Johnny was a boy with a difficult past. He was born in Brea but then moved to Newport, he lived with his mother after his father abandoned them : he was a very violent man and often beat his wife. One day Johnny took her defenses, hitting his father with a club, driving him away from home. He was once a friend of Kevin Volchok, but when Johnny's surfing talent surpassed his, the two stopped being so. He is a good boy, but he has many self-control problems, which often push him to violent and impulsive behavior.
Story of the character
Season 3 : His encounter with Marissa and his surf incident
Johnny Harper is a novice surfer, Kevin Volchok's rival and Dennis "Chilli" Childress's best friend. He is a student at the Newport Union School, where he meets Marissa Cooper, who had just been kicked out of her old school for shooting Trey Atwood, and developed feelings for her. His girlfriend Casey realizes that, and cheats on him with Kevin Volchok, to make sure that he break up with her. Johnny wants to fight Volchok, but is saved by Marissa's boyfriend Ryan Atwood, who is suspicious of Johnny because he realizes he's in love with Marissa. Nevertheless, he and Ryan become good friends, largely because Ryan was able to identify with Johnny's working-class public school background. Marissa and Johnny's bond grows when Marissa (unable to discuss it with Ryan) talks to him about the night she shot Trey, as it turns out Johnny had a similar experience, as a teenager his father often beat his mother and on one occasion Johnny took a baseball bat to his father, Johnny does not remember what happened but he found himself covered in his father's blood and never heard from him again (we know that Johnny's dad survived the attack as he appears in a later episode). Johnny's surfing career came to an end when a car ran into him when he ran after Ryan at a surfing contest.
This event, plus the fact that Marissa, doesn't feels the same things that he feels for her, make him fall into a deep depression.
This car crash also leads to how he saw just how much Marissa cared for him which made him fall in love with her. He even tried to stop Marissa from helping him by robbing from a gas station shop, but fortunately, Ryan stops him in the nick of time.
Marissa is readmitted to Harbor for the second semester of her senior year, beginning a short story with Marissa's sister, Kaitlin Cooper, but realizes that she must confess to Marissa what she feels for her. Johnny tries to reconcile with Ryan, arguing that, despite what he feels for Marissa, he has a lot of respect for him, as he has always helped him, but Ryan does not seem willing to accept his apologies. He then declares to Marissa that he answers him with a letter, in which she writes that he has never loved him, but that he has always considered him just as a friend. He then go to the beach that same evening with Kaitlin.
A drunken Johnny climbs on a cliff. Frightened Kaitlin calls her sister who comes to the beach with Ryan to trying to save him, but in vain : the boy slips and falls, dying. His death will change the vision that Marissa had of him and the feelings she felt, in fact it is emblematic the scene in which she chooses the jewel that Johnny's cousin had done for her, preferring to the one given to her by Ryan, that probably symbolizes that Marissa in spite of everything, the girl probably loved him, and this will mark the final break up between her and Ryan, as well as set the stage for her downward spiral which sends Marissa headlong into a sexual relationship with Johnny's former enemy, Volchok.
Season 4 : Johnny's destiny in a parallel universe
In "The Chrismukk-huh?" while Ryan Atwood and Taylor Townsend are in the parallel universe of Newport, more precisely in the mall, you can see a poster that advertises an appearance of the "Star of Pac West" Johnny Harper who is there to promote his new line of boards from surf. This implies that in this "universe", as Ryan never came to Newport, Johnny never injured his knee, and he is alive (although he would never have met Marissa, since she died from her overdose in Tijuana two years before she would have met Johnny at Newport Union).
- The Last Waltz
- The Perfect Storm
- The Swells
- The Anger Management
- The Game Plan
- The Disconnect
- The Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah
- The Safe Harbor
- The Sister Act
- The Pot Stirrer
- The Cliffhanger