Characters / The O.C.

Main Characters

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     Ryan Atwood 

Ryan Atwood (portrayed by Ben McKenzie)

  • Abusive Parents: Frank Atwood and many of Ryan's mother's boyfriends. Ryan gets hit in the face by one five minutes into the Pilot.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: He's stoic and usually level-headed, but has a violent side due to his rough upbringing.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: In season 2 when paired with Lindsay.
  • Chick Magnet: Attracts the attention of Summer, Marissa, Gabrielle, Theresa, Lindsay, Sadie, Taylor, and his one-night stand Chloe.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Lampshaded at seperate times by different characters in Season 1, 2, 3, and 4. One episode in Season 3 had Kirsten helping Ryan to figure out he doesn't need to help every Damsel in Distress anymore. One episode in Season 4 had Sandy helping Ryan to figure out he needs to help every Damsel in Distress because it's "his thing" and he "shouldn't turn his back on that".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Leaning more to the Deadpan side of this trope.
  • Doom Magnet: He is accused of being one early in the show by Julie.
  • Fish out of Water: During his first months in Newport but he eventually grows out of it.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's very tough and he has been described as highly intelligent.
  • Happily Adopted: He goes from the Orphan's Ordeal to this after being adopted by the Cohens.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: He's actually a good and heroic person, despite his reputation as outsider/bad boy from Chino.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Seth eventually become best friends other than brothers.

     Seth Cohen 

Seth Cohen (portrayed by Adam Brody)

  • Adorkable: A socially awkward, self-proclaimed geek with a great sense of humor.
  • Author Avatar: Seth Cohen is Josh Schwartz.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: It's arguable whether Seth started as one or Took a Level in Jerkass.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Seth Cohen is stealth.
  • Chick Magnet: He attracts the attention of Summer, Anna, Alex, and Taylor.
  • Cool Loser: Seth is clearly an attractive, talented, funny and ridiculously rich young man, yet he couldn't get a date for most of his life, despite living in a town full of golddiggers, and was constantly being beaten up by jocks. He apparently had no friends at all prior the arrival of Ryan. It's implied that Seth would probably be popular if he lived anywhere besides Orange County. This is particularly obvious when he briefly moves to Portland, and apparently has no trouble making friends. It's just that he's surrounded by people who are pompous and shallow.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Incarnate. His trademark sarcasm is a notable aspect of his personality.
  • Fanboy: Seth loves his comic books.
  • Genre Savvy: Almost to the point of breaking the fourth wall sometimes. At the beginning of one episode he notes that everything has been going so well lately that something is bound to go wrong.
    Seth: Ryan, don't ya see? Things are going way too well around here. Marissa got back into Harbor, you guys seemed to resolve your surf-tastic love triangle, my girlfriend got a near perfect score on her SATs but we've never been happier.
    Ryan: It's senior year, it's meant to be the best one.
    Seth: No, you should know better. Every time things are going well around here, that's when doom comes a-knockin'.
    (doorbell rings)
    Seth: Or a-ringin'... Don't answer it, it's probably a flaming bag of crap.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: For somebody who is supposed to be a socially awkward geek and outcast, Seth seems to have little trouble attracting beautiful young women.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Ryan eventually become best friends other than brothers.
  • High School Sweethearts: With Summer. They get married in the series finale.
  • Hollywood Nerd: He is supposed to be an unattractive nerd due to his social awkwardness and huge interest in comic books and science fiction. This doesn't really work since he's also sweet, funny, and played by the attractive Adam Brody.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: In the beginning of the series, though he has glaring social quirks that contribute as well.
  • It's All About Me: He's incredibly self-absorbed and gets mad when other people change the subject.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be self-absorbed and slightly petty, but he loves Summer more than anything, and most of his selfless and sweet moments occur when he's with her, or when the situation involves her. When he wasn't accepted to his preferred university, and she refused to go without him, he broke up with her and told her didn't love her any more just so she would go. And he clearly did still love her. And how can we forget all the times where he looked after her and his mother while they were drunk?
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Geeky and Jewish on his father's side.
  • The Lancer: To Ryan's The Hero and also serves as his Foil.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Before Ryan's arrival, he had no friends at all.
  • Motor Mouth: Especially when nervous, which happens a lot.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He gets a couple of Shirtless Scenes.
  • Mushroom Samba: In Season 4, Seth takes hallucinogenic berries in an attempt to "heal his animus". He then has a vision of walking through a tripped-out version of the Cohen house until he walks into his room. His room now has a pool in it, where Seth's spirit animal, an otter, flops out of the pool. Seth begins to talk to him. When the vision ends, Seth has been renewed spiritually by 'saving his spirit animal', and is thus ready to love again.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Played by the handsome Adam Brody and has quite a few girls attracted to him on the show.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: A snarkier version of one but one nevertheless.
  • Opposites Attract: Seth/Summer, nerd + popular party girl.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Snarky Savvy Guy to bubbly, gossipy Genki Girl Summer.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The geeky, naive Sensitive guy to Ryan's stoic, badass Manly Man.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Extremely rich but also a genuinely good person.
  • The Stoner: In season 3, after failing to get into Brown.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: He's taller than Ryan and definitely a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: As mentioned above, its arguable whether Seth did this or started as a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Uke: A rare, male het example, to Summer's Seme. He also attracts a couple of seme-ish girls throughout the series.

