The real reason Mischa Barton left The OC

If you look at any list of the top teen dramas of all-time, there's a pretty good chance that the Fox hit series, The O.C. will make an appearance. The show ran for four seasons — from 2003 to 2007 — and had teens across the country belting, "Californiaaa, Californiaaa, here we cooome..." 

The teen actors on The O.C. were plucked from relstive obscurity and turned into A-listers overnight. Some of the biggest names to come out of the early-00s teen drama are Adam Brody, Rachel Bilson and Mischa Barton. While most of the main cast stuck around until the series wrapped, Barton made an early exit at the end of season three in May 2006. In light of her departure, Barton's character, Marissa Cooper, was killed off in a fiery car accident

During her time on the show, Barton was riding high — landing magazine covers left and right and gracing the red carpet of some of the biggest award shows. Since then, however, that hasn't quite been the case. So why did Mischa Barton leave the show that catapulted her to fame? 

It was a bit of he said, she said

In a 2013 interview with The Huffington Post, O.C. creator Josh Schwartz made it seem like killing off Marissa Cooper was simply part of his artistic vision, and Mischa Barton's job was just collateral damage. "It was a hundred percent a creative decision for the show and it was born out of both feeling creatively like it was the direction the show needed to head and also, quite frankly, a function of needing to do something big to shake up the show at the end of that third season to both get the show to come back for a fourth season," Schwartz said. 

However, over the years Barton has always maintained that she was the one who pulled the plug and left writers scrambling for a way to explain Marissa Cooper's disappearance. In May 2019, the actress told The New York Times that she said goodbye to the show because she thought it was holding her back from realizing her full potential. "I just had a lot in my career that I wanted to do and accomplish....I felt like things were really heavily reliant upon me, and I was getting no time to do any of the other offers that were out there." 

Further proof that it was Barton's choice to step away from the show? The actress says she's the one who pushed for the heart-wrenching way Marissa Cooper met her end as opposed to an alternative ending where the character just left town. "I fought tooth and nail for that to not happen, because I just don't think that's Marissa Cooper, the actress told the Times in the aforementioned interview. "I just don't think sailing off into the sunset's the proper goodbye." 

While Barton might have left The O.C. in pursuit of bigger and better things, it remains her most notable gig to date. In a twist of fate, the actress joined the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings in 2019. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The O.C. "served as inspiration for MTV's pioneering reality series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" — the show that ultimately led to the birth of The Hills. So without Marissa Cooper and the gang, there would have been no Hills or a Hills reboot for Barton to launch her comeback tour. 

Aside from her reboot gig, here's why you never really hear from Barton these days.