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It's one thing for your first big role to be on a hit show — and it's another thing to be one of the faces of a series that goes on to revitalize an entire genre.

In the latest episode of PeopleTV's Couch Surfing, Ben McKenzie explains that "most actors who have the luxury of even getting a hit show have done many, many years of work prior to that," but playing Ryan Atwood on The O.C. was his first TV role to last more than one episode.

The groundbreaking teen drama captured the zeitgeist, and paved the way for shows like Gossip Girl and Riverdale. While experiencing that unique kind of stardom, McKenzie jokes that he kept asking, "Is this normal? This seems like it's going well, but I have nothing to compare it to. Is it going to be okay?"

"It was a rocket ship," adds the Gotham star, "and I think we all kind of hung on for dear life."

One person who famously didn't make it the entire trek though was McKenzie's onscreen love interest Mischa Barton. Describing what it was like for Marissa Cooper to be killed off in the season 3 finale, the actor says, "It was… very odd to have someone who was in it from the beginning leave, but you know, it was dramatic in all the O.C. ways."

Reminiscing on how the scene played out, with Ryan pulling Marissa from a car explosion and carrying her in his arms, he thinks the show "gave her a proper sendoff, hopefully."

Watch the video above for more from McKenzie.

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The O.C.
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