Olivia Wilde says she was “lucky” to have starred on The O.C.
The hit teen drama series aired on FOX between 2003 and 2007 and starred Mischa Barton as main female lead Marissa, a wealthy teen. Wilde had originally auditioned for the role, and in season two, producers cast her as Alex, a bisexual character and Marissa’s love interest, who managed the gang’s local hotspot, The Bait Shop. It was one of her first acting parts.
“I used to dismiss The O.C.,” Wilde told the New York Times in comments posted on Thursday. “I’d be like, ‘I did a teen soap—what an embarrassment.’ And now I think, ah, that was really formative and I’m lucky I got to do that.”
Earlier this month, Wilde said on the Keep It podcast she “really understand the phenomenon” that The O.C. “would be or would become.”
“I was just like, 19, just working, shooting this movie Alpha Dog on the weekends and I was going back and forth between these sets and then it came out,” she said. “My role was kind of revealed to the world and it was the sensational storyline of like queer love between two teenage girls on this like, American soap. At the time I was like, ‘Well this should be normal. Why is it such a big deal?’ But people either got riled up in a good way or got riled up in a bad way. And I was like, ‘Well this is an important conversation.”
“And then, over the years the significance became clear to me when people would come up to me on the street—it still happens all the time—and say, ‘Your role on the show helped me come out to my family, helped me feel comfortable with my friends and helped me understand I could be like this like, I can kind of own my sexuality in a comfortable way.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s an honor.'”
Wilde had made similar comments in an interview with LGBTQ+ outlet The Advocate in 2016.
“When I started acting and one of my first jobs was playing a bisexual teenager on The O.C., nothing about it scared or shocked me,” she said. “I was just surprised by the enormity of the response. I still have women coming up to tell me they started discovering their own sexuality because of The O.C.“
After The O.C. ended its run, Wilde would go on to play more sexualized supporting roles in films such as TRON: Legacy and Cowboys & Aliens and shows like House—in which she also played a bisexual character, and HBO’s short-lived ’70s-themed drama Vinyl.
Her new movie Booksmart puts her behind the camera. It marks Wilde’s big screen directorial debut, and she does not appear in the film, which stars Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Will Forte and her husband Jason Sudeikis.
“It is remarkable that I am 35 years old and this is the first job I’ve ever had that wasn’t entirely dependent on and connected to my looks,” she told the New York Times. “It grosses me out to acknowledge it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.”
Booksmart is set for release on May 24.