Mischa Barton  Mischa Barton

Mischa Barton, who's going into her third week on Dancing with the StarsMonday, knows she hasn't come across like she's having the time of her life in her performances.

Not only has she been among the bottom performers both weeks (16/30 her first week and 15/30 last week), but she's seemed visibly unnerved too--especially in last week's intro which showed her and partner Artem Chigvintsev struggling to get on the same page. "I feel like Mischa's being her own enemy," Chigvintsev said to the camera. Judge Bruno Tunioli said in the season premiere she looked "sedated" which forced Barton to hold back tears.

But the 30-year-old The O.C. alum said we haven't been getting the full story in a recent phone interview with TVGuide.com. "That wasn't really represented," she said with a laugh, "but it's really fun. That's not the angle you ended up seeing. I'm loving it."

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Her visible discomfort comes from being out of her element, she said. Not only has she had zero formal dance training, but she hadn't researched the show much before signing up either--literally going from Los Angeles' LAX airport to a DWTS rehearsal space. She's basically learning a foreign language, she said, one that's an intense mind-body experience with a huge learning curve. "I'm just getting hip to the game. Once you get a certain level of knowledge, you can really start to enjoy it. In the beginning, it can be really stressful, but we're really having fun now."

As an actress, Barton is used to half-day rehearsals and rigorous trainings--just of a different kind. As it happens, her new movie The Hoarder, on DVD and digital video April 5, proves she's not one to shy away from a physical challenge. In it, she plays Ella, a nosy fiancee who snoops through her man's storage unit, only to end up trapped in the facility with some of its employees as a psychopath goes on a bloody rampage. Barton does lots of intense physical work in it: running, climbing and all manner of escape-thriller creepy stunts — some while soaking wet. So it's not like she's afraid to push her limits. "Everyone learns at their own pace."

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Sure, we haven't seen her grinning much but the actress, who rocks out in her private time to a wide-ranging playlist that includes R&B diva Angie Stone and the Alabama Shakes, said she's relishing the moment. "We have a blast in studio. People just don't see what a great time we're having."

She's just finding her groove, that's all; in a recent rehearsal, she picked up in two hours what took three days when she first started out. The question is whether she'll find her groove in time to stay in the game.

Dancing with the Stars airs Monday at 8/7 on ABC.

Check out the trailer to Mischa Barton's film The Hoarder, out on DVD and digital video April 5, below.