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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, taciturn and usually reserved and level-headed but has a violent side due to his rough upbringing.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: The brooding boy to Lindsay's gentle girl.
- 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.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The responsible to Trey's foolish.
- Genius Bruiser: He's very tough and he has been described as highly intelligent.
- Good Is Not Nice: He is a good person at heart and always does the right thing but he isn't exactly affable.
- 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.
- Knight in Sour Armor: He is a very good and heroic person but is very cynical due to his crappy upbringing.
- Mr. Fanservice: He constantly gets Shirtless Scenes.
- Nice Guy: Deep down he's a compassionate guy, despite his rough, aloof, brooding exterior.
- Only Sane Man: Ryan is probably the most realistic and grounded of his friends especially compared to Seth and Marissa.
- Opposites Attract: Ryan/Marissa (wrong side of the tracks + (seemingly) perfect debutante) and Ryan/Taylor (Book Dumb introvert + intellectual Genki Girl).
- Parental Abandonment: Ryan never had a father figure for much of his life. In regards to his biological family, a major recurring theme was Ryan being abandoned, Dawn abandoned him twice.
- Perpetual Frowner: He rarely cracks a smile and often has a blank or scowling expression on his face.
- Rags to Riches: A poor kid who is taken in by the very wealthy Cohen family.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He the red to Seth's blue.
- But he also the blue to Trey's and Taylor's red.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: When paired with neurotic Go-Getter Girl Taylor in season 4.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The tough, badass Manly Man to Seth's geeky, naive Sensitive Guy.
- The Stoic: He's not big on talking or being openly emotional.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: The stoic, brooding Straight Man to Seth's geeky, sarcastic Wise Guy.
- Troubled, but Cute: A troubled teen from Chino with Parental Issues, and abandonment issues who is also Mr. Fanservice, has a good heart and attracts some female characters.
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, Taylor, and Paris Hilton.
- 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'.
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?
- Plus, as far as he's concern, Ryan is his best friend and brother and will do whatever is in Ryan's best interests (even Ryan doesn't want it).
- 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.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He's the blue to Summer's red.
- 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 (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: Her family went bankrupt thanks to her father and she lost her popularity due to being overdosed in Tijuana in the first season.
- In season 3, Marissa is once again broke (despite having been rich again, thanks to her mother marrying Caleb in season 2), thanks to her stepfather's secret bankruptcy, and she's expelled from the private high school and begins attending public school due to Trey's shooting.
- 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.
- Spoiled Sweet: She actually is a nice person in spite of her wealthy status
- 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 (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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Leaning more to the snarker side of this trope
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Part of her Character Development in season 1.
- Genki Girl: Has a very bubbly personality.
- Granola Girl: In Season 4 she becomes an environmentalist.
- Hidden Depths: Thanks to Character Development she goes from a bitchy airheaded bimbo to... well, a nice airheaded bimbo and then to nice airheaded bimbo with a conscience.
- High-School Sweethearts: With Seth. They get married in the series finale.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She may be bitchy at times, but also a good friend to Marissa and a loving girlfriend to Seth.
- Last-Name Basis: She persists in calling Seth by his last name, Cohen, even after they're in a relationship.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: She starts out as a rude Alpha Bitch. But then becomes more of a somewhat ditzy, but likable girlfriend for Seth.
- Ms. Fanservice: She even wears a bikini at some point.
- Opposites Attract: Summer/Seth, nerd + popular party girl.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Promoted to the opening credits halfway through season 1.
- Rich Bitch: She was a snobby brat in early episodes.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Snarky Savvy Guy Seth to bubbly, gossipy Genki Girl Summer.
- Seme: A rare, female het example, to Seth's Uke.
- Smarter Than You Look: Later episodes reveal that she's more intelligent than she appears.
Taylor Townsend (portrayed by Autumn Reeser)
- Abusive Parents: Her cold-hearted and judgemental mother.
- Academic Alpha Bitch: She starts out as an extremely competitive power-grabbing overachiever who antagonizes Summer. In early season 3 she also acts like a stereotypical Alpha Bitch except she isn't popular at all.
