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Mischa Barton reveals she dated The O.C. costar Ben McKenzie when she was 17 and he was 25: ‘It was kind of complicated for me’

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Mischa Barton says an early romance with actor Ben McKenzie, who she costarred with on The O.C., paved a ‘complicated’ path for her early on in her time on the popular Fox teen drama.

The 38-year-old actress says she was 17 when she dated a 25-year-old McKenzie, as their respective characters, Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood, were linked romantically in the storyline of the series.

The romance wasn’t ‘just on screen,’ Barton said Wednesday in an appearance on the podcast Call Her Daddy, adding ‘It was kind of complicated for me.’

Barton told podcast host Alex Cooper her ‘first’ romance was with McKenzie, adding, ‘I had no idea what I was doing.

‘I think that kind of set things off on the wrong foot, too, because it was like – you know people hook up on these shows and whatever, these things happen, but it was – we threw ourselves all into it very fast.’

Mischa Barton, 38, says an early romance with actor Ben McKenzie, 45, who she costarred with on The O.C., paved a 'complicated' path for her early on in her time on the popular Fox teen drama

McKenzie was pictured in NYC last October

Mischa Barton, 38, says an early romance with actor Ben McKenzie, 45, who she costarred with on The O.C., paved a ‘complicated’ path for her early on in her time on the popular Fox teen drama 

Barton says she was 17 when she dated a 25-year-old McKenzie, as their respective characters, Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood, were linked romantically in the storyline of the series

Barton says she was 17 when she dated a 25-year-old McKenzie, as their respective characters, Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood, were linked romantically in the storyline of the series 

Barton appeared on 76 episodes of the series from 2003-2006, while McKenzie appeared on 92 episodes of the show from 2003-2007. Other series regulars included Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke, Kelly Rowan, Peter Gallagher and Adam Brody.

Barton said that she was inexperienced in many facets of life upon beginning on the series.

‘I went into that a virgin, a kid, really feeling like I needed to grow up quickly,’ Barton said, noting that she was the youngest member of the ensemble cast at the time, which created a dynamic that ‘was a bit tricky for everyone.’

She said: ‘Acting with people older than me was a bit like, “Oh wow. They know what they’re doing.”

‘And there’s gonna be relationships on this show and you’re gonna need to play that part, and I didn’t feel really ready for that, cause I was always a really late bloomer in school and I hadn’t really dated.’

Barton said she felt like she ‘needed to catch up’ to her elders in terms of experiences.

‘I was experiencing all my firsts and I was so young and my mom would be on set and … I just needed a lot more attention in that sense,’ Barton said on the podcast. ‘It was a lot of my firsts, let’s put it like that. 

‘And that kind of really separated me, a little, from them, in the sense that I wasn’t out there living on my own in L.A. yet.’

McKenzie and wife Morena Baccarin, 44, were pictured at the Gotham Awards in NYC last year

McKenzie and wife Morena Baccarin, 44, were pictured at the Gotham Awards in NYC last year 

Barton told podcast host Alex Cooper her 'first' romance was with McKenzie, adding, 'I had no idea what I was doing'

Barton told podcast host Alex Cooper her ‘first’ romance was with McKenzie, adding, ‘I had no idea what I was doing’

Barton said that she was inexperienced in many facets of life upon beginning on the series

Barton said that she was inexperienced in many facets of life upon beginning on the series 

Barton said she felt like she 'needed to catch up' to her elders in terms of experiences

Barton said she felt like she ‘needed to catch up’ to her elders in terms of experiences 

Barton posed with Cooper in a promotional shot for the podcast on her Instagram Stories

Barton posed with Cooper in a promotional shot for the podcast on her Instagram Stories 

Barton said that matters were further complicated after she and McKenzie broke up, as they had began dating ‘right out of the gate’ from when the show began.

She recalled of the timeframe: ‘I felt overwhelmed and not ready for any of that. I remember they were like, “Mischa’s disappeared with Ben and she’s only 17 and-a-half, 18,” and the producers went to my parents and were like – it was kind of a whole ordeal.’

She continued: ‘That’s in the very beginning of the show before we’re even halfway through a season, so there was a lot going on there. That show … so much happened in three seasons.’

McKenzie and wife Morena Baccarin, 44 – who he met working on the series Gotham – exchanged vows in June of 2017. 

They are parents to two children – daughter Frances Laiz, seven, and son Arthur, two. Baccarin is also mother to son Julius, 10, from her previous marriage to director Austin Chick.

Barton appeared on 76 episodes of the series from 2003-2006

Barton appeared on 76 episodes of the series from 2003-2006 

She was pictured signing autographs for fans in 2003 in Hermosa Beach, California

She was pictured signing autographs for fans in 2003 in Hermosa Beach, California 

Barton has past been critical of the environment on the set of the Fox series, telling E! News in a May 2021 interview that she faced a ‘sort of general bullying from some of the men on set’ amid her time on the show.

‘It’s a bit complicated,’ Barton told the outlet. ‘It started pretty early on because it had a lot to do with them adding Rachel in last minute as, after the first season, a series regular and evening out everybody’s pay – and sort of general bullying from some of the men on set that kind of felt really s***ty.

‘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. 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.’

Dailymail.com has reached out to McKenzie’s reps for comment on this story.

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