Bustle Exclusive

Adam Brody Totally Flubbed His Audition For The O.C.: “He Was Obnoxious”

“He came in and didn’t know any of the lines? What? No, f*ck this guy!”

by Bustle Editors
The cover of 'Welcome to The O.C.' with a photo of Adam Brody.
Courtesy/ J. Emilio Flores/Corbis via Getty Images
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In their new book, Welcome to the O.C.: An Oral History, TV critic Alan Sepinwall, show creator Josh Schwartz, and executive producer Stephanie Savage assemble the definitive behind-the-scenes portrait of the iconic show. Below, read an exclusive excerpt, in which The O.C. star Adam Brody bungles his first audition, and the EPs consider casting another A-lister instead.

Brody’s competition for the role was close to home — literally.

Josh Schwartz: We saw a lot of guys for Seth, and apparently a bunch of them all lived in the same house: Brody, Bret Harrison, Marshall Allman, and Johnny Lewis. We used to call it “The House of Seth,” because all of these kids who read for Seth lived there. Then there was one guy that everybody called “Bar Mitzvah Josh,” Aaron Himelstein. He was the extremely real version — like, if an even more awkward version of me had walked in to read. Naturally, I loved him, and the network was like, “No.”

Despite the initial Ryan vs. Seth curveball, Brody had charmed Patrick Rush. His first meeting with the producers did not end nearly as well.

Patrick Rush: In retrospect, I wish I had had him come back to read for me as Seth before they saw him. It was one of those times where I shot myself in the foot and was like, “I really, truly think our Seth is coming in today.” And then Adam came in.
Craig Erwich (programming executive, Fox): Adam’s audition was off the wall. He was lying down on the floor at some point.
Patrick Rush: Adam took . . . liberties with the material. He ad-libbed. He was obnoxious. He was disrespectful of the material. Josh was like, “I never want to see that kid again.”
Josh Schwartz: I was like, “Who is this? He came in and didn’t know any of the lines? What? No, fuck this guy!”
Stephanie Savage: He ad-libbed the whole thing. He didn’t say anything as written. Josh and I were like, “Why did you bring that guy back? He sucks.”

And what does Adam Brody remember of this process?

Adam Brody (Seth Cohen): Zero. Nothing. Not a thing. I do remember Patrick in general, I know him and like him a lot. The only audition I remember at all is the network tests with Ben [McKenzie].
Patrick Rush: I don’t know if his coming back to do Seth was his way of saying, “I don’t care. I don’t want to play this,” but it was one for the books. I’m sitting face-to-face with Adam Brody. And they’re behind me. So I can’t see their reactions to what he’s doing. But I know my face as I’m reading with Adam is like this. [Patrick conjures up a horrified expression over Zoom.] I don’t think Peter Roth was in love with him, either.

A good casting director trusts his hunches, and argues on behalf of them. Patrick Rush is an excellent casting director.

Patrick Rush: Luckily, because I’d spent enough time with [Josh and Stephanie], and they’re truly lovely, I knew that I could fight the good fight. I said, “Would you please let me see if I can give a note to the agent to have him come back and stay on the page?” And I think just to shut me up for a minute, they said yes.
Stephanie Savage: He came back, and actually read the part as written and put some effort into it. And it was amazing.

The director swap from McG to Doug Liman proved fortuitously timed for Brody.

Josh Schwartz: It was around the same time that Doug was coming onto the show. Doug in the room looked to me and was like, “I love this guy.”
Adam Brody: I was skeptical of being on a high school show in perpetuity. But I liked the script and on the plus side, Doug Liman came aboard late in the process. And that changed my calculations a bit, to be honest with you, because Swingers had changed my life a few years prior. So I thought, Okay, it’s worth doing it and seeing what happens, and we’ll worry about the high school thing as it comes.
Josh Schwartz: Adam was a film buff, and now he was more enthusiastic. Whether he was reluctant about the project initially, Doug’s involvement definitely validated it for him.
Doug Liman (director/executive producer): In The O.C., [Brody] was like the ideal version of what I had wanted to be in high school. He didn’t get caught up in any of the bullshit. He’s a great actor and a friggin’ hard worker, and just holds the screen.
David Bartis (executive producer): Doug can be tough and he can throw a lot at you. And if you can come back from that — if you can take a punch and then get back up and do something different, do it again — that says a lot. And Adam was doing that.
Tate Donovan: I just thought he was going to be the next Tom Hanks. I was like, “This guy is just a fucking huge star.”

Ryan Atwood was by far the more conventional of the show’s two male leads. Yet somehow, the producers were having an even harder go of it finding their Ryan than they had with Seth, and time was running out.

Patrick Rush: We saw Chris Pine, who was really good. I hate saying this, but it’s the truth: Chris Pine was at the age where he was experiencing really bad skin problems. And it was at that point where it looked insurmountable. And as a kid who grew up with horrible skin, it just broke my heart. But Chris Pine’s fine now. He’s all right.

Excerpted from WELCOME TO THE O.C.: THE ORAL HISTORY Copyright © 2023 by Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, and Alan Sepinwall. Reprinted here with permission from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.