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Mischa Barton Reveals She and Ben McKenzie Dated During Early Days of ‘The O.C.’

Mischa Barton Admits to Tricky Ben McKenzie Romance on The O C
Mischa Barton and Ben McKenzie Dave Benett/Getty Images; Mike Coppola/Getty Images

After years of denying that things went down between Mischa Barton and Ben McKenzie on set of The O.C., the actress is changing her story about the “whole ordeal.”

“It was kind of complicated for me,” Barton, 38, began on the “Call Her Daddy” podcast episode on Wednesday, February 21, when discussing her breakout role as Marissa Cooper in The O.C.

Barton shed light on what it was like being cast at 17 years old and immediately engaging in an onscreen relationship with McKenzie, who was 25 at the time.

“It wasn’t just on screen either,” Barton admitted to podcast host Alex Cooper, adding that she felt the need to “grow up quickly” after being cast in the show. (The O.C. ran for four seasons from 2003 to 2007, with Barton leaving the series following the season 3 finale in May 2006.)

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“I went into that [show] a virgin, a kid,” she added. “Acting with people older than me was a bit like, ‘Oh wow, they know what they’re doing. There’s going to be relationships on this show and you’re going to need to play that part.’ I didn’t feel really ready for that. I was always a really late bloomer in school, and I hadn’t really dated. I just had no idea what I was doing really. So, I felt like I needed to catch up.”

Mischa Barton Admits to Tricky Ben McKenzie Romance on The O C
Mischa Barton and Ben McKenzie in “The O.C.” Fox

Wednesday marked the first time Barton admitted to being romantically involved with McKenzie, now 45. She also admitted she had “no idea” what she was doing during the “tricky” relationship and was “overwhelmed” by what went down.

“I think that kind of set things off on the wrong foot too, because it was like people hook up on these shows and, whatever, and these things happen, but we threw ourselves all into it very fast,” the actress shared. “Then when you break up and things don’t work, and they see you dating other people. Notoriously, there was a lot of dating on that show and different people getting together.” (Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson were open about dating for the entire run of the show, splitting shortly before their characters, Seth and Summer, wed in the series finale.)

Barton told Cooper about The O.C. crew members talking to her parents after she “disappeared with Ben” on set.

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“That [was] in the very beginning of the show, before we’re even halfway through a season,” she shared. “So, there was a lot going on there. That show, just so much happened in three seasons. It really feels like it was over the course of seven years or something, but it was all crammed into this tiny little space.”

During their time as costars — and even in the years that followed — Barton and McKenzie both denied that anything romantic went down between them.

“It’s terribly weird, but it’s kind of amusing now that I can laugh about it,” Barton told Cosmopolitan in 2004. “[Once], we pretended for a whole day that I was dating Adam and Rachel was dating Ben, just throw everyone off.”

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