When ‘The O.C.’ Killed Marissa: “What Have We Done?”

Daniel Blau Rogge: I think there’s an extent to which the boards would judge the character—“Marissa is entitled!” “Marissa is annoy- ing!” “Marissa is too skinny!”—but that the rhetoric would at times spill over to more of a judgment of Mischa Barton herself. The show killing her off led to a backlash when viewers were like, “THAT IS NOT WHAT WE MEANT.”

Sara Morrison: People get joy out of picking apart or talking about or making fun of some things on your show. I guess that’s true for the recaps, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they know more about how to write a TV show than you. I think a lot of the sentiment was that it’s really fun to pile on something and be a part of a group effort. I think even if you don’t like the character, it’s that you don’t want to see her so much. It’s not that you want her to die.

Morrison is horrified to be reminded that her headline for the finale recap was “A Twig, Snapped.”

Sara Morrison: Oh, no. Oh, that’s terrible. I would not have [written that now]. Oh, that’s really mean.

Stephanie Savage: But then there were all these other people that were not on the Internet in the same way, that were less articulate, that were less snarky, that didn’t have the tone of that Television Without Pity board. They were just beside themselves with grief, they did fan art of angels carrying Marissa to Heaven, or a thousand tears on the ground—religious iconography, like Virgin of Guadalupe–level Marissa worship. And I felt, Oh, I guess there was a whole other audience that was connecting to this character in a different way.

Sara Morrison: Tell them I’m sorry!

Mischa Barton: I remember after Marissa died, people being pretty hysterical and coming up to me in airports, crying about it. I thought that was shocking, because it’s TV, you know?

John Stephens: Every now and then, people will learn I was on the show, and usually the first thing out of their mouths is, “Why did you kill Marissa?” Once, my wife and I were on our honeymoon, on a safari in Botswana, and we’re sitting around the campfire in the Kalahari Desert, and this woman’s there with their teenage daughter and they find out I was on The O.C. I’m here under this glorious African sky. And this girl said, “Why did you kill Marissa?!?!” I’m like, Really?!

Kelly Rowan: My daughter says to me, “Mom, why did they kill Mischa’s character?” I don’t know. I really don’t. From the show’s perspective, messing with that foursome, it never recovered.

Excerpted from the book WELCOME TO THE O.C.: The Oral History. Copyright © 2023 by Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Alan Sepinwall. From Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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