In the early 2000s, there were several teenage dramas that dominated television, but none were quite as compelling as Josh Schwartz’s The O.C. Premiering on FOX in 2003, the show, which many people dubbed a modern soap opera dripping with sun-drenched angst, chronicled the intertwined lives of the Cohen, Cooper and Nichols families in Newport Beach, California. Its focal point and main protagonist, however, was Ryan Atwood, a teenager from the wrong side of the Chino tracks, who finds himself thrust into the affluent world of Southern California’s Orange County after he is taken in by a lawyer and his family. Over the course of the show’s four seasons, viewers fell in love with Ryan as well as the multitude of characters that populated his corner of Orange County, celebrating their accomplishments and mourning their losses. And then, almost a decade ago in 2007, they watched with heavy hearts as the series sailed to an end, permanently closing the curtain on Newport Beach and its intriguing cast of characters.
Nevertheless, there was a silver lining to the end of the series. Many of the actors and actresses who were on it became very successful in the industry, moving on to other projects and broadening their horizons. So, where are the people who played your favorite characters now? Keep reading to find out!
Ben McKenzie (Ryan Atwood)
Ben McKenzie has come a long way from playing the brooding boy who lived in the Cohen’s pool-house on The O.C. Since the show ended, McKenzie has landed two other leading roles on television: as Officer Ben Sherman on Southland, which ended after five seasons in 2013, and most recently as Jim Gordon on the Batman prequel Gotham. He’s also ventured into movies, landing roles in the films Johnny Got His Gun, Adventures of Sin Bin and Decoding Annie Parker. Not bad, McKenzie! Not bad at all!
Mischa Barton (Marissa Cooper)
Before being cast as troubled rich girl Marissa Cooper on The O.C., Mischa Barton’s biggest claim to fame was her role in the hit horror film The Sixth Sense, in which she played Kyra Collins, a girl who was slowly poisoned to death by her stepmother. After she controversially quit The O.C. before its fourth and final season—her character was tragically killed off at the end of season three, in a move that many people credit as causing the show’s demise—she starred in several movies, including Closing the Ring, St. Trinian’s, Virgin Territory, Assassination of a High School President, Walled In and Homecoming. In 2009, she scored a regular role on the short-lived CW drama The Beautiful Life: TBL as Sonja Stone. The following year, she guest-starred on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. After that, she starred in a number of low-budget horror films, such as Cyberstalker, I Will Follow You Into the Dark and A Resurrection. In 2012, she ventured into theater, starring in a well-received production of Steel Magnolias in Dublin. She’s slated to appear in the ABC Family/Freeform drama Recovery Road in 2016, and is also in the process of filming several more films, such as Starcrossed, The Malevolent and Father.
Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts)
Did you know that Rachel Bilson was only supposed to appear in a few episodes of The O.C. as her character Summer Roberts? However, her natural charisma and talent led to her being recognized as a major asset in the show, and she was upgraded to a series regular. Out of all the characters on the show, hers underwent the most stunning transformation, evolving from a shallow rich girl into a mature eco-warrior by the end of the show’s run. Since the show ended, Bilson has stayed busy, scoring roles in a plethora of movies, such as Jumper, Waiting For Forever, Life Happens and The To-Do List, as well as recurring and regular roles on television. From 2010 to 2014, she appeared as the recurring character Cindy on How I Met Your Mother, and in 2011, she landed the starring role of Dr. Zoe Hart on Hart of Dixie, which ended in 2014.
Adam Brody (Seth Cohen)
Seth Cohen, played by the adorable Adam Brody, was my favorite character on The O.C., in part because he shared many of my nerdy passions. Post-The O.C., Brody has been active in both film and television, scoring decent parts in the horror films Jennifer’s Body and Scream 4. In 2011, he ventured into voice-acting for the show Good Vibes, lending his voice to the character Woodie. In 2013, he landed a starring role on the short-lived show Burning Love as the character Max, which was followed by brief stints on the shows House of Lies, New Girl and The League. In 2015, he was cast as Billy Jones on the TV show Billy & Billie. Fans can expect to see him in the upcoming films Big Bear, Yoga Hosers and Showing Roots.
Peter Gallagher (Sandy Cohen)
Peter Gallagher was already an accomplished actor when he joined the cast of The O.C. as good-hearted lawyer Sandy Cohen, so it makes sense that he would continue to have a successful and prosperous career. He scored recurring roles on the shows Californication, Rescue Me, Whitney, Covert Affairs, Togetherness, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and most recently The Good Wife. He also scored roles in several movies, including Adam, The War Boys, Conviction, Burlesque, Step Up Revolution and Hello My Name is Doris. Fans can expect to see him in the upcoming TV movies DeTour and Center Stage: Dance Camp.
