Were you Team LC or Team Kristin? While perhaps not as iconic a question as "Which Sex and the City woman are you," for fans of MTV's Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, one of the network's first experimentations with narrative reality that premiered ten years ago this Sunday, it was an important one. During that first season, Lauren "LC" Conrad and Kristin Cavallari were the dominant forces, two high school girls pitted against each other over a boy – the devious but dreamy Stephen Colletti.
Yet to many fans, the Laguna girl they wanted to be most was neither of the leads. It was spunky sidekick Lauren "Lo" Bosworth. Throughout that first season, Bosworth acted as a mixture of sounding board for Conrad and an audience surrogate. Her commentary was always sharp, and she was never afraid to share her thoughts. She was so beloved that she could make a mock pronunciation of Stephen's name quotable.
For Bosworth, whose MTV career included five seasons of The Hills after Laguna ended, it's hard not to be amazed by what all became of what cast members originally thought would be nothing.
"When we signed up to do the show, we thought we were doing a show called True Life," Bosworth tells The Wire, referring to the one-hour docudrama series that still airs installments irregularly on MTV. Since The O.C. was wildly popular at the time, it made sense for the network to take advantage of the trend. "We didn’t expect anything more than that."
Three spinoffs and 13 seasons between all franchise properties later, Laguna Beach has become far more than that. On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Bosworth took time last week, before hopping a flight back from California – from being a bridesmaid in Conrad's wedding, no less – to chat with us about Laguna Beach a decade later.
The Nail Salon: 'I’m definitely not in the driver’s seat'
Bosworth's first big moment on the show came in episode four, "18 Candles," featuring a tense confrontation with fellow cast members Christina and Morgan at a salon. As depicted on the show, Bosworth, annoyed that she and Conrad weren't invited to Christina's birthday, grilled the two relentlessly about their upcoming New York City trip and Christina's Broadway audition. But in real life, to Bosworth, it felt like nothing.
"I suppose it gave me an early taste of what was to come out of the editing room, and how easily storylines and plots could be spun up out of thin air," Bosworth says now. At the time, she said it helped her realize she was "not in the driver’s seat" on the show:
I participated in the show because they asked me to. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. During the production, I was totally in the dark and totally naïve. Only once the shows were aired on TV did I really understand the role I was hired to play."
The Love Triangle: 'I learned a lot about the people that I was with'
Among the biggest stories in the first season was the love triangle between LC, Kristin, and Stephen. But even being there at the time, Bosworth says she wasn't even aware of the conflict.
"I learned a lot about the people that I was with," she acknowledges. "You just discover that there is so much more to the individual that you know and love."
But more than that, Bosworth learned what her friends were willing to go along with for the show – much of which she wasn't personally enthralled with.
"I have to admit that some of the storylines in the adolescence of that show were pushed along," Bosworth says, addressing persistent claims of scripting and storyboarding that plagued Laguna and popular spin-off The Hills for years. "I was just never really on board with that. I thought that was stupid. I never was the kind of person who wanted to participate in anything that was false."
Catalina: 'I lied about not being able to go'
Throughout that first season, Bosworth and Conrad were inseparable, which makes the episode where Bosworth skips their senior trip to Catalina all the stranger. In the episode (1.8 "Grin & Bear It"), Bosworth says her parents wouldn't let her go – but now, with a gleeful giggle, she admits that was all made up.
"I lied and said my parents wouldn’t let me go, but really I just didn’t want to," she exclaims. "I wanted to go to my friend’s party instead." It was easy to sell the story to her friends and the network because, as she admits, she was known for getting into trouble with her family.
Notably, this meant Bosworth got her own independent story in the episode – going out on a date as Conrad floundered without her anchor on the island. But when asked if she enjoyed the chance for more airtime, her answer is surprisingly blunt. "Not really," she says. "I didn’t really have a reason to self-promote. I didn’t want to be famous. So I never had the desire to have a storyline or have more airtime."
Ten Years Later: 'I am eternally grateful'
Bosworth checks off all the boxes when she's asked if she looks back on Laguna fondly: she got to go places and meet people she wouldn't have otherwise, it opened a lot of doors for her, etc. Considering she came back for The Hills, there's certainly truth to that. But she sounds most genuine when she's asked about what it's like to have a filmed record of her high school senior year.
"In ten more years, I will be thrilled to have it," she admits. "At this point, it still makes me nervous, that when I meet new people they’ll go back and watch old episodes. It’s such a funny moment in time."
A decade can bring a person a long way. Bosworth now runs her own lifestyle site, The Lo Down, and produces YouTube videos about beauty, fashion, health, and more. She also says she's in development on a new TV show. But that makes looking back all the stranger. "Every once in a while, I’ll see an image in an article from one of the old episodes, and I just cringe every time," she says. "I look at myself and my friends and I realize just how far we’ve come."
But Bosworth is "eternally grateful" for the experience, saying the words with a warm and knowing giggle coming in crystal clear from thousands of miles away. "Even though I look back on it and sometimes chuckle."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.