It was her, or the show.
Twenty years after teen soap “The O.C.” made its much-discussed debut on Fox in 2003, creator Josh Schwartz and producer Stephanie Savage have revealed the primary reason behind the shock death of popular character Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) at the end of the third season — the network bigs wanted ratings.
“We were…under tremendous pressure to do something with that level of drama. Killing a series regular came down from the top,” Savage told Vanity Fair. “If we wanted a season four, we’d have to do something like that.”
Barton was one of the faces of young Hollywood in the early 2000s; her character died during the Season 3 finale after being in a car accident caused by her ex-boyfriend Kevin Volchok (Cam Gigandet). She had been with her longtime love Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) at the time and she passed away as he held her.
Schwartz and Savage said they knew immediately that they’d made a mistake.
“It’s something that we regret, and looking back on it, we wish we could have come up with a different solution,” Schwartz told a reporter.
“We didn’t see an alternative path at the time, which is why we went down that road,” he noted.
Schwartz — whose other credits include CW’s “Gossip Girl” — reflected on other routes the production team could have gone to satisfy the top brass.
“In hindsight, there were lots of other ways we could have written the character off the show — and given Mischa the break that she needed and wanted — that still would’ve allowed for that character to return,” he said.
The viewers’ reactions to Marissa’s untimely death “did not feel good,” Schwartz continued.
“It did not feel like that audience had been served or respected in the way that we always wanted and aimed to. Immediately, we had regret at that point,” he said.
Schwartz told The Daily Beast in 2017 that the decision boiled down to several issues such as “creative, cast chemistry, ratings.”
“Mischa didn’t want off the show any more than any of the other kids wanted off the show,” Schwartz said at the time. “It was a complicated chemistry with the cast…but she certainly wasn’t actively seeking to leave the show.”
“The O.C.” was renewed for a fourth and final season in 2006. The show ended its run in 2007.
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