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Set in the affluent, upper-class neighborhood of Newport Beach, Calif., The O.C. followed the melodramatic lives of the Cohen family as they navigate through the materialistic world of Orange County’s finest.
During its 2003-07 run on Fox, The O.C. gained a large following of dedicated fans, turning the modern-day soap opera into a pop culture phenomenon. The show carried on for four seasons, with a cast that included Peter Gallagher, Ben McKenzie, Kelly Rowan, Mischa Barton, Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody.
The beloved teen drama premiered on Aug. 5, 2003. In celebration of the anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter checks in on the stars of The O.C. and where they are now in their careers.
Ben McKenzie as Ryan Atwood
Ben McKenzie starts his journey on The O.C. as Ryan Atwood, a troubled 16-year-old with a criminal record and a broken home. After being kicked out of the house by his alcoholic mother, Ryan is taken in by the Cohens, a wealthy family from Newport Beach, where he struggles to adjust to his new posh surroundings. Since his time as a teen outcast on The O.C., McKenzie has continued his work in television. He appeared as Officer Ben Sherman in Southland, in addition to wrapping a five-season run as Detective James Gordon in Gotham, a crime drama following Gotham City prior to the rise of Batman, in 2019. In 2022, McKenzie appeared in Amazon ensemble romance I Want You Back.
Mischa Barton as Marissa Cooper
Mischa Barton portrays Marissa Cooper, the love interest of Ryan Atwood throughout the show. At the end of the third season, Marissa is killed in a car accident, as a result of Barton’s choice to leave The O.C. At a young age, Barton got her start working in theater, having appeared in Tony Kushner’s Slavs! and James Lapine’s Twelve Dreams. Other recent credits include co-starring with Denise Richards in The Toybox, as well as horror films such as The Basement and Ouija House. She also appeared in the cast of MTV’s The Hills: New Beginnings.
Adam Brody as Seth Cohen
Seth Cohen is a socially awkward and eccentric teenager who quickly forms a bond with Ryan Atwood upon the newcomer’s arrival in the Cohen household. Seth, played by Adam Brody, is known for his quick-witted attitude and particular interest in comic books. Brody won four Teen Choice Awards for his performance on The O.C. and has since appeared in films such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sleeping With Other People, Scream 4 and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Other recent credits include the films Shazam!, Big Bear, CHIPS and Promising Young Woman. He is set to appear in the Shazam! sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, next year.
Rachel Bilson as Summer Roberts
Although Summer Roberts was originally intended to be a small supporting character, Bilson’s popularity among viewers led to her pivotal role in The O.C. throughout all four seasons. Summer is Seth’s main love interest on the show, with the two characters ultimately getting married in the final episode. Despite her spoiled and materialistic attitude, Summer later proves to be much more intelligent than she initially lets on. Since her time as a Newport socialite, Bilson has appeared in films such as The Last Kiss and Jumper. She also starred in the television series Hart of Dixie and recently portrayed Alyssa Greene on Nashville and co-starred with Eddie Cibrian on Take Two. Bilson can also be seen appearing in recent episodes of Comedy Central’s Drunk History in 2019.
Peter Gallagher as Sandy Cohen
Before he was idealistic lawyer Sandy Cohen, Peter Gallagher appeared in American Beauty, While You Were Sleeping and the television series The Secret Lives of Men. Currently, Gallagher plays the recurring role of Deputy Chief William Dodds on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and recurs as Nick on Grace and Frankie. Throughout his time on The O.C., Gallagher’s character Sandy often played an influential fatherly role to both Ryan and Seth (Adam Brody).
Kelly Rowan as Kirsten Cohen
Canadian-born actress Kelly Rowan plays Kirsten Cohen, Sandy’s wife. Unlike her husband, Kirsten is a conservative Newport native fully immersed in the high-society lifestyle she was raised in. Despite her upbringing, Kirsten quickly proves her loyalty to her work and to her family, as she comes to accept Ryan Atwood as one of her own. Rowan has made appearances on a variety of television shows including CSI: Miami, Dallas, Growing Pains and the television film Cyberbully. She also co-starred opposite Eric McCormack and Rachael Leigh Cook on the TV series Perception from 2012-15.
Melinda Clarke as Julie Cooper
Melinda Clarke portrays the devious Julie Cooper, mother to Marissa and Kaitlin Cooper. In addition to her work on The O.C., Clarke is known for her television appearances in Days of Our Lives, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Nikita. In 2016, the actress appeared in Fox’s Gotham, alongside former co-star Ben McKenzie. She also had a recurring role on The Vampire Diaries.
Tate Donovan as Jimmy Cooper
Tate Donovan, known for his roles in television series Damages and critically acclaimed film Argo, portrays Jimmy Cooper on The O.C. Jimmy is a loving father who gets caught up in an embezzlement scandal that sends his life into a tailspin. Donovan is also famously recognized for voicing the title character in Disney’s animated film Hercules. He also recently appeared in the TV series reboot of MacGyver and on the big screen in Rocketman.
Alan Dale as Caleb Nichol
Alan Dale plays Kirsten’s father Caleb Nichol, a powerful real estate owner. Since his time as a Newport Beach businessman on The O.C., Dale has appeared in a variety of television shows including Ugly Betty, N.C.I.S., The West Wing, Entourage, Once Upon a Time and Dynasty. The New Zealand-born actor also appeared in films such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Willa Holland as Kaitlin Cooper
Willa Holland plays Kaitlin Cooper, Marissa’s younger sister. Originally portrayed by Shailene Woodley in The O.C.’s first season, Kaitlin spends of much of the show’s beginnings away at boarding school. In the third season, Holland appears as Kaitlin on a recurring basis, to be later added as a cast regular in the final season of the show. Holland also appeared as Agnes Andrews in hit TV drama Gossip Girl and currently stars as Thea Queen in The CW’s Arrow, which will premiere its eighth and final season later this year.
Autumn Reeser as Taylor Townsend
Taylor Townsend, portrayed by Autumn Reeser, first appears on The O.C. in the show’s third season. Taylor is a very intelligent and slightly neurotic overachiever who is identified as the nemesis of Summer Roberts and becomes a love interest to Ryan. Reeser has since appeared in HBO’s Entourage as Lizzie Grant, as well as in Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed film Sully. More recent credits include the series The Arrangement and the TV movies All Summer Long, Love on the Menu and Season for Love.
Chris Pratt as Ché
Although today he is more popularly known as Star-Lord within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Pratt appeared in The O.C.‘s final season as Ché, one of Summer’s classmates at Brown University. Soon after his stint as a recurring cast member of The O.C., Pratt starred in NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation as the beloved Andy Dwyer. Since then, Pratt has appeared in films such as The Five-Year Engagement, Zero Dark Thirty, The Lego Movie, The Tomorrow War, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and related Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and the Jurassic World franchise.
Olivia Wilde as Alex Kelly
Olivia Wilde plays Alex Kelly, a recurring character in The O.C.‘s second season. Alex is the Newport Beach resident bad girl, dating both Seth Cohen and Marissa Cooper during her time on the show. Since her performance on The O.C., Olivia Wilde has made a name for herself starring in films such as Tron: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens, Her and Rush and portraying Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley in another former Fox series, the critically acclaimed medical drama House. More recently, she starred in the show Vinyl and in the film Life Itself and received critical acclaim for her feature film directorial debut, Booksmart. She has since directed her second film Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles.
12:05 p.m., Feb. 22, 2022: This story has been updated with more recent credits.
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