- Adorkable: She's an intellectual goody goody, but her perky personality and neurotic tendencies make her adorably dorky.
- Alliterative Name: Taylor Townsend
- Ambition Is Evil: Before her Character Development.
- Ascended Extra: A literal example as Autumn Reeser was an actual extra in Season 1.
- Broken Bird: Revealed as one due to her horrible mother.
- Cloudcuckoolander: She's quite eccentric.
- Cool Loser: A stunning, whip smart, witty young lady who is so unpopular she is reduced to following around Seth (and Summer) for want of a friend. Justified because her attitude can be annoying sometimes.
- Cunning Linguist: Fluent in French, Korean, Spanish and Latin.
- Determinator: There are very few things that cab stop Taylor from getting what she wants.
- Freudian Excuse: Her cold and unloving mother.
- Full-Name Basis: Not quite constantly but much more frequently than any other character.
- Genki Girl: She has all the energy of the typical Go-Getter Girl.
- Heel–Face Turn: She starts out as a Smug Snake, before developing into an Adorkable Genki Girl.
- I Have No Son: Gets kicked out of her house by her mother and told she isn't welcome there anymore after her marriage is revealed. Given how her home life was characterized by intense verbal and emotional abuse, it was probably the nicest thing she did for Taylor, albeit unintentionally.
- I Just Want to Be Loved: She will relentlessly pursue anyone who shows her even the slightest amount of affection due to growing up with a heartless, emotionally abusive mother. She at least seems aware of it though.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Though her unpopularity in season 3 was mostly caused by her Academic Alpha Bitch attitude.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Initially she was conniving, self-serving, manipulative and Summer's Arch-Enemy. Eventually she has a Heel–Face Turn and becomes a good friend to Summer and the other main characters (as well as Ryan's Love Interest in season 4).
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She saves Ryan Atwood from the soulless and brooding world of cage-fighting, el guapo taco, and insomnia.
- Motor Mouth: Once Taylor gets talking, she can't stop, especially when she is excited or panicked about something.
- Opposites Attract: Taylor/Ryan, Book Dumb introvert + intellectual Genki Girl.
- Promotion To Love Interest: In season 4, she ends up as the romantic interest of the protagonist (mostly for Pair the Spares reasons).
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Season 4, she is added to the opening credits.
- Remember the New Guy: She first appears at the start of the third season, but apparently had been going to the same school as the main characters for the entire time. Indeed a later flashback reveals she had been friends (or at least on name terms) with Summer since they had been in elementary school.
- The Rival: Initially she was this to Summer, before her Heel–Face Turn.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Energetic Go-Getter Girl to Ryan's The Stoic Savvy Guy.
- 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 (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.
- Your Cheating Heart: In his relationship with Marissa, notably with Holly Fischer.
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 (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 (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.
- Gold Digger: She marries Caleb Nichol for his money.
- It's All About Me: Julie is very selfish and self-centred. Although, there is nothing that she wouldn't do for her children, notably Marissa.
- Jerkass: In the first few seasons, but becomes more a Jerk with a Heart of Gold later on, especially after Marissa's death.
- Manipulative Bitch: A cunning, manipulative Gold Digger.
- May–December Romance: Constantly, but the most prominent exanple would be with Luke Ward. And on the opposite side with Caleb.
- Mrs. Robinson: She has an affair with her daughter's ex-boyfriend.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Along with Summer, she is promoted to the opening credits halfway through season 1.
- Rich Bitch: An opportunistic rich woman who only cares about money.
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 (portrayed by Alan Dale)
- Batman Gambit: Caleb Nichols almost pulls this off in Season One. This results in Jimmy punching him in the face and ruining his deal in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: A powerful businessman known for dishonest business dealings and practice.
- The Patriarch: The patriarch of the Nichol family.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: He was promoted at the start of season 2.
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.
Anna Stern (portrayed by Samaire Armstrong)
- Adorkable: Nearly as much as Seth. She's also a witty, comic-loving girl.
- Better as Friends: With Seth, they break up because they were too similar and Seth was still interested in Summer.
