Mischa Barton
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Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke Respond to Mischa Barton's "Bullying" Claims

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Jun. 2 2021, Updated 11:58 a.m. ET

When something just works, it's a magical feeling, especially when it comes to something as chaotic, difficult-to-put-together, and expensive as a long-running TV production. Getting a cast and crew that manages to gel well is something that cannot be undervalued, and sometimes just a single missing character is enough to tank a program for good. Just ask Superstore fans about the series finale.

But there are always questions when characters exit shows, and The O.C. fans have long since wondered: Why did Mischa Barton leave the show?

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Why did Mischa Barton leave 'The O.C.'? The actress opened up after all these years.

E! News managed to nab an exclusive interview with the actress in which she revealed that the circumstances around her exit weren't as simple as just pursuing other career opportunities. She explained that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama and animosity thrown her way that precipitated her exit from the series.

The O.C. cast
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If you didn't grow up while The O.C. was crushing it on TV, then it's easy to forget that Mischa Barton was the "it girl" from the show. She was poised to be the next Hollywood sensation.

She was on the cover of magazines and receiving tons of different film offers from all over the place. You couldn't walk down the grocery aisle without seeing Mischa modeling some gorgeous dress with her blond hair flowing behind her, suspended like a crown.

Then, in the show's Season 3 finale, her character, Marissa Cooper, dies in a savage car crash. To say that fans were shocked would be a huge understatement. 

When a major character is "killed off" in a show, not only is it a big deal in terms of the show's narrative — seeing those characters deal with the aftermath of such a tragic event is compelling — but folks at home can't help but wonder if something happened behind the scenes that culminated in their exit.

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Adam Brody, Mischa Barton, Ben McKenzie
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When The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz was asked about the production's decision to have Mischa's character killed off, he said in an interview with The Daily Beast, "It was born out of a number of issues: creative, cast chemistry, ratings."

But Mischa told E! News that the real reason is "a bit complicated."

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"It started pretty early on because 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----y. But, you know, I also loved the show and had to build up my own walls and ways of getting around dealing with that and the fame that was thrust specifically at me. 

"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," she told the outlet.

Mischa Barton
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She also said that her character had a ton of scenes and that she was working "the longest hours probably out of all the characters." She went on to say, "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."

From the sound of her interview, it appeared that a combination of some gnarly on-set experiences, being overworked, and having to turn down other fulfilling opportunities is what ultimately made Mischa decide that she could "go out with a bang" instead of potentially coming back on the show later on.

"My dream was to be offered those lead roles, so that's what happened. 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," she said of her exit.

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Mischa Barton
Source: Getty Images

From the sound of Mischa Barton's interview, it doesn't sound like she's going to catch up with the potential series reboot on HBO Max.

Mischa went on to say that she didn't watch the rest of the show to see how it panned out, either. She's been pretty busy following her departure from The O.C., however. Even if she wasn't the "it girl" plastered all over magazine covers after The O.C. went off the air, a quick visit to her IMDb page shows that she hasn't been wanting for any work.

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Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke, however, said they were "confused" by Mischa's claims.

Based on their interview on the Everything Iconic podcast, Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts) and Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper) apparently have no idea what their co-star was talking about in terms of on-set bullying, and seemingly chalked up the actress' gripes to being emotionally at odds with the "overwhelming" nature of filming, especially at such a young age.

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Rachel said, "You know, Melinda and I were talking immediately after it came out. And we were just like, ‘Wait, what?' I mean, I’m definitely pretty confused by most of it. And I don’t know who she’s referring to because I didn’t personally witness any of that."

Rachel went on to say that Mischa's claim the cast's salaries were affected by her arrival on the show was "misinformation."

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"That’s misinformation. Where is she going with this, and what is she trying to say? I would actually like to talk to her and find out what her experience was from her perspective, because I saw things a little differently."

Melinda highlighted how Mischa was 17 years old when she first started on The O.C. and that mounting pressure may have played a factor in her negative experience.

"We knew there was a lot of pressure on her, but if it was really that bad of an experience, that’s not right for any young person. Someone who is 16, 17, 18 – that amount of hours of work, pressure, at such a young age – at best, you’re exhausted. And at worst, it’s overwhelming and chaotic, so it kinda breaks my heart a little," Melinda said.

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She did add that the actress' comments left her confused, however. "But some of the comments were very, um, perplexing to me, so I don’t know what the truth is about that. I do know that, yes, this was an enormous amount of pressure for her. And for everybody."

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