The O.C. was one of the most popular teen shows of the 2000s. Running for an upsettingly-short four season, the show chronicled the trials and tribulations of some drama-loving Orange County families. At the center of the action was Ryan Atwood, a troubled teen adopted by the wealthy, kind-hearted Cohens. The show was basically a pop culture phenomenon: it still has a dedicated fan base nearly 15 years since it first premiered.
As well as its engaging plotlines and enticing melodrama, The O.C.‘s popularity was hugely created thanks to its cast. Both the teens and the adults were portrayed by a talented bunch of newcomers and veterans that pulled in audiences. But where are Seth, Summer, Ryan, Marissa and co.’s real-life counterparts these days? Who’s become a megastar and who’s kept a low profile? Read on and find out!
16. Peter Gallagher
Cohen family patriarch Sandy was basically The O.C.‘s moral compass. He helped not only his own kids but other teen characters through their various issues and dramas and was an all-around good guy.
Peter Gallagher had the honor of portraying this much-loved character for all four seasons of the show. These days, you’re more likely to see Gallagher on stage than on screen! While he has a recurring role on Law and Order: SVU as Deputy Police Chief Dodds, he’s focused most of his energy on Broadway work. He’s starred in both Spring Awakening and On the Twentieth Century in the past couple of years alone. Impressive stuff!
15. Kelly Rowan
Kelly Rowan portrayed Sandy Cohen’s slightly more conservative wife Kirsten for the entirety of The O.C.‘s run. Despite being the stricter of the two Cohen parents, Kirsten did have a soft side and was a generally great mother.
Since The O.C. departed our screens, Rowan has mostly stayed out of the limelight. She’s taken on very few major acting roles and instead has focused on raising her daughter. Rowan did get a lead role in the TNT crime drama series Perception – however, the show was canceled after just three seasons back in 2015. The actress has pretty much stayed off our screens since then.
14. Benjamin McKenzie
Ben McKenzie has done pretty well for himself in his post-O.C. career. He played favorite bad boy Ryan Atwood in the show, a gig that was basically his breakout role. He’s now taken the lead role in the Fox series Gotham, playing the broodingly handsome Captain James Gordon. He’s been nominated for a number of Teen Choice awards and has also featured in quite a few ‘World’s Sexiest Men’ polls. I mean, we’re not surprised. McKenzie’s family life is also going pretty well. He married his Gotham co-star Morena Baccarin last year and the two share an adorable daughter, Frances.
13. Mischa Barton
It’s easy to forget that actress/socialite/occasional model Mischa Barton has The O.C. to thank for her fame! She portrayed ‘it-girl’ Marissa Cooper for the first three seasons of the show until the character’s untimely and tragic death. Since then, Barton has had a pretty much constant stream of work. In fact, the pressure her acting and modeling success has led to Barton’s involvement in a number of high-profile controversies. She’s been arrested for driving under the influence, sued for refusing to pay rent on her NYC apartment, and even sued her own mother over a house they own in California.
However, it’s Barton’s mental health issues that have taken center stage in recent months. In January of last year, she was taken to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after her neighbors found her screaming on her backyard fence. She’s luckily doing much better now and is taking things a bit easier work-wise to ensure she stays healthy.
12. Adam Brody
While Adam Brody is still best known for The O.C., he’s by no means done badly since the show ended. He found fame thanks to his portrayal of Seth Cohen, Sandy and Kirsten’s sarcastic but well-meaning teenage son. His character has always been seen as one of the best things about the show: the producers were so keen to have Brody on board that he didn’t even have to audition for the part!
These days, Brody is still a prominent TV actor. He’s currently starring in the popular show StartUp as a lead character and even showed up in New Girl a couple of years back! Brody’s film career is also going well – as is his love life. While his relationship with O.C co-star Rachel Bilson sadly didn’t work out, Brody is now married to Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester.
11. Chris Carmack
Luke Ward was the O.C. hunk that we all loved to hate. He was a pretty stereotypical insufferable jock who cheated on long-term girlfriend Marissa and hooked up with her mom. While he only appeared regularly in the show’s first season, his questionable actions and role in Marissa’s suicide attempt meant he was pretty memorable. Luke’s actor Chris Carmack also isn’t easily forgotten: not only is he still super hot, he’s a regular in country music drama Nashville! While Carmack struggled to find many major acting parts after The O.C. ended, this all ended when ABC cast him in the musical drama back in 2012. His character Will’s struggle with his sexuality is one of the show’s most emotional storylines, with Carmack playing the part to perfection.
10. Tate Donovan
While O.C. fans will know Tate Donovan as Jimmy Cooper, father of Marissa, he’s actually a super prominent actor outside of the show. For one, he provided the speaking voice of Hercules in the 1997 Disney animated classic! More recently, Donovan has made special guest appearances in hit shows Elementary and Law and Order: SVU. He’s also had a recurring role in Amazon’s sinister drama The Man In The Castle. Film-wise, he’s popped up in a whole host of successful flicks since The O.C. ended. He starred in Ben Affleck‘s smash hit Argo and the recent biopic Elvis & Nixon. Looks like Donovan has made a solid living as one of America’s most prolific character actors!
