"Welcome to the OC, b**ch."

Five little words to sum up the mood of one brooding, brawling teen soap opera, five little words to cement a television series in history forever.

The O.C., created by Josh Schwartz and premiering in 2003 before eventually running for four blistering seasons, encapsulated the height of '00s culture.

The show had everything: lifestyles of the rich and the famous, a hit-making cooler-than-thou indie soundtrack, a quartet of newcomers in the star-is-born roles of a lifetime and more California cool girl characters with tiny Chanel handbags than the pages of Us Weekly.


The O.C. was a teen show writ large, a sprawling Shakespearean tale of tragedy and romance, with a few hints of comedy thrown in for good measure.

And, for a little while, the stars who made it great dominated the headlines.

Mischa Barton, Ben McKenzie, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson were on the cover of every magazine. (Teen Vogue for Brody and Bilson; Tatler, Nylon and Vogue for Barton.)

But where are they now? What are Orange County's best and brightest up to these days?

Mischa Barton

When The O.C. premiered, Barton emerged as the series' breakaway star. As the troubled Marissa Cooper, whose popularity belied a broken relationship with her mother and attempts to rebel against the life she had been brought up in, Barton was the star of the show.

Off the back of The O.C.'s runaway success, she booked advertising deals, brand endorsements, magazine covers and plum roles in the remake of St Trinians. When she left the show in 2006 in the season three finale, it felt like she was like the wise guest who knows to leave before the party turns sour. She had the world at her feet.

At the time, Barton ran in a pretty fast crowd that included Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. On the surface, the life of a champagne bubble about town "It" girl, full of vodka cranberries and Chloe Paddington bags, was good. But privately, each of these women faced their own demons, and Barton was no exception.


Immediately after leaving The O.C., things started to unravel for Barton. By 2007 she was a near-permanent tabloid fixture, making headlines for being hospitalised after a barbecue at Nicole Richie's house and was arrested for drunk driving.

Mischa Barton played Marissa Cooper on the show. Photo / Getty Images
Mischa Barton played Marissa Cooper on the show. Photo / Getty Images

Ben McKenzie

McKenzie was a starry-eyed 23-year-old when he moved to Los Angeles seeking the bright lights of Hollywood.

Originally from Austin, Texas, he had lived in New York for a few years before trying his luck in California, where he struck gold in the role of Ryan Atwood in The O.C. The misunderstood "bad boy" from Chino (ew), Ryan was rescued by Sandy Cohen from his early brush with the law to become part of the Cohen family.

From the start, he was established as having a powerful connection with Marissa, which would dominate both of their character arcs over the seasons.

McKenzie starred in all four seasons of The O.C., a performance that earned him a gaggle of nominations (and wins) at the Teen Choice awards.

Rachel Bilson

Born into a Hollywood family – her mother was a sex therapist, her father a writer and director – Bilson got the acting bug early. She attended a Los Angeles high school where her peers included Kirsten Dunst, Rami Malek and Katharine McPhee and had her onscreen debut in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer in 2003.

Months later, she was cast as Summer in The O.C., best friend to Marissa and the initially aloof love interest to the nerdy Seth Cohen (Adam Brody).

Film roles followed, including the starring turn as a college student who falls in love with an older man in Zach Braff's 2006 film The Last Kiss. In 2007, she made Jumper, a time-travelling action film alongside Star Wars' Hayden Christensen.

The pair were in a relationship for 10 years, and welcomed a daughter in 2014. Prior to dating Christensen, Bilson and Brody were in a relationship for three years. Fans loved the real-life coupling of Seth and Summer, and the pair often appeared on the covers of magazines together. Despite their break-up, the former co-stars and partners have remained friends.

Adam Brody

Many a girl's first crush was The O.C.'s Seth Cohen, the loveable, anxious nerd who befriends bad boy Ryan and welcomes him into the Cohen family.

So much so that, rewatching The O.C. now, more than 15 years after the series first premiered, it's cringe-worthy to see how the character of Seth was actually pretty problematic. (Remember when he named his boat after Summer? A girl he had never met or had an interaction with? Not cute. Actually kinda stalker-y.)

In real life, Adam Brody came to The O.C. off the back of another runaway teen success: Gilmore Girls. In 2002, Brody played the onscreen love interest of Rory's (Alexis Bledel) best friend Lane (Keiko Agena).

While The O.C. was still running, Brody threw himself into film, starring in Mr & Mrs Smith, Thank You For Smoking and In The Land Of Women. When the show was cancelled in 2007, he starred in horror films Jennifer's Body and Scream 4, but there was often a long time between onscreen drinks for the actor.

In 2013, he started dating Leighton Meester, yes, that Leighton Meester, the star of The O.C.'s festival of hormones successor Gossip Girl.

The pair met on the set of The Oranges in 2011 and stayed in touch. The couple were married in 2014 and welcomed their first child the following year. Meester is currently pregnant with the family's second baby.

Olivia Wilde

Remember Alex, the bisexual manager of The O.C.'s coolest club, who dated both Seth and Marissa over the course of the series? That role was played by Olivia Wilde, the actor now best known as the director of Booksmart.

Of all The O.C.'s alumnae, Wilde has one of the best post-series resumes, starring in House, Rush and Her, as well as writing and directing several projects.

Her next directorial project is Don't Worry Darling, a psychological thriller starring Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and Shia LaBeouf.

She is married to actor Jason Sudeikis and the couple have two children.