     Marissa Cooper 

Marissa Cooper (portrayed by Mischa Barton)

  • The Alcoholic: In season 2, she struggles with alcohol and depression.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Besides Ryan, there's also Volchok in season 3. She is aware that he is "bad" by most people's standards, but actively defends him as misunderstood to everyone, until he cheats on her, humiliates her and uses her to steal money.
  • Anyone Can Die: Especially surprising considering there was no real warning for it in the press, and the character dies on the way to a bus trip.
  • Attention Whore: Craving attention from her family through her substance abuse and questionable relationships.
  • Bi the Way: She has a relationship with another female character, Alex, in season 2.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Due to being a spoiled upper class girl.
  • Broken Bird: Starting off as a privileged do-gooder whose family falls apart, and is then forced to deal with her conniving mother, all of which tracks pretty well. However, her subsequent behavior bounces between lashing out, self-destructing, clinging to any remotely available teenager in a two-mile radius, and generally whining about all of the above.
  • Damsel in Distress: She needs to be rescued by Ryan more than a few times.
  • Doom Magnet: Especially in season 3. In fact, when you factor in that her death at the end of the third season was followed by the much Lighter and Softer fourth season - Everything literally got better for the characters after Marissa's death. Possibly lampshaded in a Freeze-Frame Bonus in the Alternate Universe/All Just a Dream episode.note 
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Bisexual girl Alex.
  • Fallen Princess: In season 3, Marissa is expelled from the private high school and begins attending public school.
  • Fragile Flower: She's quite emotionally unstable.
  • Freudian Excuse: Her family situation.
  • Generation Xerox: She has a lot of her father's characteristics, such as his impulsiveness and irresponsibility.
  • Girl Next Door: Literally to Seth and Ryan, despite being a rebellious Broken Bird rich girl unlike the typical Girl Next Door character.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Athough she is much more vulnerable than the typical "party girl".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: In the Oliver story-line of Season One. Her later dalliance with Volchok doesn't count because she is fully aware he is bad for her.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Often wears revealing dresses.
  • Opposites Attract: Ryan/Marissa (wrong side of the tracks + (seemingly) perfect debutante).
  • Rebellious Princess: A privileged rich girl with a history of substance abuse and rebellious behavior
  • Second Love: To Ryan. The first was Theresa.
  • Socialite: Like her mother and her friends, this is her lifestyle in Newport.
  • Spoiled Brat: For much of Season 2 & the end of Season 3. Made especially bad when Lindsey, who lives in a tiny bungalow and grew up without a father, shows up to contrast with her.
  • Suddenly Sexuality: Marissa's bisexuality in season two. Eventually handwaved as just another attempt to piss off her mother.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Girly Girl to Alex's Tomboy.
  • Trauma Conga Line: She goes through some traumatic experiences before dying in season 3.
  • Uptown Girl: To Ryan (the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks). This is the primary storyline for the first half of the show.

