At the age of 26, Josh Schwartz became the youngest person to ever create his own one-hour drama for network television. While attending USC, Schwartz got his first look into life in Southern California. In 2002, he met with McG and Stephanie Savage, whose company Wonderland has been behind such projects as "Charlie's Angels," "Fastlane" and "The Mountain." From that fateful meeting, Schwartz drew upon McG's experiences as a child growing up in Newport, and combined them with his own outsider's perspective of the Orange County lifestyle and "The O.C." was born.

Bob DeLaurentis, a 20 year television veteran best known for his work on "Providence," came aboard as the Executive Producer. Working closely with Schwartz, DeLaurentis facilitates the integration of daily production work with the stories that are developed in the writers' room. In addition to this already incredibly talented team Allan Heinberg, who wrote for such hits as "Sex and the City," "Gilmore Girls" and "Party of Five," was hired as the Co-Executive Producer for "The O.C."

One of the most distinct characteristics of Newport Beach - the main locale for "The O.C." - are the McMansions, which are often located high on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. A drive by these amazing pieces of architecture might provoke wonder. Who lives there? And what are their lives like?

Through the characters that we get to know every week on "The O.C.," we are invited to explore this interesting and complex world. Through the use of the sets that are created we are able to have access to their state of mind, their moods and what it would be like to grow up in this community.

Perhaps the most dynamic and symbolic set is the Cohen family home. The real Cohen house actually exists in Malibu. In reality, however, this actual Malibu home is without the now-trademark Pool House. For the pilot episode of "The OC" a team of construction workers built a make-shift pool house in the backyard, which was taken down after the completion of the episode. After the pilot went to series the obstacle became how to recreate the house on a soundstage. This was no easy task, but our skillful production team went to work and thus produced the Cohen home, pool house, and of course the infamous infinity pool.

Designed and constructed to symbolize the Cohen family structure, the home serves as a character unto itself. The Cohen house was built to illustrate the family dynamic of being open, communicative and the type of family everyone wants to be a part of. The house has high ceilings and bright and spacious rooms. An open floor plan was necessary to illustrate that there were no secrets amongst the family. The doors to the backyard are always open so that everyone feels like they are welcome; in short, no one who wishes to participate in a Cohen dinner or gathering is ever shut out.

This season brought about a re-design of the Cohen household, adding more space and color. Cher Ledwith, the set decorator, states that her goal was "to take them a little out of this Newport Beach world and bring about colors that reflect the personality of Sandy and Kirsten Cohen. In other words, they do not fit into a 'beige on beige' world, and neither do the kids of 'The O.C.'" For a teenager, the ability to use one's room as one's voice can be a powerful mechanism, and unlike those of most people, the rooms of the show's characters are seen by millions of people each and every week. The symbolism of the rooms is taken into careful consideration while the set designers and writers are molding the environments.

The character of Marissa Cooper, for instance, has undergone many transitions over the course of a year, and will continue to experience more changes as the second season begins. Marissa's first room represents the innocence of a young girl growing up in wealthy Newport Beach - porcelain dolls, picture collages of her and her friends, floral linens and prints, scrapbooks and memorabilia from her childhood. She lives in an ideal image of what she is supposed to be and is surrounded by all things familiar to her, representing a family still intact.

After the divorce of her parents, Marissa transitioned into a new home - a symbol of her fluctuating state of being. She no longer had her own space and was living out of boxes with her father in a small apartment. According to Ledwith, the thought while creating Jimmy Cooper's apartment was to structure it like "it was a place to crash." When Seth and Summer surprised her with a room makeover, Marissa was able to feel like she was being taken care of, which gave her a sense of belonging and a feeling of familiarity.

The third transformation of Marissa's room/new house will be seen in the second season. The Parisian-themed idea that Ledwith went with in decorating the room was chosen to illustrate Marissa's current state of mind. Her intention was to make the room look like it was decorated by Julie Cooper, furthering the notion that she was back in charge of Marissa's life - telling her how to act and reminding her that she came from money and lived in a house that people only dream of.

In a dramatic look at the creative process, Ledwith mentioned that they placed a bird cage in Marissa's latest room to symbolize the teenager's own entrapment and feeling of being a prisoner in her own room. She is uncomfortable in her own room, just as she is uncomfortable in her own skin.

Elsewhere, Seth Cohen's room has remained static and constant since the pilot. His room reflects the geeky nature he exemplifies on screen. His interests are prominently laid out for the viewer to see, from his childhood toy horse (Captain Oats) and his sailboats to his love for indie music. The innocence of his youth is found in the core of his room. A child at heart, Seth still retains the furniture from when he was young.

From the very beginning - once the seeds of "The O.C." were planted - everyone involved in the production fully understood the importance of casting the show and finding the perfect cast. Enter casting veteran Patrick Rush, who remarks that the powers-that-be were "beyond thrilled and excited when they found out Peter Gallagher was interested in playing the part of Sandy Cohen."

When he came in to read with Schwartz, McG and Savage, Rush recalls Schwartz saying, "That's the most famous person to ever say my words." Peter was Sandy Cohen from the minute he walked into the room, and when Rush had auditions for the role of Kirsten Cohen he loved how Kelly Rowan "trusted Josh's words and that she did not arrive with the baggage of an actress everyone has seen a million times. I thought and still think she is a fresh face and always brings something interesting to the table."

The role of Ryan Atwood was the toughest role to fill. According to Rush, they searched everywhere to find the perfect Ryan, until one day he received a call from Warner Bros. saying that this actor "had just tested for a UPN sitcom and didn't get it." Intrigued, Rush called him in for an audition the next day. "When Benjamin came in," he explains, "he wasn't physically what Josh had envisioned, but he inhabited the character unlike anyone we had seen. I think that the character of Ryan is a kid that always seems a little lost and has a sense of mystery and danger; Benjamin has all those qualities."

Rush is also quick to recount the uniqueness of Mischa Barton, noting that the creative team also had an eye on her since the beginning. The character of Marissa always seemed like, in Rush's words, "a girl stuck in the trappings of her life who seemed older than her actual age." Mischa is clearly a very beautiful girl, and it was great to encounter a 16-year-old who was so mature and who possessed all of the qualities the producers were looking for.

Interestingly enough, Adam Brody originally read for the role of Ryan Atwood but the casting exec asked him to return and read for the role of Seth Cohen. "I knew there was something amazing about Adam," admits Rush, "but I couldn't put my finger on it at the time. I knew he was not right for Ryan and I was worried that he was too good looking for Seth. His reading for Seth in front of Josh has been widely talked about. Let's just say it did not go so well. Adam took some liberties with Josh's words and Josh was not pleased."

However, Rush continues, "When we still had not found our Seth weeks later, I asked Josh how he felt about giving Adam another chance. He was hesitant but open to it." Rush goes on to add that, "Adam reminds me of Tom Hanks in the 'Bosom Buddies' days. I think he has an explosive talent."

Rachel Bilson is another unique story because originally she had a mere three lines in the pilot which were "Eww," "Gotta pee" and "He's hot." With her unbelievable charm and charisma, she was able to make Summer Roberts a loveable character. Rush also adds that she "wins the 'best sport award' for the amount of times she had to audition - each time she got better and funnier."

As for the show's evil woman, Julie Cooper, Rush recalls that almost everyone who came in had had extreme surgeries and had spent too much time basking in the sun. "Melinda Clarke brings a complete sense of humor to this role, and manages to make the least likable character on the show so much fun."

So there you have it..."Welcome to the O.C., bitch"!

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