Kirsten Cohen

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Kirsten Cohen
The O.C. character
Kirsten Cohen.jpg
Kelly Rowan as Kirsten Cohen
First appearance "Premiere"
(episode 1.01)
Last appearance "The End's Not Near, It's Here"
(episode 4.16)
Created by Josh Schwartz
Portrayed by Kelly Rowan
Ellen Hollman (flashbacks)
Nickname(s) Kiki (by father and Julie)
Aliases Kirsten Nichol
(maiden name)
Gender Female
Occupation Architect
Title Partner, NewMatch
CFO of the Newport Group
CEO of the Newport Group
Family Caleb Nichol
(father; deceased)
Rose Nichol
(mother; deceased)
Julie Cooper
Hailey Nichol
(younger sister)
Lindsay Gardner
(paternal half-sister)
Marissa Cooper
(stepsister, via Caleb; deceased)
Kaitlin Cooper
(stepsister, via Caleb)
Spouse(s) Sanford "Sandy" Cohen
(husband; 3 children [1 adopted])
Significant other(s) James "Jimmy" Cooper
(ex-boyfriend [before pilot])
Carter Buckley
Children Unborn child
(child, with Jimmy; aborted)
Seth Cohen
(son, with Sandy)
Ryan Atwood
(adoptive son, with Sandy)
Sophie Rose Cohen
(daughter, with Sandy)
Relatives Sophie Cohen
Summer Roberts
(daughter-in-law, via Seth)
Residence Berkeley, California
Newport Beach, California

Kirsten Cohen (née Nichol) is a fictional character on the FOX television series The O.C., portrayed by Kelly Rowan. Kirsten is the wife of Sandy Cohen, mother to Seth Cohen, and the adoptive mother of Ryan Atwood. Originally portrayed as being unwelcoming towards Ryan in the Cohen household, Kirsten began to develop feelings for the brooding teenager, going on to accept him as a central member of her family.



Kirsten Nichol was born in Newport Beach in Orange County, California. Kirsten is the eldest daughter of Caleb and Rose Nichol, elder sister of Hailey Nichol, and elder half-sister to Lindsay Gardner. She comes from a very wealthy background: her father is a real estate developer who founded The Newport Group, one of the most powerful companies in California. Kirsten was raised Presbyterian. She is presumably Scottish American.

She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in art history. During her college years, she met her future husband, Sanford "Sandy" Cohen, specifically on a campaign for the 1984 presidential elections. Kirsten states that when they fell in love, she "lived in a mail truck and stank of patchouli". They married, and Kirsten gave birth to a son, Seth.

Shortly after Kirsten began her family, her mother became ill with ovarian cancer. This prompted the Cohens to move back to Newport. She has since joined her father at The Newport Group, becoming the workaholic she was introduced as at the beginning of the show.

Besides Seth, she has two other children with Sandy: biological daughter Sophie Rose and adoptive son Ryan.


In contrast to her husband, who campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984, Kirsten was relatively conservative and supported the Republican Party because her parents did. Kirsten herself has admitted to being a stricter parent and has sometimes clashed with Sandy's "hippie parenting". In the pilot, Kirsten is more reluctant than her husband to invite Ryan into the house and is initially more guarded. However, by the season finale she is seen crying in the pool house over his departure.

Character arc[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Kirsten is introduced when she meets troubled teen Ryan Atwood for the first time. Ryan was her husband's client, who he brought home with him because he had nowhere else to stay. Under the impression that Ryan was going to stay only until Sandy was able to contact Child Services, she welcomes him into their home and lets him stay in the pool house.

Later on, Kirsten meets Dawn, Ryan's mother. When Dawn tells her that she cannot take care of her son, Kirsten and Sandy eventually take Ryan under their wing, becoming his legal guardians. The rest of the season focuses on the Cohens adjusting to the newest member of the family, with Kirsten becoming a mother figure in Ryan's eyes. In turn, Kirsten comes to love and accept Ryan as if he is her own son.

Though Kirsten has a mostly stable marriage, her close friendship with next-door neighbor and ex-boyfriend Jimmy Cooper causes tension and awkwardness between her and her husband. When Jimmy finds himself in the middle of financial trouble, she loans him money. Not long after, she and Sandy find out that Jimmy had been taking money from his clients' accounts to support himself. Ultimately, Sandy helps defend Jimmy to avoid jail time.

