Seth, Summer, Ryan, Marissa, Sandy, Kirsten, Julie, Jimmy… the characters on The O.C. were like our extended group of friends and family. We all wanted to surf with Sandy Cohen, to play video games with Seth, to shop with Summer. They were flawed characters, but that’s part of what made them so interesting and identifiable– and for the younger cast members, the show definitely catapulted them into stardom.
However, while Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson are now definite household names, they aren’t the only ones who got a role on the show when they were relatively unknown. In fact, it seems like a ton of future A-Listers stopped by sunny Newport Beach for a quick guest starring gig or short storyline. Unless you’re a die-hard fan, you probably don’t even remember half of the guest stars on The O.C. because, well, they were kind of nobodies– rising starlets who weren’t really in the big leagues yet but were happy to get a guest starring role on one of television’s hottest shows at the time.
Some of them have grown up and look completely different, some of them look exactly the same, but all of them spent a little bit of time in sunny southern California to play a roommate or old friend or love interest. Whether it was a blip in their now illustrious filmography or their first introduction to a television audience, the celebs who snagged guest roles were probably just grateful to have a cool gig. Here are 15 hot stars you totally forgot were on The O.C.– we can practically hear Phantom Planet’s iconic theme song, can’t you?
15 Amber Heard
Nowadays, Amber Heard is best known for being a sex symbol and the ex-Mrs. Johnny Depp. She’s starred in everything from serious flicks like The Rum Diary and The Danish Girl to more light-hearted roles in films like Magic Mike XXL. Before she made it big in Hollywood, though, Heard appeared briefly in a scene in the second season of the show– “The Mallpisode,” to be specific. Heard played a sassy salesgirl who wasn’t too concerned about customer service a.k.a. exactly the type of salesgirl we would have imagined working in Newport Beach. Her character doesn’t have a name, and is really only in one scene, but still, it’s pretty cool to see a younger Amber Heard on The O.C. We’re frankly a little surprised that her first gig wasn’t as one of the party girls in one of the big party scenes– she definitely had the sex appeal thing going on.
14 Lucy Hale
Thanks to her role as Aria in the smash hit Pretty Little Liars, Lucy Hale has become a household name– everyone knows who the gorgeous brunette is, and fans can hardly wait to see what role she takes on next. However, PLL isn’t the only popular teen drama she’s ever been a part of. Back in 2006, she snagged a role in an episode in the third season of The O.C. Hale was just a teenager at the time, and played just that– a teen who was Kaitlin Cooper’s boarding school roommate. We meet her character when Marissa stops by Kaitlin’s dorm room and is greeted by the sassy roommate. It’s not exactly the kind of scene that requires serious acting chops, and was certainly less dramatic than most of Hale’s scenes on Pretty Little Liars, but it was probably a fun introduction to the world of hit teen television.
13 Paul Wesley
Nowadays, you probably know Paul Wesley from a different hit teen drama– The Vampire Diaries, where he plays the role of Stefan Salvatore. However, before he snagged that prime gig, Paul Wesley was just another young actor trying to get more work– and that included a role on The O.C. Wesley played Donnie, a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who worked with Ryan at the Crab Shack. At first, he seemed like a nice guy, and Ryan loved having someone who wasn’t from the ritzy part of town to joke around with. However, we soon found out that Donnie was a bit unhinged when he pulled a gun on Luke at a party. Of course, Wesley has gotten way more dramatic storylines filled with bloodlust and betrayal and supernatural creatures on The Vampire Diaries, but still, Donnie was a nice introduction to the world of troubled teens.
12 Nikki Reed
It turns out there were a surprising amount of guest stars on The O.C. who went on to have roles playing vampires in other teen movies and television shows– and Nikki Reed is just one of them. You likely know Reed from her role as Rosalie Hale in the Twilight film franchise, or perhaps from her earliest role in the indie hit Thirteen, but she had a pretty significant storyline on The O.C. as well. Reed played Sadie Campbell, a gorgeous girl who is Johnny’s cousin and comes to Orange County in order to help her aunt after Johnny passes away. She catches Ryan’s eye and becomes his rebound after his split with Marissa. The two eventually split when Ryan is accepted into Berkeley and knows he’ll be leaving, and Sadie opts for a fresh start and leaves town to work on her jewellery-making business. In our minds, grown up fictional Sadie now runs a successful Etsy store and is dating a fellow creative.
