Inside The O.C.

11/04/2004 at 06:00 AM EST

Inside The O.C.
(Clockwise from left) Rachel Bilson, Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie and Adam Brody
Art Streiber/FOX
When The O.C. ended its first season, Ryan, Marissa, Seth and Summer were in turmoil. But what of their offscreen alter egos? As the new season kicks off, catch up with Benjamin McKenzie, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson.

Benjamin McKenzie
McKenzie, 26, who plays brooding Ryan Atwood, spent part of his time off exploring China with his parents ("really an amazing experience"), and shot the indie dramedy Junebug in North Carolina. He also got political, stumping for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign from Oregon to New Hampshire and suiting up to address the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July.
Coming Up: This season, McKenzie says, Ryan gets into fewer fights, but "I'll probably wear just as many wife-beaters."

Mischa Barton
There wasn't much downtime during The O.C.'s hiatus for Barton (Marissa Cooper), 18, who was often snapped out and about with boyfriend Brandon Davis. The actress hit New York's Fashion Week, attending the Tommy Hilfiger show with Davis (grandson of late billionaire Marvin Davis), and made the scene at L.A. hotspots including Guy's. She also vacationed in France and signed on to appear in the comedy The OH in Ohio with Parker Posey, filming later this year.
Coming Up: "She's back on the more rebellious side of things," Barton says of Marissa, who also has a new love interest – the gardener (played by Nicholas Gonzalez).

Adam Brody
Besides moving into his new home, a West Hollywood loft, 24-year-old Brody (Seth Cohen) also campaigned for Kerry with O.C. costar and girlfriend Rachel Bilson ("I don't want to watch from the sidelines," he told students in Reno) and played drums with his band Big Japan. But mostly, "I slept, watched movies, drank coffee, read comics, went to a few concerts," he says. "I was so lazy." Still, he managed to snag a role in the upcoming Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie flick Mr. and Mrs. Smith and plans to produce a remake of the '80s comedy Revenge of the Nerds.
Coming Up: Seth has competition for girlfriend Summer's affections, but he's also got a new gig working at a rock club.

Rachel Bilson
Besides helping to kick off the Rock the Vote campaign in Los Angeles in June, Bilson (Summer Roberts), 23, spent her off-time traveling, including a quick jaunt to Hawaii and a few stops in New York. Though she and Brody try to keep their relationship discreet, they couldn't escape rumors, including one that they are engaged. (Both deny it). "Personal life is personal," she says.
Coming Up: Summer "cried and cried" over runaway Seth, but a senator's son (Michael Cassidy) will attempt to heal her broken heart.

• Reporting by Carrie Bell and Ulrica Wihlborg

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