Mischa Barton is a stage and screen actress who may best be known for her role on the teen soap opera The O.C. in which she survived three out of the series’ four seasons. Barton has been in many things since, but what has she been up to lately?
EARLY ROLES FOR MISCHA BARTON
Mischa Barton was all of 8-years-old when she began her acting career. Her start, though, was not in features or television, but on stage. Her very first appearance came Off-Broadway in the Tony Kushner play Slavs! Barton’s first three years performing were all on stage with her appearing in plays such as Twelve Dreams alongside Marisa Tomei. She also played in Where the Truth Lies and One Flea Spare.
Mischa Barton made her film debut in the critically praised Lawn Dogs, co-starring with Sam Rockwell. The movie centered around Barton’s 10-year-old Devon Stockard who befriends the much, much older Trent Burns (Rockwell). The movie explored the theme of child molestation, something that Barton says at the time she did not understand.
Her next movie was Pups, a coming-of-age story that Barton says always revolves around sex and sexuality, something she was ill-prepared for, as she mentioned in a very revealing essay she wrote for Bazaar. The film included her first-ever screen kiss, which also happened to be the first time she kissed anyone. Her character also had a scene where she had her first period, something which Barton still hadn’t had in real life.
Though Mischa Barton was taking on larger and larger roles, she also took on the occasional bit part. In 1999, while she was starring in Pups, Barton also appeared in Notting Hill as the 12-year-old actress in the faux movie Hellix. That year she had another bit part, a little bigger than Notting Hill, in the M. Night Shyamalan mystery The Sixth Sense. In it, she played the young daughter who was poisoned by her mother.
Mischa Barton continued her climb through features over the next couple of years. She was in Paranoid, Skipped Parts, Lost and Delirious, and Tart.
MISCHA BARTON GETS ON TELEVISION
Mischa Barton’s first foray into television came in 2001 on the series Once and Again starring Billy Campbell and Sela Ward. For her role as Katie Singer, which was an eight-episode arc, Barton found herself as the love interest to Evan Rachel Wood’s Jessie Sammler. This pairing would make the news as it was the very first teen lesbian romance on American television.
Mischa Barton went from her eight-episode arc on Once and Again to her big starring role as Marissa Cooper on The O.C. The series followed a number of affluent teenagers growing up and living in Orange County. Barton was part of the ensemble that included Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Ben McKenzie, and Adam Brody.
For the three seasons, Barton played Marissa, a character who seemed doomed from the start. During those three seasons, Marissa ran the gambit. She experienced an overdose, she had to deal with her parent’s divorce, she was held hostage, and she even shot her boyfriend’s brother. But Barton was one of the series’ leads, so her exit from the show was a surprise to many.
THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO MISCHA BARTON
Over the years since Barton took her leave from The O.C., she has been mum on why. Series creator Josh Schwartz said in a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast that Mischa’s departure “was born out of a number of issues: Creative, cast chemistry, ratings.” He said that Barton didn’t want or ask to be off the show. “Mischa didn’t want off the show any more than any of the other kids wanted off the show. It was a complicated chemistry with the cast… but she certainly wasn’t actively seeking to leave the show.”
Mischa Barton’s take was a little different and she explained as much in an interview with E! News. “I’ve always felt ashamed in a way to really talk about what went on behind the scenes because I’ve always been a very private person and very aware of people’s feelings.” But once Barton began talking, she let it all out.
She acknowledged the situation was complicated. She was still a young lady when she took the part but she was thrust into the limelight with her lead role. She said, for her, things began to deteriorate when Rachel Bilson was hired on and producers felt they needed to even out the cast pay. She also said there was a large bit of bullying she was receiving from some of the men on the set, though she never name-dropped. Instead, she learned to deal with it.
“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.”
As Barton looks back, she says she was the one who probably worked the longest hours. Her character was not easy for her to play because Marissa was her exact opposite. But she was coming into her own as the character, even though production increased along with her time on set.
What it eventually boiled down to was simply too much work for her. And, as she put it, “they [the producers] kind of gave me an option. The producers were like, “Well, do you want your job and to sail off into the sunset and potentially you can come back in the future in some bizarre TV scenario or we can kill your character off and you can go on with your career that you want and what you want to do?”
Her choice, go out in a blaze of glory, which is exactly how Marissa met her demise. A fiery car crash ended her three-season run. For what it’s worth, The O.C. only lasted one more season after Barton’s departure.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Since that time, Mischa Barton has focused, for the most part, on a feature film career. For the decade following her time on The O.C., Barton was part of many independent films that included Assassination of a High School President, Homecoming, and Don’t Fade Away. She tried her hand one more time in television with the extremely short-lived series The Beautiful Life, but when that didn’t take, she concentrated on a number of horror films.
Throughout the 2010s, Mischa Barton continued to work in features, going from the occasional comedy to more focus on horror. In 2018 Barton was seen in the B-horror film The Basement, which ended up being her final film for a couple of years. In 2020 she returned for the low-budget movie titled Spree.
Next up for Mischa Barton is DragonMan: The Adventures of Luke Starr in which she will star with former leading men Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) and Antonio Sabato Jr. (General Hospital). Unfortunately, this is probably not where Barton planned on ending up after The O.C.