11 Olivia Wilde
Ah, Olivia Wilde... she’s probably the former O.C. guest star who went on to have the biggest career, as she’s now a definite A-List star married to fellow A-Lister Jason Sudeikis. However, back in her younger years, she played the role of Alex Kelly, the manager of Newport’s hottest venue The Bait Shop. At first, Alex starts up a relationship with Seth, which goes downhill when Alex’s female ex stops by to visit. We then learn that Alex is bisexual, after which she ends up in a relationship with Marissa for a little while. That’s right, Olivia Wilde’s lengthy guest starring gig on the show included a romance with two of the show’s main characters, as well as plenty of bad girl rocker chic outfits and crazy hairstyles. In real life, she’s a lot more tame in her sartorial choices and hairstyles, so we bet it was probably a lot of fun to play Alex Kelly.
10 AnnaLynne McCord
AnnaLynne McCord officially made it when she snagged the role of Naomi Clark on the CW hit teen series 90210. However, before that, she stopped by Newport Beach for a small guest starring role. Her character didn’t actually have a name, but she did star in a dramatic, important scene– she was the girl at prom that Volchok hooked up with, while he was Marissa’s date. Seeing how Marissa was one of the leads, it made it easy for audiences to kind of hate McCord’s nameless, man-stealing character– but she’s definitely no stranger to playing bad girl vixens, so it’s probably all in a day’s work. Hey, say what you want about Volchok, but he certainly managed to snag some crazy hot ladies. McCord received way more notoriety for her leading roles on other hit television shows, but we’d like to think she has a small place in her heart for her nameless O.C. character as well.
9 Morena Baccarin
Morena Baccarin has become a bit of a queen in the nerd world, snagging roles in shows like Firefly, The Flash, and Gotham, as well as the romantic lead in the recent hit film Deadpool. Not to mention, she stunned television audiences recently with her role in the Emmy award-winning show Homeland. However, there’s another show she had a small role on; The O.C. Baccarin played Maya Griffin, the daughter of Matt Ramsay’s boss. She becomes tangled in the messy relationship between Matt, Sandy, and her father Henry– loyalties are tested, drama ensues, and eventually Matt is fired and Maya leaves the show. We haven’t even gotten to the best part, though! While she didn’t really have any scenes with Ryan Atwood on the show, apparently there was some flirtation backstage, because Baccarin is now married to (and has a daughter with) Ben McKenzie. That’s right, we’re going to go ahead and assume that The O.C. made that particular love connection.
8 Max Greenfield
Max Greenfield has become a recognizable face thanks to his new role as the charming yet ridiculous Schmidt on the hit show New Girl. However, before he was everyone’s favourite lovable goofball, he was a younger version of everyone’s favourite father figure, Sandy Cohen. That’s right, in a Valentine’s Day episode where Sandy and Kirsten are remembering the first time they met on campus, Max Greenfield plays a young Sandy Cooper who charms Kirsten with his infectious smile and earnest political activism. At the time, you were probably a bit charmed by the younger version of Sandy Cohen, and looking back, it’s easy to see why Greenfield has gone on to have a successful career– he’s definitely a scene stealer whose smile could captivate anyone watching. We would absolutely pay to watch a spin-off where Max Greenfield plays Sandy Cohen as he moves to Berkeley and starts tearing it up in the legal sphere.
7 Chris Pratt
Okay, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you definitely know who Chris Pratt is. He became a well-known name after snagging the role of the goofy Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. Then, he became a legit A-List movie star, with leading roles in highly anticipated blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. However, before he got all shredded and became a movie star, Pratt was showing off his comedic chops as Winchester “Che” Cook, a student who was attending Brown with Summer and ended up getting her expelled because he convinced her to break into a science lab. His storyline (helping Seth find his spirit animal, all while clad in ridiculous clothing) is a little comical, but Pratt sort of pulled it off– proof that he really is a star. While most fans would probably rather see his sexy physique on the big screen, there’s no doubting that Pratt excels in the world of television just as well.
