In 2013, TV critic Alan Sepinwall spoke with Josh Schwartz, the creator of ‘The O.C.’ to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the show’s premiere with a two-part interview on the show’s run. We’re re-running that now in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the show’s final episode.
Ten years ago Monday night, FOX debuted a primetime soap called “The O.C.” It was a genre that had mostly disappeared from network TV, starring a bunch of unknown young actors and Peter Gallagher”s eyebrows, from a 26-year-old creator named Josh Schwartz who had no real experience in television. And it turned out, for a while, to be a phenomenon and a delight: funny and self-aware, and yet capable of being a sincere, well-constructed teen melodrama. It introduced the world to the concept of Chrismukkah and to many of Schwartz”s favorite indie rock bands. Later seasons were bumpy (though the barely-watched final season was a funny and touching return to form), but that first year was something to behold.
In honor of the 10th anniversary, I sat down with Schwartz to revisit exactly how things were done in Orange County. It’s a very long interview, so I’m splitting it up into two parts (and several pages among each part, to avoid breaking the site). In part 1, Schwartz and I discuss the show’s origins, casting the characters, the music and more. You can read part 2 here, focusing on some of the bumpier spots like Oliver and Johnny’s knee. And later Monday, I’ll also have a shorter interview with longtime “The O.C.” writer J.J. Philbin, who was one of the minds behind Taylor Townsend, Ché, “Je Pense” and a lot of the wackier moments from that weird, lovely final season.
Where did this come from?
Josh Schwartz: I had done a couple pilots that had gotten made but had not gotten on the air. Everybody was like, “You need to work with a big producer who can kind of help you get it over the top.” And so I was told to go meet at McG’s company. So I went in for a general meeting with McG’s company, that’s where I met Stephanie Savage. And the world of Orange County came up, that’s where McG is from. And I think in his head it was originally to do something little more action-oriented, but as Steph and I started talking, it was really, for me, very much tied to the experiences I had had coming to USC as a Jewish kid from Providence. And that was part of the story that was interesting to me versus the action.
So I went off and started cooking up some characters and came back and then we pitched very late in the season. We pitched on a Saturday to Fox, which was unusual. And they were really looking to do summer programming. They were looking to change it up and be aggressive; they also put on “American Juniors” that summer. I basically pitched the whole pilot in the room to them. And they said, “Just go to script,” I didn’t have to go to outline first, and that if they wanted to make the pilot, ultimately we should start hiring writers at the same time and start moving as if we were going to series while we’re going to pilot. So it was a very kind of exciting, aggressive, unusual experience.
And you were 26 or 27 then?
Josh Schwartz: I was 26 then. I was probably 25 when we sold it, but I was 26 basically at that time.
Was there talk about pairing you with an experienced show runner?
Josh Schwartz: For sure.
So how’d you get out of that?