Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson Cry While Watching Marissa’s ‘The O.C.’ Death Scene: ‘I Can’t Do This’
California, here we come. Former The O.C. costars Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke and Mischa Barton had an emotional reunion for the show’s 20th anniversary — and revisited one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the teen soap's history.
The Hills alum, 36, made an appearance on the Tuesday, January 10, episode of the “Welcome to the O.C., Bitches” podcast to look back at memories from her time on the show. The teen drama juggernaut, which ran from 2003 to 2007, starred Barton as Marissa Cooper and Bilson, 41, as her best friend Summer Roberts. Adam Brody and Ben Mckenzie, for their parts, portrayed love interests Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood, respectively. (Clarke, 53, portrayed Marissa's mother, Julie Cooper.)
While the Fox hit ran for four seasons, fans said goodbye to Barton’s character in the season 3 finale, which aired in May 2006. In the now iconic scene, Ryan carries Marissa away from an exploding vehicle before she dies in his arms.
"It needed to be a thing, after everything she's been through, but if it's here I'll watch it with you," Barton told Bilson and Clarke during Tuesday’s podcast episode, agreeing to revisit the moment she exited the series. The Hart of Dixie alum replied, "I couldn't do it, Mischa, I couldn't do it. But I'm going to do it if you're going to do it."
As the trio relived the horrific scene for the first time together, Barton opened up about the empathy she had for her character’s journey. "Poor Marissa. She really, really goes through it," she gushed. When Bilson began crying, Barton added, "Oh no, I'm getting really sad too. You can't cry, Rachel!"
While the women attempted to press pause on the episode while wiping away tears, they caught a glimpse of the throwback montage that replayed Ryan and Marissa’s love story.
"What is this next bit?" Barton asked. “It flashes back to when you guys meet each other," Bilson explained as she wiped away tears. "I can't, you guys."
Bilson and Clarke started their podcast in March 2021 and have hosted various O.C. favorites, including Brody, 43 — who is Bilson’s real-life ex — and Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan, who played Sandy and Kirsten Cohen, respectively.
Tuesday, however, marked Barton’s first appearance on the podcast after previously sharing that she initially left The O.C. after people were “very mean” to her.
"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," she told E! News in May 2021. "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."
She continued, "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."
The Sixth Sense actress noted that her grueling work schedule and the dissonance she felt with her character made the show difficult for her.
"I was working so hard, the longest hours probably out of all the characters. It wasn't an easy character for me to play because it wasn't me, which is why I think people liked it or thought Marissa was funny and latched on to her. They felt like this is entertaining because she's all over the place and who is this girl? It's like because I'm this New York girl who was trying to play this ditzy L.A. rich kid, you know?"
The following month, Bilson and Clarke addressed Barton's words on the podcast.
"You know, Melinda and I were talking immediately after [the interview] came out. And we were just like, 'Wait, what?'" the Jumper star admitted, before shutting down Barton’s claims that Bilson was added as a series regular “last minute.”
“[That] is actually completely false and not what happened," she revealed. "So it starting out that way, I was like, 'Well, that's misinformation. Where are we going with this? And what is she trying to say?' Which 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."
Clarke, however, said that she couldn’t speak for anyone else’s experiences and could understand why Barton made the controversial remarks.
"Someone who is 16, 17, 18 — that amount of hours of work, pressure, at such a young age — at best, you're exhausted," she explained. "And at worst, it's overwhelming and chaotic so, it kinda breaks my heart a little to know [that]. 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. But, some of the comments were very 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."