     Summer Roberts 

Summer Roberts (portrayed by Rachel Bilson)

  • All Girls Like Ponies: Summer and Princess Sparkle.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Initially was attracted to Ryan due to his brooding 'bad boy' image.
  • Ascended Extra: Summer wasn't even a series regular until halfway through the first season, until it became apparent that audiences responded to her romance with Seth.
  • Book Dumb: The writers seemed unsure whether Summer was merely Book Dumb or The Ditz. She seems to vary with different episodes, and at least one episode hinted she was more a Seemingly Profound Fool ("what is a Jihad?").
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: It's discovered in season 3 that she has higher SAT scores than Seth, and Dr. Kim notes to Summer that every few years Harbor has a student with high aptitude and potential that remains untapped as they spent their time gossiping and shopping rather than studying.
  • Catch Phrase: "Eww"
  • Character Development: The first episode she was more like Holly Fischer, going as far as to dump the drunk Marissa on her front door and flirt with Luke.

     Taylor Townsend 

Taylor Townsend (portrayed by Autumn Reeser)

  • Stalker with a Crush: She stalks Ryan early in their relationship. But it's played for laughs rather than being depicted as creepy, due to Taylor's adorkableness.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: With Jack Hess, the new Dean, in early season 3.
  • Tomboyish Name: Taylor is a unisex name.
  • When She Smiles: Her entire face seems to light up when she is happy, which usually occurs after an encounter with Seth or Ryan.

     Luke Ward 

Luke Ward (portrayed by Chris Carmack)

  • Bash Brothers: He gets there with Ryan, however short-lived it may have been.
  • Big Man on Campus: The popular Newport Beach captain of the water polo team.
  • The Bully: Initially, to both Seth and newcomer Ryan.
    Luke: Welcome to the O.C., bitch!
  • Fire-Forged Friends: He goes from their bully to a good friend of Ryan and Seth.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the early episodes he was pretty much your typical Jerk Jock, but by the end of the first season he had turned into a sympathetic, likable character.
  • Jerk Jock: Early on, as the captain of the water polo team who was dating Marissa and always picking fights with Ryan. He later becomes a Lovable Jock.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He starts out as a complete Jerkass, and eventually becomes a pretty good friend to the main cast.
  • May–December Romance: With Julie Cooper, the mother of his ex-girlfriend Marissa.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He also has Shirtless Scenes.
  • Odd Friendship: With Ryan for the latter half of Season 1, since they start out as enemies. Luke also accepts Ryan's relationship with his ex-girlfriend Marissa
  • Put on a Bus: By the end of season one he had become a fairly major character. However, after the season two premiere he is never seen again.
  • Really Gets Around: He was cheating on Marissa during their relationship.

     Sandy Cohen 

Sandy Cohen (portrayed by Peter Gallagher)

  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: It is Peter Gallagher, after all.
  • Brooklyn Rage: He is from The Bronx.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gives his son a run for his money.
  • Good Parents: To both Seth and his adopted son Ryan.
  • The Idealist: Through and through. He's an idealistic public defender.
  • Informed Judaism: He's Jewish but other than having a sterotypical Jewish Mother his Judaism is only infrequently mentioned.
  • My Beloved Smother: His mother is a handful to say the least.
  • Nice Guy: The creator of the series describes him as "He is never a man who can refuse to help someone."
  • Opposites Attract: Sandy/Kirsten, geeky Jewish liberal lawyer + WASP princess.
  • Papa Wolf: Has a quiet but powerful moment after rescuing Seth.
    Sandy: Since the minute you were born I knew, I would never take another easy breath without knowing that you were all right.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: As a father figure, he serves as a moral center, often guiding and supporting Seth and Ryan.

     Kirsten Cohen 

Kirsten Cohen (portrayed by Kelly Rowan)

  • The Alcoholic: In season 2, when her marriage with Sandy begins to deteriorate.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: At one point in the show Sandy mentions to another character that Kirsten is a political conservative. There are also a few points in the show where Kirsten criticizes Sandy's "hippie parenting."
  • Broken Bird: Probably the most traditional version, born into a wealthy, emotionally-detached family with a cheating, power-hungry father and an alcoholic mother who dies long before the series begins. She channels this trauma into becoming a "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl and eventual Lady Drunk.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Before Ryan joined the family and caused her to soften. Lampshaded in a touching scene in the fourth season premiere, "The Avengers", when Seth puts together a comic book illustrating the Cohens' lives before he joined the family.
    Kirsten: The ice queen was surrounded by an impenetrable force field and her silver cell phone was her only link to the outside world.
  • Good Parents: Like her husband, she's a good parental figure to both Seth and later to Ryan.
  • Lady Drunk: Played for laughs in the first season but builds to drama by the end of the second.
  • Lethal Chef: Played straight at first, then used as Character Development after the end of season 2.
  • Mama Bear: Like Sandy, she is fiercely protective of her family and friends.
  • Opposites Attract: With Sandy, geeky Jewish liberal lawyer + WASP princess.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: In the first episodes; it takes her a bit to warm up to Ryan.

