There have been plenty of teen dramas on television over the past decade– shows about wealthy, big city kids like Gossip Girl, shows about high school athletes like One Tree Hill, shows set in major metropolitan cities, shows set in small, rural towns, reboots of former classics like 90210, the list goes on and on. And, many of those shows ran for five, seven, even ten seasons– far more than The O.C. However, fans keep returning to Newport Beach because, well, there was just something special about it.
Somehow, Sandy Cohen’s sage advice always seemed like it was kind of meant for us as well. Fans identified with someone on the cast, whether they were a geeky outsider like Seth, someone who felt totally out of their element like Ryan, the queen bee like Marissa, or the underestimated beauty like Summer. We all wanted to hang out in the Cohens’ pool house and get a front row seat to all the relationship drama and life drama that unfolded. We wanted to set sail to Catalina with Seth. The O.C. has officially been off the air for a decade now (it wrapped in 2007– we couldn’t believe it either!), and while some of the outfits or references might seem a bit dated, there’s still so much to love about the show.
Here are 15 things you might not have known about The O.C.
15. Josh Schwartz Was Only 25 When He Started Writing The Show
Television writers at the helm of their own show, the ones who create the entire concept, come from all over the place. Some, like Mindy Kaling, get their start as part of a larger writing team before earning their own shows. Others, like Shonda Rhimes, start out in the film world before making the move to the small screen. Others just get plain lucky. Now, Josh Schwartz was definitely trained in the art of writing for television– he studied it at USC. However, he managed to write and garner interest in the pilot of The O.C. when he was just 25 years old, which is crazy young. He had worked on a few projects before then, but suddenly at 26 years old, he found himself as the show-runner of a big network teen drama– a position that was entirely new to him. It was a learning process, Schwartz himself has admitted, but he certainly pulled it off!
14. The Producers Hated Adam Brody
The O.C. just wouldn’t be the same without Adam Brody. The geeky outcast is a character that has been done on several shows, and done fairly well, but Adam Brody just brought something special to the role that made everyone watching fall head over heels in love with Seth Cohen. However, the producers didn’t particularly love him– in fact, at first, they absolutely hated him. You see, Brody was still a young actor, and was actually auditioning for several pilots at the time he auditioned for The O.C. He was running around, trying to learn all he needed to know, and just ran out of time for preparation– so he came to his audition for The O.C. totally unprepared, and decided to wing it. It didn’t go very well, and Schwartz even told the producers that he never wanted to see Brody again. However, after a month with no Seth in sight, they decided to bring back Brody– and we’re pretty sure they’re glad they made that call.
13. Ben McKenzie Was Working As A Telemarketer When He Got The Part
It’s no secret that struggling actors almost always have a side hustle that helps to pay the bills while they’re auditioning and trying to get their big break. The stereotype of the barista or waitress who is an aspiring actress is there for a reason– there’s a lot of them. Ben McKenzie is no different. At the time when he auditioned for the role of Ryan Atwood, he was actually working for a temp agency as a telemarketer, driving a five hundred dollar old beater of a car. “The phone rang and they said I got The O.C.,” McKenzie said in an interview. “I did drive to work and I did tell my boss I’m not coming back, but that was about as much as I ever did. That was a pretty good moment.” We bet! And we can’t help but wonder if McKenzie was charming on the phone as a telemarketer or whether he was the strong and silent type, like Ryan.
12. The Cohens’ Pool Is Only Four Feet Deep
Many, many scenes throughout the course of the show were filmed in or near the Cohen family’s pool. After all, Ryan stayed in the pool house, so he and Seth were always hanging around near there. And second, the show was set in sunny California, so you know they were frequently cooling down in those refreshing depths. On the show, it seemed like a standard pool that Ryan and Seth could fully submerge themselves in, but in actuality, the pool on set was only four feet deep. That meant in order to make it look like it was a regular pool, anyone filming in the pool had to be on their knees, pretending it was deeper than it actually was. Any scenes involving diving into the pool were probably pretty nerve wracking! Although, there’s a silver lining– it was probably easier to be on their knees for long scenes than to be forced to tread water in a deep pool for hours on end.
