10 years after Josh Schwartz’s decision to kill Marissa Cooper off The OC in the season 3 finale, the show’s creator is still speaking out about the tough choice.
He recently spoke at a writer’s room reunion for The OC at the ATX Television Festival, along with executive producers Stephanie Savage and Leila Gerstein and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas.
“It’s something we still wrestle with,” said Josh. “Steph and I still talk about it and play it back.”
The death occurred when Ryan (played by Benjamin McKenzie) and Marissa (played by Mischa Barton) were involved in a car crash, and Marissa died in Ryan’s arms. Josh Schwartz said that the reason for the choice was based on a couple of factors.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “There were a lot of factors involved and it was something we really wrestled with and there were reasons both creative and in terms of just the show itself and where we were at that moment with the network.”
The death was met with mostly celebration from fans at the time, however there was also anger and fan art that was sent to the creators according to Schwartz.
He also explained the reason the casting team chose Mischa Barton in the end for the role instead of Olivia Wilde.
“Marissa was obviously a character who Ryan needs to save,” Schwartz said, “And Olivia Wilde needs no saving. She’s pretty tough”.
During the session, Stephanie Savage also revealed that Seth Cohen was the character that Josh had inserted as himself into the show. He related to Seth through his geekiness, and being Jewish at a school full of white water-polo players.
“Seth Cohen was Josh’s way into the show and it was also what made the show in many ways unique,” Savage said. “Because it was unique, it was challenging for the network who wasn’t used to seeing a character like that in their glossy primetime soap.”
The writers knew that the fourth season would probably be the last at the time and took the opportunity to push the limits of the show. For instance, Taylor Townsend (played by Autumn Reeser) played a bigger role in the season and added a different voice to the show.
“It was freeing creatively. We did some pretty weird stuff in season four,” Schwartz said. “We took some chances that I think we probably would have felt uncomfortable doing before that.”