     Julie Cooper 

Julie Cooper (portrayed by Melinda Clarke)

  • Chronic Villainy: She switches between trying to be a good mom and being a gold-digging manipulative slut schizophrenically throughout the series.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Julie Cooper very gradually becomes more sympathetic as the show goes on. By the final season, she had shed much of the bitchiness that defined her in the show's first few seasons.
  • Evil Redhead: One of the most devious, selfish characters. She's also the main antagonist in early seasons.
  • Femme Fatale: She uses her beauty to exploit wealthy and influential men.

     Jimmy Cooper 

Jimmy Cooper (portrayed by Tate Donovan)

  • And Starring: "And Tate Donovan".
  • The Bus Came Back: In the season 4 episode "The Chrismukk-huh?".
  • Good Parents: He's certainly a better parent to Marissa than Julie is.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Irresponsible and immature, but he loves his daughter Marissa.
  • Put on a Bus: Despite being important enough that he received an And Starring in the opening titles. With his relationship with Hailey ending early in the second season,he kinda just floated around (Literally, he was living on a boat) for the first half of the season as the character had run his course. The writers figured this out towards the middle of the season, so he was written out of with the explanation he was worried, since he was restarting his relationship with Julie, that he was just repeating the cycle that cost him his marriage & reputation so he was going to move to Maui.

     Caleb Nichol 

Caleb Nichol (portrayed by Alan Dale)

     Kaitlin Cooper 

Kaitlin Cooper (portrayed by Shailene Woodley (Season 1) / Willa Holland (Seasons 3 — 4)

  • All Girls Like Ponies: Kaitlin's pony China who had alopecia.
  • Ascended Extra: Kaitlin was pretty irrelevant in Season 1 before she was recast and returned in Season 3 and eventually promoted to main cast in Season 4.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: In season 4, she is portrayed as rebellious and problematic.
  • Broken Bird: Most prevalent in the Alternate Universe of "The Chrismuk-huh?" where after Marissa's death in Tiajuana, she locked herself in her studies and graduated high school at 15.
  • The Bus Came Back: She was shipped off to boarding school off-screen between seasons one & two. She comes back in season 3.
  • Freudian Excuse: Like for Marissa, her family situation, except even more so since she got shipped off to Boarding School and felt abandoned.
  • Generation Xerox: She seems to have some of her famously scheming mother's personality traits.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: She breaks up with her boyfriend Will because she doesn't like how she's changing him.
  • Nice Girl: Kaitlin has a big heart, and though she doesn't always say it the right way, she cares about people. She once threw a party solely so two girls that she barely knew could attend because they hadn't been invited to the Alpha Bitch's party.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Added to the opening credits in season 4, along with Taylor.
  • The Stoner: Although, she seems to be completely unaffected by it. She never gets stoned.

Recurring Characters

    Anna Stern 

Anna Stern (portrayed by Samaire Armstrong)

     Hailey Nichol 

Hailey Nichol (portrayed by Amanda Righetti)

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: To Kirsten. While staying in the Cohen household, due to her continuing irresponsible and brash lifestyle leading to a fight with Kristen and Sandy.
  • Black Sheep: Seen as the black sheep of the family, known to have done little with her life.
  • The Bus Came Back: For her father's funeral, in the last episode of season 2.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: She persuades Sandy and Kirsten to go out and throws a party that gets out of control.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Her first appearance has Hailey wearing nothing but her underwear and a top.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: She doesn't get along with Sandy.
  • Parental Favoritism: Hailey was Caleb's favourite child.
  • Playing Gertrude: She's supposed to be 11 years older than Ryan and Seth, but Amanda Righetti is actually younger than both Adam Brody and Benjamin McKenzie.
  • Put on a Bus: She leaves Newport in season 2.
  • Rebellious Princess: The rebellious daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Newport Beach who leaves home at 17.
  • Spoiled Brat: Kirsten's spoiled younger sister, notorious for not doing anything with her life other than spending her father's money.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Squandering her trust fund and traveling around the world at the expense of her father.

