‘The O.C.’ Creator Josh Schwartz Just Revealed Who Was Almost Cast as Ryan and Marissa
The O.C. almost had a super different cast. Josh Schwartz, one of the creators of the hit series, chatted with stars Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke on the first episode of their new podcast, Welcome to the O.C., Bitches, and revealed which actors nearly got the lead parts of “bad boy with a good heart” Ryan Atwood and troubled debutante Marissa Cooper.
For the part of Ryan, Schwartz revealed, early frontrunners included Garrett Hedlund and D.J. Cotrona. Ben McKenzie, who got the part, came to him courtesy of a recommendation from another executive on the WB lot. “We had looked at a lot of people, and [McKenzie] had read for a show, a comedy for the then-UPN, and didn’t get it. And one of the executives at Warner Bros. said, ‘We just saw this kid, he’s really good, you should see him,’” Schwartz revealed to Bilson and Clarke, who played the spoiled Summer Roberts and the image-obsessed Julie Cooper, respectively.
Schwartz continued, “I remember walking up to the casting office and Ben was just outside, I believe he was smoking…. He gave us not a big warm hello. I was like, This guy’s really interesting. It’s a different way than we envisioned it. He was so good and felt so soulful.”
As for the role of teen queen Marissa, it came down to Mischa Barton, who would end up getting it, and Olivia Wilde. “[Wilde] had just moved out to L.A., it was one of her first auditions and was super compelling,” said Schwartz (per JustJared), adding that because Barton is two years younger than Wilde (a pretty big difference when you’re a teen), her performance “just had a bit more of that tragic air to her.”
Wilde would end up appearing on the show during the second season. Hot people in Southern California have a way of finding each other, don’t they?