Mischa Barton Says 'Bullying' on The O.C. Set Led to Her Exit: 'I Just Felt Very Unprotected'
"There were people on that set that were very mean to me," the actress said in a recent interview
The actress, 35, said in an interview with E! News published Tuesday that "bullying" behind the scenes ultimately led to her leaving the show in 2006.
"There were people on that set that were very mean to me," said Barton, who played Marissa Cooper on the teen soap beginning in 2003. "It wasn't, like, the most ideal environment for a young, sensitive girl who's also been thrust into stardom to have to put up with."
Sometime during season 2, things got more difficult for Barton, she said. The hours got longer, and the producers started "evening out everybody's pay" after promoting her costar Rachel Bilson. "And sort of general bullying from some of the men on set that kind of felt really s—," she added.
"But, you know, 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," Barton told E! News. "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."
Reps for Warner Bros. and The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
"Mischa didn't want off the show anymore than any of the other kids wanted off the show," Schwartz told The Daily Beast in 2017. "It was a complicated chemistry with the cast … But she certainly wasn't actively seeking to leave the show."
Barton bowed out in one of the most memorable scenes in television history, as Marissa's on-and-off boyfriend Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) carried her lifeless body away from a car crash, to "Hallelujah" By Jeff Buckley. "They made me feel like the show is going to go on with or without you and it is what it is," she told E! News of being written out of the series. "So I was just, like, OK, cool, then let's go out with a bang."
"I remember thinking it would be really funny when we were doing the scene after the car crash and, you know, taking the blood [from] the makeup artist and I was just like, 'Squeeze it all over me!'" Barton said. "I wanted it to be as gory and as bloody as possible. I in no way want to glorify this accident or the ending of this, so I was just like, 'Go out with a bang!'"
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Barton said she still appreciates the impact her final scene had on the show's fans. "But I also do really love that she had this epic death and that it ended like that because it's memorable and it's not just another flash in the pan," she said.
"People still come up to me to this day and they're like, 'I remember where I was when your character died!' And they're still emotional about it, like it was really me. I think that that's cool that people actually took something away from it. There were lessons to be learned from Marissa, for better or for worse."
Barton returned to TV screens in 2019, when she joined the cast of the reality show reboot The Hills: New Beginnings. "I just want people to be able to identify with me," she told PEOPLE at the time. "But I'm also a very in your face person. I don't have trouble with confrontation!"