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September 02, 2009

The O.C. Revealed

Stars and producers of hit serial The OC talk with Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly at The OC Revealed. See story and pictures.

Being an outsider isn’t always a bad thing. Just ask Josh Schwartz, who took those feelings and managed to translate them into one of the hottest shows on television, Fox’s top drama among women eighteen to thirty-nine and its most successful Thursday night show in years.

That genesis was one of the topics discussed at the Television Academy program “The O.C. Revealed,” held March 21 at the Steven J. Ross Theatre at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. Schwartz, creator/executive producer of The O.C., headed a panel which included fellow exec producer McG, stars Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Benjamin McKenzie, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Melinda Clarke, Rachel Bilson and Alan Dale and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas. Entertainment Weekly senior writer Lynette Rice moderated.

Schwartz was just twenty-six when he created the show, which is set in Newport Beach. “I went to USC, where all the Newport kids go,” he related. “I was an outsider — Jewish, a bit pasty.” He had a meeting with McG, who, it so happened, grew up in Newport but also felt an outsider, as a five-feet-two-inch redhead. “We talked about worlds,” McG recalled. “Josh said, ‘I have a take on that world.’”

It took some convincing before Fox agreed that “a neurotic Jewish kid [Brody’s Seth] could be the heart of the show,” Schwartz noted. The show’s anchor, McG said, is Gallagher as Seth’s father Sandy. Indeed, unlike some of its predecessors, The O.C. makes the parents an integral part of the action.

“I’d never seen any of the other teenage dramas,” Gallagher said. “I thought this was an amazing script. It was one of the few times where you read a script and it just works. And it had humor, which I didn’t know existed in one-hour dramas. Nine-eleven had just happened, and there was something reassuring about a family embracing. Then all my friends in the know said, ‘What the hell are you doing? You’re doing a teen drama!’ But to my delight, each script has been uniformly excellent.”

Not all script elements have been uniformly embraced, however. Says Clarke, whose character Julie was revealed to have made a pornographic videotape years earlier, “She’s an extreme character with extreme storylines. She’s been an interesting journey for an actress. But I’m uncomfortable with some of the storylines.”

On the other hand, said Dale, who portrays the unsavory Caleb, “This is probably the most fun character I’ve ever played, because he’s so evil. I’ve found I get a lot more interest from women.” And, said Barton, whose poor little rich girl Marissa has struggled with substance abuse and had a lesbian affair, “I like to play edgy material, so I’m a test case.”

Also integral to the show is its music. “I’d always intended the music to be a character, and to showcase emerging music,” Patsavas said, noting that after the band Rooney appeared on an episode, its sales almost tripled the following week. “We’ve gotten a lot of interest from the record community. We probably get 400 to 500 [submissions] a week.”

Added McG, “It’s been particularly rewarding that music you’re not going to see on MTV or hear on the radio can be heard on our show in an emotional scene. We always let the music play a little before the emotion starts.”

The show has changed the lives of all its young leads. When did they first realize it was so popular? “We were having a screening at a bar in Hermosa Beach,” Bilson said. “I was with my publicist, and we pulled up. There was a whole crowd of people there. I said, ‘Oh, what’s going on there?’ My publicist said, ‘That’s where you’re going.’”

Conrad Bachmann produced the evening, which began with a reception and music from the band The 88 and ended with a drawing for a walk-on part in an episode. Karen Miller chairs the activities committee; Barbara Wellner is entertainment vice chair. Robert O’Donnell is director of activities for the Academy.

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