In the first season finale, Kirsten hints to Theresa Diaz, Ryan's pregnant ex-girlfriend, that she had an abortion early in her life.

Season 2[edit]

The problems begin for Kirsten during the second season when she feared that her husband was cheating on her with an old girlfriend, Rebecca Bloom, who had mysteriously showed up back in town. Sandy and Kirsten's marriage begins to deteriorate, and she turns to alcohol to compensate. Her alcoholism was fueled by working closely with a man whom she had a crush on, Newport Living magazine editor Carter Buckley, who also drank too much.

Towards the end of the season, Kirsten crashes her car while driving drunk. She was in the middle of an emotional conversation with Sandy, who had told her to pull over when she drops her phone on the center console. Kirsten reaches over to pick up her phone, but doesn't see that she was approaching an intersection. A truck runs over her car, sending the vehicle all over the street.

Kirsten survives the accident with minor bruises and a few broken fingers. She convinces Sandy that she's swearing off the alcohol after the scare the accident causes, but Sandy finds a bottle of vodka in her purse. He was in the middle of confronting her when Julie calls to inform the Cohens that Caleb died of a heart attack. Stricken, she walks away from Sandy with the bottle of vodka.

Following an intervention staged by her worried family, she checks into a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse after her father's funeral.

Season 3[edit]

At Suriak Rehab, she meets Charlotte Morgan, who seemed to be interested in making friends with her. In reality, Charlotte was a con artist who was only after her, as Kirsten was the richest woman in Newport Beach. However, it was revealed during Caleb's will reading that he had been bankrupt when he died, and left Kirsten with nothing but a letter. Seeing the letter as a threat to the progress she has made in rehab, she runs away and spends the night in a motel with a bottle of vodka, "but I didn't drink," she tells Sandy later on. Kirsten returns home and has since created a high-class dating service, NewMatch, with her one-time stepmother Julie Cooper-Nichol.

Over the course of the season, Kirsten and her husband once again found themselves amidst conflict due to his decision to take over The Newport Group. Long hours made Kirsten concerned that Sandy was turning out to be a workaholic, but it was Sandy becoming like her father, getting into illegal deals and crossing the line often that worried her the most. This causes her to relapse, yet the problem was settled when Sandy decides to quit the job at the end of the season.

Season 4[edit]

Kirsten and Sandy go to Mexico to rescue Seth and Ryan after their sons go to Mexico in search of Kevin Volchok, who committed vehicular homicide by running Ryan off the road and killing Marissa. Seth gives Ryan the wrong address, and his parents show up to bring the boys home. Ryan and Seth are still not talking at Thanksgiving, prompting Kirsten to send them on a trip to the grocery store.

Kirsten attempts to garner a silent partner for NewMatch in Gordon Bullit by setting him up with Julie. Bullitt almost pulls out when his son Spencer shows up at a fundraiser hosted by Sandy, but Kaitlin Cooper convinces him to invest. Later on, Kirsten ostracizes Julie after suspicions about the business and fires her after she uncovers it has become a prostitution ring without her knowing it.

A family crisis appears once again when Frank, an accountant The Bullit brings in to deal with NewMatch's books, reveals he is Ryan's biological father. Upon hearing of Frank's desire to see Ryan, Kirsten talks Sandy into at least giving him a chance. She invites him over for dinner, but it ended badly after they found out Frank lied about having cancer just so he could see his son again.

On the night of Kirsten's fortieth birthday, Kirsten finds out that she is pregnant. This causes her to flash back in time and remember the abortion she had before going to college. She finally comes clean to Sandy about the abortion, after having kept the secret from him for so long.

In the series finale, the Cohen home was destroyed in an earthquake. Sandy and Kirsten reluctantly begin house-hunting. After hearing their parents reminiscing, Seth and Ryan fly to Berkeley to find their old house, but the current owners were unwilling to sell. Convinced that bringing their parents would help, Sandy and Kirsten accompany their trip to Berkeley to assist with The Bullit. While there, Kirsten asks the couple that live there if she can use their bathroom. She finds that her water broke, and she gives birth to her daughter in the Cohens' house in Berkeley. Her daughter is named Sophie Rose Cohen, after Sandy's and her own mother.

In a flash-forward, Sophie Rose is shown to bear a striking resemblance to Kirsten.