The actor partly attributed her abrupt exit from the series (relive your middle school heartbreak here, if you dare) to co-star Rachel Bilson being upgraded to a series regular “last minute” after the first season, which she said resulted in “evening out everybody’s pay.”
Barton also claimed to be the target of “bullying” from men on set, which left her “not really feeling protected by my cast and crew” ― some of whom she alleged were “very mean” during her time on the show.
But Bilson remembers things a bit differently, sharing her side of the story on her new podcast “Welcome To The O.C., Bitches!” with co-star Melinda Clarke, who famously played Barton’s character’s mother on the series.
“You know, Melinda and I were talking immediately after [the interview] came out,” Bilson said. “And we were just like, ‘Wait, what?’”
Bilson took particular issue with Barton’s “completely false” framing of how she was added to the cast.
“That’s misinformation,” she said. “Where are we going with this and what is she trying to say? Which, I would actually like to talk to her and find out what her experience was from her perspective because I saw things a little differently.”
Clarke, who also started the series as a recurring player, went on to clarify that “We were originally supposed to be series regulars during the pilot, and they do that because they see a future for these characters. But then the powers that be said, ‘No, you’re going to have to wait, you’re going to be guest stars for the first 11 episodes,’ and on the back nine [episodes] we became series regulars.”
As for Barton’s bullying claims, both of her former co-stars say they are in the dark.
“I mean, I’m definitely pretty confused by most of it,” Bilson said. “I don’t know who she’s referring to because I didn’t personally witness any of that.”
“I did not either,” Clarke added. “But, we can only imagine that it was pretty, like I said, overwhelming, and just how to navigate these waters at that age.”
Despite the decades-old drama, there doesn’t seem to be much bad blood between the cast members, with Clarke noting just how much pressure Barton was under at the time.
“Someone who is 16, 17, 18 — that amount of hours of work [and] pressure at such a young age — at best, you’re exhausted, and at worst, it’s overwhelming and chaotic, so it kind of breaks my heart a little to know,” she said.
“We knew there was a lot of pressure, but if it was really that bad of an experience, that’s not right for any young person. But some of the comments were very perplexing to me, so I don’t know what the truth is about that.”
Bilson extended an olive branch Barton’s way by inviting her on the podcast “so we could hear her entire perspective and what she is saying she experienced.”
Watch the interview below.