Kelly Rowan (Kirsten Cohen)
Like Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, who played Sandy’s workaholic wife Kirsten, had already proven herself as an actress before being cast on The O.C. In 1993, she won critical acclaim and a Gemini Award for Best Actress in a Movie/Mini-Series for her role in the CBS movie Adrift, opposite Bruce Greenwood. She appeared in the first season of Boomtown in 2002, starred in the movie The Truth About Jane in 2000, starred in the mini-series A Girl Thing in 2001 for Showtime and landed a role in the award-winning CBS show Anja’s Bell in 1999. After The O.C. ended in 2007, she did several indie films, such as Jack and Jill vs. The World and Mt. Pleasant. In 2009, she starred in and executive-produced The Good Times Are Killing Me with Rupert Graves. In 2012, she scored the role of Natalie Vincent/Caroline Newsome on the crime series Perception opposite Erik McCormack, which ended in 2015. She recently guest-starred on the shows Castle and Murdoch Mysteries.
Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper)
In my opinion, no one could’ve played Julie Cooper better than Melinda Clarke. Julie was one of the most compelling characters on the show; she was cold and manipulative but fiercely loved her family and closest friends. Since The O.C. ended, Clarke has been busy. She guest-starred on Reaper, King of the Hill, Chuck, Eli Stone and Ghost Whisperer, did multiple episode stints on The Vampire Diaries, CSI, Entourage and Vegas, and played the villain Amanda on Nikita. Recently, she guest-starred on Dallas and reprised her role of Lady Heather in the TV movie CSI: Immortality.
Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper)
On The O.C., Tate Donovan played the always down-on-his-luck Jimmy Cooper, who suffered his fair share of beatings at the hands of those he had wronged. In the show’s third season, he was ordered by his daughter Marissa to leave Newport Beach for good—and that’s exactly what he did. Lucky for us, however, Tate Donovan continued acting, sharing his amazing talent with us. In addition to voicing the character Hercules in the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise, Donovan also moved effortlessly between the small screen and the big screen. He scored roles in the movies Shooter, Nancy Drew, Neal Cassady, Wild About Harry, Below the Beltway, Argo and About Ray. He also played Tom Shayes on the TV show Damages, Edward Bowers on Deception, Brian Sanders on Hostages and Mark Boudreau on the TV mini-series 24: Live Another Day. Fans can expect to see him in the upcoming films Blame, Manchester by the Sea and Elvis & Nixon.
Autumn Reeser (Taylor Townsend)
Autumn Reeser played uptight Taylor Townsend on The O.C., who replaced Marissa as the second female lead and Ryan’s love interest in the show’s final season. Since the show ended, Reeser has remained a popular face on American television, scoring roles on the shows Valentine, Raising the Bar, Entourage, No Ordinary Family, Last Resort, Necessary Roughness, Hawaii Five-O and The Whispers. Fans can expect to see her in the upcoming movies Sully, Valley of Bones and The Arrangement, and as Suzie Davis in the new TV show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
Chris Carmack (Luke Ward)
While Chris Carmack, who played Marissa’s boyfriend Luke Ward, was only on the show for one season, he certainly made an impression, delivering one of the show’s most iconic lines—”Welcome to the O.C., bitch!”—when Ryan first arrives in Newport Beach in the show’s pilot. Since leaving the show, Carmack has had a very successful career. In 2005, he starred as Cooper Morgenthal in the TV Mini-Series Beach Girls. That same year, he guest-starred on Smallville and scored the role of Alex on the show Related. He also guest-starred on the shows CSI: Miami, Desperate Housewives, CSI: NY, Drop Dead Diva and LA’d. In 2013, he landed his second big television role: Will Lexington on the show Nashville. Fans can anticipate seeing him in the upcoming film The Dust Storm.
Willa Holland (Kaitlin Cooper)
Willa Holland was the second actress to play Marissa’s little sister Kaitlin. She started her career young, signing with the Ford Modeling Agency at the age of seven and becoming well-known through doing nationwide commercials. She made her film debut in the 2001 movie Ordinary Madness, and her first major television role was as Kaitlin Cooper on The O.C. Since the show ended, she’s continued acting in both movies and television. She scored roles in the movies Garden Party, Middle of Nowhere, Legion, Chasing 3000, Straw Dogs and Tiger Eyes. In 2008, she landed the role of Agnes Andrews on Gossip Girl, and after that show ended in 2012, she won her second major television role: that of Thea Queen/Speedy on Arrow, a role which she continues to play to this day. Fans can also expect to see her in the upcoming movie Pacific Standard Time.
Alan Dale (Caleb Nichol)
Last but not least, we have Alan Dale, who played ruthless businessman Caleb Nichol, Julie’s father. Caleb died of a heart attack on the show in its second season, giving Dale the chance to grow into one of the most prolific actors on television. His roles include Vice President Jim Prescott on 24, Raymond Metcalf on E-Ring, Bradford Meade on Ugly Betty, Ray Walsman on Sea Patrol, Charles Widmore on Lost, John Ellis on Entourage, James Kelvin on Undercovers, Senator Eaton on The Killing, King George/Albert Spencer on Once Upon a Time, Emmet on Hot in Cleveland, Tom Morrow on NCIS, Frank on Top Coppers and General Edward Riesen on Dominion. Fans can soon see him as Prime Minister Martin Toohey in the new series Secret City and as the Toothpick Man in the revival of The X-Files.