9. Melinda Clarke
Melinda Clarke put in a pretty memorable performance as Julie Cooper, ex-wife of Jimmy, mother of Marissa and step-grandmother of Seth — LOL. She was a character of two halves, starting off as pretty cunning and ruthless. She manipulated and flirted her way through the first few seasons, but noticeably mellowed after Marissa passed away at the end of season three. Julie steps up to be a better mother to Marissa’s sister, Kaitlin and actually starts being kinda nice to people. It’s a testament to Melinda Clarke’s acting skills that she actually managed to pull such a big personality change off without it seeming too out-of-left-field! Clarke is still acting and has made appearances in a number of high-profile shows. She most recently had a recurring role in former co-star Ben McKenzie’s show Gotham!
8. Rachel Bilson
While Rachel Bilson‘s recent separation from her Star Wars actor husband Hayden Christensen left us all heartbroken, she’s otherwise done pretty well for herself since The O.C. ended. After playing main character Summer Roberts for four seasons, she moved on to another lead role in The CW’s Hart of Dixie. Her turn as Dr. Zoe Hart earned her a Teen Choice Award nomination and a lot of new fans. Bilson is set to take on yet another starring role in the upcoming ABC crime-comedy series Take Two. There’s just no stopping her! It looks like she’s going to have a successful TV career for years to come.
7. Alan Dale
Veteran actor Alan Dale may have recently turned 70, but he still has the energy of a much younger man. He’s still taking on roles and doesn’t look like he’ll stop anytime soon! On The O.C., he portrayed Caleb Nichol, the father of Kirsten Cohen and husband of Julie Cooper. While his character (kind of) tragically died of a heart attack in the second season finale, Dale’s career is still very much alive. He’s made guest appearances in pretty much every major TV show out there, most recently in Homeland and Dynasty. Dale is one of the most respected character actors in the industry and is well-known for his commitment to all of his roles, no matter how big or small.
6. Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley was the first young actress to play Kaitlin Cooper, the younger sister of Marissa. She didn’t appear too much, making the occasional guest appearance in the show’s first season. However, this small part was just another step towards Woodley becoming a huge star. After winning the lead role in hit sitcom The Secret Life of The American Teenager back in 2008, Woodley went on to become a bona fide film star. She memorably starred in the adaptation of John Green‘s The Fault In Our Stars before moving on to take the leading role of Tris in the Divergent series. These days, she’s busy filming more Hollywood blockbusters and has a starring role in HBO’s smash hit, Big Little Lies with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.
5. Willa Holland
Young Willa Holland took over the role of Kaitlin after Shailene Woodley left The O.C. The character reappeared in season three and certainly wasn’t a little girl anymore. Kaitlin’s role became even more prominent in the show’s final season with the teen gaining a rebellious side in the wake of her older sister’s death. Holland was a lot younger than her character when she filmed The O.C., but did a pretty good job nonetheless. She’s now best known for her work on Gossip Girl and Arrow — and is also prominent in the video game industry. Holland has voiced the character Aqua in four installments of the Kingdom Hearts series and is popular in the gaming scene.
4. Autumn Reeser
Autumn Reeser joined The O.C. towards the end of its run, essentially serving as a replacement for the imminently departing Mischa Barton. Her character, Taylor Townsend, caused an uproar when she pretended to be having an affair with Ryan in order to secure a divorce from her difficult husband. However, the two soon began an actual relationship. While nobody could really fill fan favorite Barton’s shoes, Reeser gave it a pretty good shot. Her success has only increased over the years: she’s gone from starring in teen shows to serving as Jean Claude Van Damme‘s leading lady in the action movie Kill ‘Em All! Reeser also has a recurring role in the popular E! drama The Arrangement. Her post-O.C. acting schedule has been pretty much fully booked!
3. Olivia Wilde
Not many people remember that a young Olivia Wilde was a regular in the second season of The O.C.! She took on the pretty unique role of Alex Kelly, a bisexual girl who dates both Seth Cohen and Marissa Cooper during the course of the season. Neither relationship worked out, mainly because Alex was a little bit of a wild child. Wilde is pretty much unrecognizable in the role compared to her 2018 self! These days, the actress is no longer content to take on minor roles. She’s starred in numerous blockbuster movies and recently made her Broadway debut as Julia in 1984. On top of Wilde’s successful acting career, she’s also made a name for herself as an Instagram legend. Her pregnancy announcement post was one of the cutest out there!
2. Nikki Reed
Nikki Reed was just one of a trio of future Twilight stars who cropped up in The O.C.. She starred in season three as Sadie Campbell, one of Ryan’s love interests. The two characters dated while Ryan and Marissa were “on a break,” though they eventually split when Ryan gains a place at Berkeley and Sadie doesn’t want to hold him back. The role is one of Reed’s only TV gigs: she’s only got three small screen credits to her name!
Instead, she chose to take on the numerous opportunities in the film industry that her role in The Twilight Saga generated. Reed’s also got a pretty busy family life! Her adorable marriage to The Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder has led to the birth of a daughter, Bodhi.
1. Samaire Armstrong
Samaire Armstrong was initially only going to appear in one episode of The O.C.. However, her character Anna Stern was so popular with fans that she showed up numerous times in seasons one and three. Anna frequently drove a wedge between power couple Seth and Summer, although the two ended up marrying regardless. Despite enduring personal problems that led to a months-long rehab stay, Armstrong has done pretty well since leaving The O.C. Pretty much every major TV show out there has offered her a guest spot, most recently Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS. She’s cropped up in a couple of movies too. Armstrong is yet another actress who used The O.C. as a springboard to greater things!