weathered numerous financial and personal ups and downs, including tax problems, divorce, and the death of a child. Though he acted on the show, Donovan also worked as a director on several episodes, a job title he continued to fill after the conclusion of "The O.C."

Donovan told Vulture that as a director, working with young actors was often a pretty big challenge. He claims that many of the young actors on the show had bad attitudes and felt like they should be doing something else with their careers, saying, "They just didn't want to be doing the show anymore. It was pretty tough, they were very tough to work with." Donovan added that he understood the youth on the show because he was once a young actor, but that didn't make the experience any easier.

Donovan has also continued to act in the years since the show ended. His IMDb page shows that he's had several roles on TV, including on "Damages" and "24."

Kelly Rowan has taken on a few small roles

Fans of "The O.C." remember Kelly Rowan as Kirsten Cohen, the holiday-loving, driven wife of Sandy Cohen. While filming the show, Rowan was pretty open about her desire to branch out and play different characters once her time as Kirsten Cohen came to a close. She explained to CTV News that she struggled to keep things interesting after playing the character for years. Rowan said, "You're doing the same character week after week after week and you have to find ways to keep that interesting for yourself."

Rowan made good on that goal for a few years, first starring in "In God's Country" before moving on to other projects, but it seems that her most recent work was a 2016 TV movie titled "Tulips in Spring," per her IMDb page. In more recent years, Rowan seems to have changed her tune about "The O.C." and has even enjoyed looking back on the show with co-stars Melinda Clarke and Rachel Bilson on their podcast (via Podtail).

Chris Carmack starred on Nashville and Grey's Anatomy

Chris Carmack played Logan Ward, the jock boyfriend of Marissa Cooper who excelled at water polo and was known for being a bit rude. It's safe to say that the show helped launch Carmack's successful career, but he's been open about the fact that he's not really in touch with any of his former cast mates, though he chalks that up more to his upbringing than anything that did or didn't happen on the show. As he told HuffPost, "I was from small town Maryland, and I had been in LA for a year and a half, so I guess I should have had more of a perception of how LA worked and its size, but I literally just thought I was going to see these people all the time." Instead, his character was written off in the second season, and that was the end of that.

After leaving "The O.C.," Carmack has enjoyed a few popular roles. He starred on ABC's "Nashville" as singer-songwriter Will Lexington for several seasons and even went on tour in the U.S. and the U.K. with several of his cast mates. The show eventually moved to CMT after ABC cancelled it (per Building Our Own Nashville). Carmack currently plays Dr. Atticus Lincoln on "Grey's Anatomy," a role he's had since 2018.

Alan Dale has enjoyed a long acting career

Alan Dale delighted and disappointed fans as Caleb Nichol on "The O.C." but he was a household name in many circles long before his time on the show. Dale was fired from the Australian soap opera "Neighbours" more than 20 years ago, and he told TV Week that a better thing couldn't have happened to him (via the Daily Mail). He subsequently moved to the United States, where he's enjoyed an on-going, successful career that has also included stints on "Lost," "Entourage," and "NCIS," to name a few.

In 2007, Dale also took a dig at his former television home during an interview. While speaking to the NZ Herald, he noted that "The O.C." wasn't doing so well without him. He said, "I've been lucky in lots of ways in shows like 'The O.C.' that have become a smash. Then I leave and it dies." Despite the ups and downs that come with trying to make it as an actor, Dale told HoboTrashcan that's exactly what he enjoys so much about the job. He explained, "Life isn't safe and in the business that I'm in ... you can be out of work tomorrow. It's quite an exciting place to be. I don't have any idea and that's probably a good thing."

Willa Holland is now known for her role in Arrow

While Willa Holland was rarely, if ever, the center of attention when she played Marissa Cooper's younger sister Kaitlin on "The O.C.," in the years that have passed she has made quite a name for herself on yet another hugely popular show, "Arrow." Holland's parents are Hollywood veterans (an actress and a cinematographer, respectively), and she told Wonderland Magazine back in 2013 that growing up on film sets had a big impact on who she is as a person. She explained, "I think that living in Hollywood my whole life has helped hone that. I've dealt with a lot in my 21 years."

Holland made a point of working on other jobs in between breaks from "The O.C.," which made her transition from the show pretty seamless. She was a series regular on the original "Gossip Girl" from 2008 to 2012 and started working on "Arrow" as soon as she left her "Gossip Girl" role, per IMDb. Her most recent film credit is for a short titled "Pure Immersion," which was released in 2020.

Samaire Armstrong has become quite political

Samaire Armstrong joined the cast of "The O.C." as Seth Cohen's best friend, Anna, who clearly had a major crush on him. While her IMDb page shows that Armstrong has regularly worked since the show ended, it's fair to say that most people still identify her with the character she played on "The O.C." Recently, Armstrong has been outspoken about why she thinks that might be, and it turns out she believes it has a lot to do with race.

While speaking to PragerU for their "Stories of Us" series in early 2021, Armstrong explained that she believes she is discriminated against as a white person in Hollywood. Armstrong says, "Over the last six years I've heard nonstop, 'They're not looking for white. It's going too diverse. They liked you, but you're white.'" She goes on to add that while she thinks it's "great" that "diversity is finally here," she also believes that "all the nuances of art disappeared" once shows and movies became more diverse (via YouTube).

Armstrong has also spoken out against Black Lives Matter, a stance she details in a lengthy post on Instagram. Despite her implication that she's not receiving roles because she's white, Armstrong will be seen in "Terror on the Prairie" in 2022. 

Olivia Wilde is a bona fide movie star and director now

Olivia Wilde's career was launched by "The O.C" when she joined the cast as Alex Kelly, a bisexual teen who ended up dating both Marissa Cooper and Seth Cohen at the same time. Alex was also the manager of the local hangout, The Bait Shop, which made her character extra cool. Wilde told E! News that being on the show used to be something she didn't want to talk about, but these days she understands the impact the show had on her own life. She explained, "And now I think, ah, that was really formative and I'm lucky I got to do that."

Since leaving the show, Wilde has only blossomed as both an actor and a director. As she told CNBC in 2019, her career has taken a pivot in her mid-30s, and she's completely here for it. She said, "I have been an actress since I was a teenager and now I'm 35 and I'm really leaning into a new career of directing full-time." To date, Wilde has directed eight films since her directorial debut in 2011, per IMDb.