With a family history engrained in show business, it’s no wonder actress Rachel Bilson followed in the footsteps of her father, grandparents, and great- grandparents. Despite growing up around the entertainment business, however, it wasn’t until high school that she set her sights on acting as a career.
“We had such an awesome theatre department; that’s when I really knew I loved acting and it was what I wanted to do,” she says. “That’s where it really happened for me.”
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After a short stint in college, the Los Angeles native began to pursue a professional acting career and hasn’t looked back. Fans loved her in “The O.C.” (she will forever be known as Summer Roberts), “Hart of Dixie,” and “Nashville.” This past summer, she was back on TV in “Take Two,” a fun, light-hearted detective series airing on ABC.
While a lot has changed since those early days—she’s now a mom—some things remain the same. Her great sense of style and fresh-faced look have always been the envy of girls looking to replicate her flair. Whether it’s an everyday casual look or hitting the red carpet, Bilson always looks modern and effortless.
Best known for the characters she’s portrayed, the actress herself is extremely down to earth and funny. BELLA spent time with the beautiful Bilson talking about her career along with her most important role to date.
Your breakout role came on the teen drama, “The O.C.”—which fans still talk about. What did you enjoy most about the show?
The show definitely gave me everything—I am so grateful for it. It came at a time before social media so we got to live it and be in the moment and didn’t have to deal with all of the other stresses that come about with social media. It’s also a little crazy to think about what it would have been like had it happened now.
With many iconic shows making a return to TV, what are your thoughts on “The O.C.” coming back?
There hasn’t been any talk about it, but if they wanted to bring it back I would totally be open to whatever they would want to do. I’m super close with [creator] Josh Schwartz, so if he wanted to do anything, I would do it.
Our characters would be much older and different that I wonder where they all would be now. And to do a reunion without Mischa [Barton], whose character passed away, I just don’t know what that would actually look like. But the fans bring it up all the time. It is flattering and fun that they do.
You recently starred in “Take Two,” which was a change for you. What, if anything, did you have to do to prepare for the role?
I was playing an actress who played a cop so I didn’t have to learn too much. Although my first scene on my first day, I had to hold a gun and I had never held one before or knew how to properly hold one. So that was kind of a neat thing—being thrown into it and learning things like that.
When audiences first meet your character, she is in the process of getting her life back together after a scandal. Were you able to find commonalities with her?
I really admired how strong and dedicated she was in doing what she had to turn her life around. Having no filter and saying what’s on her mind—that I can relate to; we’re kind of similar in that way. And while she’s definitely different than me, I thought she was an admirable female character to play.
You and co-star Eddie Cibrian have great chemistry on-screen. What made you click?
The characters are so opposite but they both brought something different and unique, so together the combination created an interesting team. We all had so much fun—the whole cast got along so well that it never felt like work. We were always laughing, having a good time, and I think that created a comradery. We all liked spending time together.
What was fun about my character was that she got to dress up and be so many different characters within the show depending on what mystery she and Eddie were solving.
Eddie and I met, along with the creators, at a restaurant before we started filming. I remember he and I were ordering a cup of tea or coffee, and the crew was waiting outside for us. Instead of waiting with him on line, I was like, “OK, see you outside” and walked away. I’m super awkward in those situations—it’s a funny story to look back on, but we became friends and he was my buddy.
In addition to your work on-screen, your biggest role is at home with your daughter. What factors do you take into consideration when considering a new project?
Everything from how many episodes it is going to be, where is it going to shoot, even the logistics play more into the decision when it comes to a TV role. I’m a mom and that is No. 1 for me.
Your daughter recently turned 4. How has motherhood changed you?
It has really reminded me to be present because kids are extremely present. They’re not worrying about what’s happening tomorrow, in the future, or even what’s happened in the past. Especially at the age my daughter is, it’s a constant reminder to be in the moment, and that really is the best gift. She’s also at the age now where she likes to dress herself. I let her choose what she wants to wear; sometimes she has her dress on backwards with a bandana in her hair, or shoes on the wrong feet, but I just think, “You know what, express yourself.”
Has your sense of style changed since your daughter was born?
Whether it’s a cozy harem pant or a pair of leggings with a cute little T-shirt, my everyday look is casual. I don’t get to wear as many nice things because being a mom, I’m always getting in the dirt! I’m a clumsy person to begin with and spill things on myself all the time anyway, but now it’s at a level where I have child dirt, filth, throw- up—whatever it is—on me.
At BELLA, our philosophy is that beauty is defined by each individual. What does the word mean to you?
I think beauty is defined by how you look at yourself from the inside and having the confidence to be comfortable with who you are, no matter what.
DID YOU KNOW?
Because of a serious car accident as a child, Rachel learned to play the piano to help with her hand eye coordination. She attended the same high school as fellow actresses Kirsten Dunst and Katharine McPhee.
Bilson’s character on “The O.C” was originally only supposed to be a guest star. In addition to serving as maid of honor during the wedding of her friend Jill Stonerock to “The O.C.” creator Josh Schwartz, Rachel also designed the bridesmaid dresses.
Always the fashionista, she enjoys collecting vintage shoes and purses.
In 2008 Rachel collaborated with DKNY on a fashion line called “Edie Rose.” She also launched an online shoe collection, “ShoeMint,” in 2011 with friend and stylist Nicole Chavez. Basketball is another one of her passions—she is a devoted Los Angeles Lakers fan.
In Rachel Bilson’s newest series, “Take Two,” she stars as Sam Swift, the former star of a hit cop series whose epic breakdown is broadcast to the public and sends her to rehab. Desperate to restart her career, she talks her way into shadowing lone-wolf private investigator Eddie Valetik (Eddie Cibrian) as research for a potential comeback role. Though Eddie resents the babysitting gig, high-spirited Sam uses the skills she learned as an actor playing a cop and proves herself to be surprisingly valuable.
Watch season 1 now on ABC.go.com.
Photography: John Russo
Styling: Mercedes Natalia at TMG-LA.com
Hair: Davy Newkirk at The Wall Group
Makeup: Amy Nadine