     Oliver Trask 

Oliver Trask (portrayed by Taylor Handley)

     Theresa Diaz 

Theresa Diaz (portrayed by Navi Rawat)

     Zach Stevens 

Zach Stevens (portrayed by Michael Cassidy)

  • The Ace:
    Summer: He is good looking but not into himself, smart but not a show-off, athletic but sensitive, a politician's son... Hey, he's, like, Newport's Prince William.
  • The Generic Guy: Essentially because he's Seth minus any of the quirks.
  • Lovable Jock: Zach is a water polo player and an athlete but he's a nice guy. Lampshaded in his more jerkish moments when he states "I'm a water polo player. We're never nice".
  • Nice Guy: Like Anna, he was a sympathetic Romantic False Lead.
  • Pretty Boy
  • Put on a Bus: He eventually leaves Newport Beach to work with George Lucas on the comic.
  • Romantic False Lead: As Summer's temporary boyfriend, he gets caught in the middle of the Summer/Seth dynamic in season 2.

     Alex Kelly 

Alex Kelly (portrayed by Olivia Wilde)

     Lindsay Gardner 

Lindsay Gardner (portrayed by Shannon Lucio)

  • Adorkable: She's very smart and has her cute, dorky moments with Ryan.
  • Go-Getter Girl: She's an over-achiever, and Ryan even becomes more studious when dating her.
  • Long-Lost Relative: To Caleb, Kirsten and Hailey. Caleb is her biological father and Kirsten and Hailey are her paternal half sisters.
  • Meganekko: Lindsay sometimes wears glasses.
  • Nice Girl: A nice girlfriend to Ryan.
  • Put on a Bus: She only appears in season 2.
  • Romantic False Lead: For Ryan in season 2, to the Ryan/Marissa dynamic.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: She is Caleb's illegitimate daughter who occupied the first half of Season Two. Ryan, supposedly deeply in love with her, forgot her during the episode after her departure.

     Trey Atwood 

Trey Atwood (portrayed by Logan Marshall Green)

  • Attempted Rape: In season 2, he attempts to rape Marissa, while high.
  • The Atoner: He tried to become this with Ryan's support, but it didn't last.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Towards Ryan. He has risked his own safety to rescue Ryan and also sends him birthday and Christmas presents.
  • The Bus Came Back: In the second half of season 2.
  • Delinquents: Was involved in criminal activities.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Ryan. Like Ryan, Trey has a quick temper but is more impulsive where Ryan is more controlled.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It's partly why he screws up so often.
  • Put on a Bus: Literally in the season three premiere.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: With Ryan. They are vastly different in personalities and outlooks.
  • The Stoner: Trey resorts to his bad boy lifestyle, using drugs and stealing.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Even more so than Ryan.

     Johnny Harper 

Johnny Harper (portrayed by Ryan Donowho)

     Kevin Volchok 

Kevin Volchok (portrayed by Cam Gigandet)

  • Arch-Enemy: To Ryan, for most of season 3.
  • The Bully: He repeatedly tries to fight Ryan because he wants a rematch after the latter punches him in the face.
  • The Corrupter: When he blackmails Ryan initially to participate in a robbery, along with car theft, to help him escape Newport.
  • Delinquents: A bully and a thief who also blackmails Ryan into a crime.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Mostly in season 4, but he shows signs of this even in season 3: he was really sad about Johnny's death and deep down, he really cared about his relationship with Marissa, albeit in a dysfunctional way.
  • Jerk Jock: A jerkass surfer dude.
  • Last Name Basis: He's called by his last name Volchok.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He has a couple shirtless scenes showing his abs.
  • The Rival: To Johnny. He's his top rival for a surfing sponsorship.
  • Your Cheating Heart: He cheated on Marissa.

     Holly Fischer 

Holly Fischer (portrayed by Ashley Hartman)

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