For the now-35-year-old Mischa Barton, fame has always been a mixed bag. Barton is best known for her role as Marissa Cooper on the popular early 00's show The O.C., a role that catapulted her into the spotlight and onto the cover of tabloids before her twentieth birthday. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Barton reflected on her career and the intense scrutiny she was under as an “it girl” during a time when the vicious beratement of female celebrities was the norm.
After appearing on the first season of The Hills: New Beginnings in 2019, Barton took a break from Los Angeles, moving to upstate New York for a while. But now, she’s ready to get back to her acting career. She’s even considering making a docuseries about her life, to create something that’s “finally from her perspective.”
“My manager is smart about what roles he sends me and he knows exactly what it is I want to play. They do have to have some sort of depth to them because, you know, I’ve lived quite a wild life, I’ve been through a lot and so that sort of vapid twentysomething …” She pauses. “I didn’t even like playing it [in The OC] when I was that age, but even less so now.”
Starring on The O.C. made the then-17-year-old Barton an instant star, but unfortunately, that fame brought with it endless harassment from the paparazzi and a misogynistic fixation on her appearance. Within a year, the attention was “almost out of control”—a fact which, unsurprisingly, took a serious toll on her mental health.
As society begins to reckon with its treatment of celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, two other young women whose fame peaked in the early 2000s, Barton has seen herself in many of their stories.
“I think a lot of people deserve apologies for the things that were done to them at that time,” she says. “The Britney doc really got to me. Watching that was very strange because I was in all the same places.” Her experiences of being followed by the paparazzi were similar. “Certainly, you couldn’t get away with it today to the same extent, not the same kind of danger,” she says.
“I get mild PTSD about certain things to do with …” She trails off. “I’m not broken by any means but I certainly don’t like, and I’m very aware of, people taking pictures of me. I’m very aware of camera flashes and cars following me and stuff. And it’s not all in my head – it still happens.”
Barton was careful in speaking about her time on The O.C., explaining that she’d “had a couple of bad experiences behind the camera” that “set the tone for the rest of [her] experience on the show,” adding that she didn’t feel supported. By the end of her time on the show, Barton said the working environment had become “completely abusive.”
“I’m very slow to feel comfortable about [talking about] it. It’s hard because I was young, I was very immature. There’s people who are a lot older than you, and 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds, can seem like adults, and I certainly was quite a sophisticated one, I guess. So maybe there was a misconception about how young I really was a lot of the time.”
Read the full interview with Barton here.