Marissa Gets a Girlfriend on “The O.C.”

Seth, Marissa, and RyanOlivia Wilde plays Alex

The O.C.‘s long-suffering Marissa (Mischa Barton) will be getting a girlfriend next month, says series creator Josh Schwartz.

In a new interview with, series creator Josh Schwartz indicates that the storyline, which was planned “before the show ever premiered this year,” is not a ratings stunt, but a real relationship.

A drama about the trials and tribulations in the personal lives of a few wealthy families in Orange County, California, The O.C. revived the nighttime teen-soap genre when it burst onto the scene last season and instantly became a ratings blockbuster for Fox. It also made stars out of its cast, which includes Barton as poor little rich girl Marissa, Benjamin McKenzie as reformed bad boy Ryan, and Adam Brody as the quirky geek Seth. The O.C. dealt with a gay storyline in its first season when the father of Marissa’s ex-boyfriend was outed, but this is its first lesbian storyline.

Mischa Barton as MarissaMarissa is coming off a bad year, which included her parents divorcing, new friend Oliver stalking her, and her mother trying to institutionalize her after an “accidental” drug overdose. Not to mention Marissa’s love of all things alcoholic, which frequently leaves her passed out on someone’s lawn after a party.

Now that a new school year has started, Marissa can’t seem to reconnect with Ryan, her mom is driving her crazy, and her summer fling with DJ the gardener has left her unsatisfied. “The DJ thing was kind of a bust,” admits Schwartz. “It wasn’t resonant and earth-shattering, but this relationship [with the girl] is.” Lonely and in search of something to piss off her mom, Marissa unexpectedly finds herself developing real feelings for a girl: Alex, played by Olivia Wilde, who was initially introduced as Seth’s love interest.

“Marissa is at a point in her life where she’s trying to find herself and her true identity,” says Schwartz. “There’s another character who she really connects with. It’s a girl, which is not something Marissa may have anticipated. But she’s willing and game to explore and experiment with that.”

Mischa Barton has played a lesbian before, in a small but memorable role as the love interest of teenager Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood) on ABC’s drama Once and Again. Jessie and Katie’s relationship was deftly and sensitively explored over the course of the show’s final season beginning in 2002, and remains one of the best portrayals of a teenage lesbian relationship on TV. Many gay teens attribute that storyline with giving them the courage to come out themselves, and fan sites and fan fiction devoted to the couple remain active even today.

Barton has also starred in numerous indie films, including Lost and Delirious, as a boarding school student who is witness to the tragic love affair between her two female roommates.

No word yet on how long the relationship with last, but it’s unlikely to be as low-key as her lesbian relationship on Once and Again, since everything’s grist for the drama mill on The O.C. Expect Schwartz to avoid the usual overblown, afterschool-special reaction when Marissa’s friends and family find out about her relationship, though. “It’s my experience that the fluidity of sexuality with younger people is more accepted,” says Schwartz.

Since relationships on The O.C. come and go faster than you can say “Chrismakkuh,” this one isn’t likely to last more than a few episodes, so be sure to tune in when the storyline begins in January if you want to catch it.

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