11. Rachel Bilson Was Originally Supposed To Be A Guest Star
Okay, can you honestly imagine The O.C. without Summer Roberts? Luckily, you didn’t have to, but that wasn’t always the plan. Initially, Summer was only supposed to be a guest star, which made sense from her first few appearances, where she was portrayed as a dumb party girl who didn’t really have a lot of complex character development. However, Bilson just brought something so special to the role that the producers decided to make her a main character– and that was a decision they probably didn’t regret. Summer became one half of the adorable Seth and Summer, she became Marissa’s strong BFF, she went through a lot of drama in her personal life, she proved to everyone that she wasn’t just a dumb brunette by getting into exclusive Ivy League schools… she was a force to be reckoned with, to put it simply. We absolutely cannot imagine The O.C. without Summer, so we’re glad they opted to make her a main character.
10. Berkeley Created A Fellowship Program Inspired By Sandy Cohen
While the majority of the show was about the lives of the younger cast members and their journey through high school and college, there were also many storylines dedicated to the lives of the parents and adult figures– and none was more beloved than Sandy Cohen. While many shows would opt to have Sandy be a high flying lawyer with the astronomical salary needed to afford the type of mansion the Cohens had in their particular gated community, on The O.C., Kirsten was actually the main breadwinner and Sandy was a hard-working public defender who didn’t make anywhere near what big shot corporate lawyers would make. It’s because he was passionate about what he believed in– and Berkeley acknowledged the admirable character by creating a Sandy Cohen Public Defender Fellowship program in 2004. It’s a cool idea. Sandy’s career choices were admirable and he obviously was very good at what he did, so the idea that he might help inspire a new generation of lawyers is pretty awesome.
9. Mischa Barton Spoiled Marissa’s Death
All actors and actresses know that they’re not supposed to spoil what happens on the show. In fact, on some shows where the unveiling of secrets is a big deal, the actors and actresses aren’t even given the scripts themselves until the last minute to minimize any possibility of leaks. Now, while The O.C. had its fair share of plot twists and crazy cliffhangers, there weren’t many bigger than Marissa Cooper’s death. After all, she was one of the show’s main characters! Mischa Barton was likely told time and time again to keep her lips sealed about the twist when asked by the press about what was coming up on the show, and she did a good job– until about an hour before the finale. Just before the finale aired, after keeping it a secret until that point, Barton accidentally revealed to Access Hollywood that Marissa Cooper was dying in the season finale. Whoops!
8. Ryan Was Initially Going To Be Sandy’s Illegitimate Child
Ryan Atwood and Sandy Cohen first meet when Sandy is appointed to be Ryan’s public defender. He quickly becomes a father figure to him, and there’s no doubt that Seth and Ryan become almost like brothers who are always there for one another and always have each other’s backs. However, the producers initially had a big twist in mind. Now, everyone remembers the twist when the Cohens find out that Lindsey– a classmate of theirs at Harbour, and someone Ryan is interested in– is actually a part of their family, as she’s Caleb’s illegitimate child. It turns out, the producers initially had a similar concept in mind for Ryan; they thought it would be interesting for him to be Sandy’s illegitimate child. While it would have made for some scandalous television, we kind of dig the fact that they went in another direction; it proved that they could be a true family without having to actually have blood ties, and that’s a touching message to send.
7. Adam Brody Hates Boats
One of Seth Cohen’s passions is sailing– in the pilot episode, he takes Ryan for a spin on his sailboat, and at one point in the show he sails all the way to Catalina. It’s a big part of his character– the only problem is, Adam Brody really isn’t a big fan of boats. For the big scene in “The Ties that Bind” when Seth sails away from Newport Beach, Adam Brody isn’t actually the man in the boat– they snagged a stunt double in a wig who was responsible for sailing away into the sunset. Hey, we get it… some actors are afraid of heights, others absolutely hate bugs, and some aren’t big fans of boats. One of the benefits of becoming a big star is that you’re able to get a stunt double for those types of situations if you really want one, and Brody was probably pretty happy he got to just sit on the sidelines for that particular scene.