6 Shailene Woodley
Nowadays, Shailene Woodley is one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood. Sure, she may have gotten more attention lately for her activism and opinions than for her actual work, but she also had countless roles on successful television shows and in successful film franchises, appearing in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Descendants, The Fault in Our Stars, the Divergent franchise and more. However, in her younger years, she played pre-teen Kaitlin Cooper on The O.C. When you think of the character of Kaitlin Cooper, chances are you think of Willa Holland, who played her later in the series when Kaitlin had a slightly bigger role. However, Shailene played the youngest Cooper daughter when she was just a pre-teen with a pony with alopecia. Her star continues to rise, and it’s no surprise she’s doing so well– she started in Hollywood when she was still just a kid.
5 Emmanuelle Chriqui
Okay, remember the storyline where Alex (played by Olivia Wilde) gets all confused because her ex-girlfriend shows up out of the blue? Well, on the show, that sexy ex was played by none other than Emmanuelle Chriqui. The casting decision makes sense– Chriqui has played countless vixen roles, although usually she’s playing a character that men lust after rather than one who is all about the ladies. It was tough to like her character, Jodie, because… well, at that point in the show, most people were rooting for Alex and Seth to succeed. Chriqui has slowly been adding meatier roles to her resume, snagging gigs in Fort Bliss, The Ordained and Entourage. She continues to get steady work in Hollywood, and we can’t wait to see what role she tackles next– the only thing that is for certain is she’s guaranteed to look unbelievably gorgeous no matter what character she plays.
4 Bella Thorne
Okay, out of all the current celebrities who had guest starring roles on The O.C., this is probably the one you’re least likely to identify– because she looks totally different. Now, most people know Bella Thorne as a gorgeous redhead who got her start on the Disney channel and has since gone on to roles in movies like The Duff. At just 19, there’s no doubt that she’s still a rising star who is just at the beginning of her Hollywood career, but she got her start at a way, way earlier age. You may not recall, but in a flashback scene between a young Taylor Townsend and Summer Roberts, it’s a bespectacled Bella Thorne who plays baby Taylor Townsend. It hardly looks like the same person, because she was still a child at the time, but it proves that Bella Thorne was always destined for stardom– I mean, it takes a special child actor to get a gig on a hit television show.
3 Jeri Ryan
This is one of the few celebs who was a fairly big star before appearing on The O.C., but many of her existing fans probably had no idea she had a guest role on the popular teen show. Jeri Ryan rose to fame as a cast member on Star Trek: Voyager, and then re-entered the television world as Charlotte Morgan, a friend that Kirsten makes in rehab who is later uncovered (by the sleuthing Julie Cooper-Nichol) to be a con artist trying to steal Kirsten’s money. She definitely wasn’t a fan favourite on that show like she was on Star Trek, but she was certainly a memorable character. Josh Schwartz has since dished that Jeri Ryan’s role was one they were essentially told to create, and that they didn’t think it quite worked out as well as they would have wanted it to. Well, it’s not as if Ryan’s entire career was based on the role of Charlotte Morgan– she’s gone on to have roles on shows including Arrow, Two and a Half Men, and Law & Order: SVU.
2 Ashley Benson
It turns out that Lucy Hale isn’t the only Pretty Little Liars alum to have snagged a guest role on The O.C. When she was just a teen starlet trying to make it in Hollywood, Ashley Benson also had a small role. Benson appeared in a season four episode entitled “The Summer Bummer” where she was battling it out for the very, very important role of Social Chair. As everyone knows, it was a role that Marissa Cooper herself held, so it’s no surprise that it would be a high demand post. If you stop to think about it, it’s actually pretty amazing– that episode aired over ten years ago, which means that Ashley Benson has been able to stay looking young enough to play a teen for over ten years. Whatever her anti-aging secret is, she should definitely keep it on the down low. She might even be able to keep playing teens on hit television shows for another decade if she’s lucky.
1 Kayla Ewell
Okay, seriously... something about that Newport Beach sunshine and cattiness seems to have prepared countless actors for roles as vampires, because Kayla Ewell is yet another actress who went from a guest starring gig on The O.C. to a larger role as a vampire on another teen hit. For those who don’t recognize her name, Ewell played Vicki Donovan, a character who appeared on the first season of The Vampire Diaries. She was the bad girl going to high school with Elena and the crew, ended up getting turned into a vampire, and eventually became the first one killed off. However, back in the day, Ewell played a character who was BFFs with Johnny, one of Marissa’s friends on the show. It wasn’t a particularly remarkable character, but Ewell has done fairly well for herself in her other roles, so her time on The O.C. was likely just a fun way to spend some time in the sunshine in a wetsuit.