Mischa Barton reveals she dated 25-year-old ‘O.C.’ co-star Ben McKenzie when she was 17, says he was ‘her first’


Actors Benjamin McKenzie (left) and Mischa Barton portrayed teenage lovers on the drama series. Photo: TNS

The behind-the-scenes action on The O.C. apparently wasn’t too PC after all.

According to Mischa Barton, she and co-star Ben McKenzie, who portrayed teenage lovers on the Fox drama series, were lovebirds in real life – with a significant age difference.

The actress spilled the beans on their secret offscreen romance in an interview for the latest episode of the Call Her Daddy podcast.

“I went into that a virgin, a kid, really feeling like I needed to grow up quickly,” Barton, now 38, recalled.

“Acting with people older than me was a bit like, Oh wow. They know what they’re doing. And there’s gonna be relationships on this show and you’re gonna need to play that part, and I didn’t feel really ready for that ‘cause I was always a really late bloomer in school and I hadn’t really dated.”

At the age of 17, the British American beauty was the youngest cast member when she took on the starring role of Marissa Cooper, and admitted she “felt like (she) needed to catch up.”

McKenzie, who was 25 at the time, played Marissa’s romantic interest Ryan Atwood. But according to Barton, their romance wasn’t “just onscreen” of the teen drama.

Describing their offscreen relationship as “complicated,” Barton admitted McKenzie, now 45, was her “first” and she “had no idea what (she) was doing.”

“I think that kind of set things off on the wrong foot, too,” she continued. “You know people hook up on these shows and whatever, these things happen, but ... we threw ourselves all into it very fast.”

The Daily News reached out to reps for McKenzie but have not received a request for comment.

Created by Josh Schwartz, The O.C. ran for four seasons on Fox from 2003 to 2007. Along with Barton and McKenzie, the show also starred Rachel Bilson, Adam Brody, Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Tate Donovan and Melinda Clarke.

In 2021, Barton revealed she experienced onset bullying from some of the men during the show’s production, and opened up about why her character was killed off the popular teen drama. – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service

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