Mischa Barton Reveals Bullying, Work Environment Led to Her ‘O.C.’ Exit: “I Felt Very Unprotected”

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The O.C. delivered a devastating Season 3 finale with the death of Marissa Cooper, and over a decade later, series star Mischa Barton is finally ready to talk about it. In a new interview with E! News, Barton revealed what led to her character’s death on the show and what was going on behind the scenes of the hit teen drama.

Barton admitted thats she’s “always felt ashamed” to “really talk about what went on.” She told E! News, “I’ve always been a very private person and very aware of people’s feelings. Now that we’re living in this era where we do speak out about our experiences and women do come clean about what was really going on behind the scenes and how they were treated, it’s a slightly different thing.”

The O.C. star explained that her departure from the show was “a bit complicated,” but “started pretty early on” with the addition of Rachel Bilson, who played Summer on the show. “It had a lot to do with them adding Rachel [Bilson] in last minute as, after the first season, a series regular and evening out everybody’s pay — and sort of general bullying from some of the men on set that kind of felt really s–tty,” Barton explained.

Still, she insisted that she “loved the show” and created her own coping mechanisms to keep moving forward. “[I] had to build up my own walls and ways of getting around dealing with that and the fame that was thrust specifically at me,” she said. “Just dealing with like the amount of invasion I was having in my personal life, I just felt very unprotected, I guess is the best way to put it.”

While on The O.C., Barton claimed she was working “the longest hours probably out of all the characters,” telling E! News, “There were people on that set that were very mean to me. It wasn’t, like, the most ideal environment for a young, sensitive girl who’s also been thrust into stardom to have to put up with.”

When asked when the show turned sour, Barton said things began to fall apart around the second season, when they began doubling up on episodes and shooting became more difficult. “[A] lot of that was too much for me,” Barton said. “I didn’t know where the character was going … there’s stuff I think people did wrong and the way they handled it. So, I just didn’t feel I could keep going.”

So, the producers gave her an option to keep her job or kill off her character, Barton explained. And as any O.C. fan knows by now, she chose the latter. “It just felt like it was the best thing for me and my health and just in terms of not really feeling protected by my cast and crew at that point,” Barton said.

Looking back, Barton admitted the show could have handled the situation better. “They made me feel like the show is going to go on with or without you and it is what it is.” Still, ending her time on The O.C. was bittersweet. “I was really sad I was going because that was like my family, but there had also been some things that weren’t so cool and I would be lying to say I wasn’t a little bit relieved that I was going to extricate myself from that situation,” she said.

While Warner Bros. TV declined to comment and Fox denied E!’s request, series creator Josh Schwartz briefly touched on Barton’s exit in a 2017 Daily Beast interview. “It was born out of a number of issues: Creative, cast chemistry, ratings,” he said, adding, “Mischa didn’t want off the show any more than any of the other kids wanted off the show. It was a complicated chemistry with the cast…but she certainly wasn’t actively seeking to leave the show.”

The O.C. is now streaming on HBO Max. Head to the E! News website to read the full Mischa Barton interview.

Where to watch The O.C.

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