- The Bus Came Back: In season 3, for only two episodes.
- Deadpan Snarker: Just as sassy and snarky as Seth.
- Distaff Counterpart: Anna is in many ways, a female Seth.
- Girl Next Door: In contrast to Summer's Lovable Alpha Bitch, in a Betty and Veronica triangle.
- Meaningful Name: Anna Stern likes to sail.
- Nice Girl: She's still nice and supportive to Seth, even after their break up.
- Put on a Bus: She eventually moves back to Pittsburgh in season 1.
- Romantic False Lead: Another potential girlfriend for Seth, introduced when his true love Summer starts to realize his feelings for him.
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 (portrayed by Taylor Handley)
- Crazy Jealous Guy: He's obsessed with Marissa.
- Freudian Excuse: Parental Neglect.
- Lonely Rich Kid: His parents were largely absent from his life.
- Love Makes You Crazy: When Marissa rejects him, he threatens to kill himself.
- Manipulative Bastard: Perfectly able to manipulate Marissa and make Ryan look bad.
- The Mentally Disturbed: In an early episode, it is mentioned that Oliver was previously diagnosed with depression. However, he also exhibits many of the criteria for borderline personality disorder.
- Put on a Bus: He only appears in season 1.
- Stalker With a Crush: Towards Marissa, in a very creepy way.
- Yandere: It turns out Ryan was right about Oliver's crazy intentions.
Theresa Diaz (portrayed by Navi Rawat)
- Ambiguously Brown: In Real Life, Navi Rawat, Theresa's portrayer, is actually half white and half Indian.
- Better as Friends: With Ryan. Theresa ends their short relationship by leaving Newport.
- Broken Bird: Being abused by ex-boyfriend, Eddie.
- The Bus Came Back: In season 2, and later in season 3.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Ryan, in "off and on" relationship.
- Domestic Abuse: Victim of domestic violence by her ex boyfriend.
- Romantic False Lead: To the Ryan/Marissa dynamic in season 1.
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 (portrayed by Olivia Wilde)
- The Bartender: Works as a bartender at the local hangout, The Bait Shop.
- Bi the Way: She dates both Seth and Marissa.
- Deadpan Snarker
- The Lad-ette: A badass, edgy, bisexual female bartender.
- Put on a Bus: She only appears in season 2.
- Romantic False Lead: For Seth, to the Summer/Seth dynamic in season 2.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tomboy (bad girl bartender) to Marissa's Girly Girl (the priviliged rich girl).
- Tomboyish Name: Alex.
- Troubled, but Cute: Female example.
Lindsay Gardner (portrayed by Shannon Lucio)
- Adorkable: She's very smart and has her cute, dorky moments with Ryan.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: The Gentle Girl to Ryan's Brooding Boy.
- 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.
- Scholarship Student: She attends Harbor on a scholarship who also drives a lemon, in comparison to her wealthier schoolmates.
- 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 (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.
Johnny Harper (portrayed by Ryan Donowho)
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 (portrayed by Ashley Hartman)
- Alpha Bitch: Along with Summer, she's introduced as another of Marissa's snobby friends in season 1.
- Brainless Beauty: After she Took a Level in Dumbass.
- The Bus Came Back: Returned in Season 4 (after two whole Seasons!) intitially in the All Just a Dream set "The Chrismukk-huh?" and then a few episodes later in 'reality'.
- Divergent Character Evolution: Very early on she and Summer were distingushable only by hair colour, both being vapid, self absorbed party girls. This is actually Lampshaded by the show in the "The Chrismukk-huh?" where see a universe where Summer continued to be friends with Holly rather than going through Character Development. It is not a pretty picture.
- Dumb Blonde: In season 4, there are a lot of jokes about her airheadedness ("Who says I can't have a baby and a six pack?").
- Put on a Bus: After only 6 episodes in Season 1.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: While she never displayed any particular intelligence in her early appearances she wasn't noticably dumb either. When The Bus Came Back however she was firmly in Brainless Beauty territory.
- Your Cheating Heart: Slept with her best friend's boyfriend. In two different realities no less.