Ben McKenzie, who hit stardom when he was cast in the staring role of the popular teen soap, The O.C., recently opened up about his time on the show and his career going forward.

McKenzie, whose most recent hit, Southland, a critically acclaimed television drama about L.A. cops, was cancelled, appeared on a Nerdist podcast to dish about breaking into the industry.

On the episode of ‘Making It With Riki Lindhome,’ hosted by actress and friend, Riki Lindhome, McKenzie relives his experience working on The O.C. (2003-2007) – his first big television role.“I had been in L.A. for a year and I had done one guest-star and one co-star,” McKenzie says, insisting he was still brand new when he began work on The O.C.

McKenzie began acting while attending college at the University of Virginia, and spent a majority of his early acting career doing theater. He readily admits he barely knew what he was doing on his first big television set.

“I was so naïve. I didn’t know what a mark was, really. I didn’t know that during a lighting setup, after you rehearsed, that you can step out because the stand-ins will come in. I just kind of stood there, and they’re like, ‘Wow, he’s so method’… I learned a lot. The way I like to think of it is it kind of ended up being a bit of a graduate school in the sense of it was like four years,” he recounted.

“We casted, we shot like a week later… and we started shooting and… we wrapped on Friday and we were picked up on Monday… When they describe a whirlwind, it was a whirlwind,” McKenzie says of how The O.C. went from a struggling pilot to a successful series overnight.

McKenzie quickly learned the ropes, and The O.C. became huge part of early 2000s pop culture. All four main young actors – McKenzie, Adam Brody, Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson — became huge stars, and recently co-star Tate Donovan, who played a dad on the show, revealed that the young actors became “difficult.” In an interview with Vulture, Donovan described a shift in their behavior, saying that they all “developed a really bad attitude.”

Donovan dished more about the shift in their on set behavior in an interview on Watch What Happens Live, saying, “The first year, those kids were fantastic, and then they just… all of them just fell apart.”

In the podcast interview, McKenzie doesn’t refute Donovan’s claims. He admits that he went through a period of behaving a bit like a jerk:

“I feel like secretly you actually know that this is not, you didn’t quote-unquote earn this, so you weirdly feel guilty about it, which means you behave like a jerk. There’s this weird thing. That’s my theory anyway. I’m not trying to explain it away at all, but of course you make mistakes, but that’s how you learn and you get better.”

McKenzie insists that he never showed up late to set, clarifying that his moments of brattiness came in the form of a distorted perspective, not unprofessionalism. McKenzie looks back at The O.C. as a huge learning experience for everyone involved, including show creator Josh Schwartz, who was 26 when the show got picked up.

“We also burned through a lot of story really fast because it was Josh’s first show…It was kind of like watching a show on super-speed…I mean, it was great, it was great. I think for all of us, for all the first-timers, it was such a huge learning experience that I’ll never forget, and I made some good friends.”

Unfortunately for The O.C. fans, McKenzie didn’t talk about the possibility of an O.C. reunion. However, he recently did a guest-appearance on an episode of TBS’ Men at Work, which stars former The O.C. cast mate, Michael Cassidy.

McKenzie is currently filming How to Make Love Like an Englishman with Jessica Alba.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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More on Ben McKenzie:

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