June 12, 2016 at 07:54 PM EDT

The O.C.

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Benjamin McKenzie, Rachel Bilson, Michael Cassidy, Tate Donovan, Nicholas Gonzalez, Shannon Lucio, Melinda Clarke, Amanda Righetti, Olivia Wilde
guest performer
Kim Delaney
Doug Liman, McG

ATX Television Festival closed out its fifth year with a reunion of the creative minds behind The O.C. plus a gender-swapped reading of the pilot episode with a special guest cast.

Ahead of the script reading, creator Josh Schwartz recalled the impetus for the series: When he ventured to California to go to school at USC, he came face-to-face with “the species known as the water polo player,” which gave him his first taste of the O.C. lifestyle.

When it came to casting the show, Olivia Wilde, who joined the Fox series in season 2, was in contention with Mischa Barton to play Marissa Cooper. But the character was someone Ryan (Ben McKenzie) needed to save, and Wilde does not need saving, Schwartz said. Wilde later joined the show for a guest arc as Marissa’s girlfriend.

Speaking of Marissa, Schwartz and fellow executive producer Stephanie Savage were faced with the big question of why they killed the character off. “It’s complicated,” Schwartz said. “There were a lot of factors involved and it’s something we really wrestled with. There were reasons both creative and [with] the show itself and in terms of where we were with the network. It’s something we still wrestle with. Steph and I still talk about it and play it back.”

“There were some people who celebrated it,” he continued. “At that time, those were the most vocal people… What we found was — and this was a really good lesson for us moving forward — if somebody posts something online, it’s a 1:1 ratio; that person isn’t speaking for 1,000 people, they’re speaking for themselves.” After the death, the producers realized that there actually were a lot of people who were upset over Marissa’s demise.

As for the infamous line from the pilot, “Welcome to the O.C., bitch,” Schwartz said those same water polo players liked to refer to Orange County as “the O.C.” despite the consensus being just “O.C.” “It was always a little bit of an ironic title for us, and we thought we need to work that line into the show, and who better [to deliver it] than Luke [Chris Carmack]?” Schwartz said.

That line was delivered by Nick Wechsler during the script reading, who was joined by Arielle Kebbel as Ryan Atwood, Patrick J. Adams as Marissa Cooper, Mae Whitman as Seth Cohen, Anson Mount as Kirsten Cohen, Ashley Williams as Sandy Cohen, Matt Lauria as Summer Roberts, Tate Donovan reprising his role as Jimmy Cooper, as well as Katherine Willis, Nick Benseman, and Stacey Oristano in various roles. See photos from the reading below.

Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at ATX in Austin, Texas. Go inside the TV festival with all our coverage, available here.

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