6. It Was Originally Going To Be Called Orange County
The title The O.C. fit the show perfectly– it had a little bit more of a cool factor, an irreverence that simply calling it by the place’s actual geographical name wouldn’t have had. It all worked out in the end, but initially, the producers wanted to simply call the show Orange County. The problem is, there was a movie with that title that came out a year prior to when the show was supposed to premiere, so the producers likely felt that may have created a bit of confusion for new viewers– and so, they opted to change the title. And, the minute Luke spat “welcome to the O.C.” at Ryan, it officially became a thing. It just goes to show that sometimes, even when it initially looks like something is going to be a disaster, it can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Nowadays, not many people will remember that movie, but plenty of fans still remember and love The O.C.
5. Seth Was Originally Going To Be In The Popular Clique
One of the best parts of the show, hands down, is Seth Cohen. His rise from invisible outsider to a guy with a close circle of friends was great, and plenty of fans identified with his position as a bit of a geeky outsider. Plus, it gives his friendship with Ryan a fantastic starting point– though he’s lived in Newport Beach his entire life, he’s just as much of an outsider as Ryan is when the show starts. However, that wasn’t always the plan. Initially, the writers figured Seth would be a part of the popular clique, but they eventually changed their minds and decided the character would be more interesting if he were an outsider. We’re glad they made the decision that they did. While Brody is a talented actor who could have pulled it off, we just can’t picture Seth Cohen as a popular guy, swaggering around the beach.
4. Captain Oats And Princess Sparkle Were Inspired By Schwartz’ Dad’s Job
No, Josh Schwartz’s father didn’t have a crazy toy horse collection– but he did have a cool job at Hasbro, which is part of what inspired the two main characters’ iconic toy sidekicks. At the time his father was at Hasbro, according to Schwartz, My Little Pony was a pretty big deal; so he got the idea of giving Seth a toy horse, and after one of the writers penned a hilarious line about Captain Oats, he decided to make him Seth’s constant companion. They wanted to give Summer her own version, so Princess Sparkle was born. It’s a fun plot detail, and the moment where Seth and Summer realize they both have toy horses that they love is pretty adorable. And, while the inspiration is cute, we can’t help but love Captain Oats and Princess Sparkle way more than the generic My Little Pony toys– those horses had character!
3. The Seth/Summer Romance Was Real
Nowadays, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson are both married to other celebrities and living happy lives– Bilson has been with Hayden Christensen for nearly ten years, and the two have a daughter together, and Brody married actress Leighton Meester, with whom he has a daughter. However, in their younger years, when the show was going on, they actually dated in real life. That’s right. That Seth/Summer chemistry was so incredible partially because they had chemistry in real life. The duo dated from 2003 to 2006, so basically the entire run of the show, which likely made all those hours spent together on set pretty fun– it probably made that crazy Spiderman kiss less awkward, that’s for sure. It didn’t work out in the long run, but it’s still a fun thing to know. So next time you re-watch your favourite Seth/Summer moments, you can imagine what the real life Rachel/Adam romance may have been like back in the day.
2. It Wasn’t Filmed In Newport Beach
The whole show was about the rich, gated community of Newport Beach, California, and there are plenty of gorgeous beach scenes shot throughout the show, so you’d assume that they would just shoot it right in Newport Beach, right? Well, not quite. It turns out that filming in Newport Beach costs a lot of money, so instead, they opted to film nearby in Manhattan Beach, with a lot of beach scenes shot in Torrance and Redondo Beach. And, if you were wondering where Harbour School, the exclusive high school they went to, is really set, it’s actually Mount St. Mary’s University, a small Catholic liberal arts college in Los Angeles. There’s no point in paying unnecessarily large sums of money for certain locations when you really can’t tell the difference on film, so we get the decision to film in other parts of the state– and frankly, we just appreciate that they filmed in California to keep that authentic Cali vibe.
1. They Almost Had A Different Theme Song
On many shows, the theme song is just an irritating part that you fast forward through to get to the start of the show. However, on The O.C., it was something most fans legitimately loved– and sang along to every time it played. Phantom Planet’s “California” was just such a perfect fit for the show, both in terms of the lyrics and in terms of the overall feel. It wasn’t actually one that the producers initially loved, though. You see, with the music on the show, they tried to introduce fans to artists and songs that weren’t as well known– hidden gems that would lead fans to new music they never would have otherwise heard of. At the time when the show started, “California” was actually a bit too mainstream for their tastes, and they didn’t want to use it. It ended up being the theme song because they desperately needed something prior to the pilot’s premiere, and everyone actually loved it when they saw it in the context of the show.