She probably hasn’t been Martin Olson’s daughter in a long time, having proven herself time and again to be a young woman who can stand on her own merits. Intelligent, savvy, and determined, Olivia Olson is a talented powerhouse, with a magnificence equal to that of a certain character she plays on television. No, not that character, the other one. No, the other one. Ugh! Never mind, you’ll see soon enough who I’m talking about.
I think I read somewhere that before your stellar performance in Love Actually, your dad didn’t warm to the possibility of you being devoured by Hollywood libertines, intent on sucking all that is good and pure from your soul. You were very young back then, did you throw a tantrum (perhaps spike his coffee with arsenic) when he insisted you not pursue a career in entertainment?
Next time he wrongs me, I'll have to have the arsenic close by. (laughs) But, yes my pops really wasn't thrilled when I told him I wanted to be a singer and an actress. My mom and I pretty much went behind his back with that for a little while. We would go on auditions after school (she would call them “errands”). Of course when I got the final call back for "Love Actually", and we would have to fly to New York, the jig was up. Once I landed the role, he did have his concerns. But after he saw my performance, I think it was apparent to everyone I was on the right path.
You were fortunate not having to have grown up with agents, nannies, and stage managers hovering over you all day, directing your every move, on and off camera.
Momager was enough for me at the time. Even she got fired though! (laughs) Sorry Mom! Somehow, even at a young age I like to think I had a pretty good head on my shoulders. I asked my mom to stop being my manager, and just be my mom. It was a tough thing to say to her at the time but it was the best thing for our relationship one hundred percent!
You’ve been Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time for seven years now. Having done a character for so long, has any of your personality rubbed off on the character. Do you have any say-so regarding the character you play?
I think it goes both ways. Obviously with any actor a bit of their personality will rub off on the character. I also feel like a bit of the character has rubbed off on me though. I definitely didn't have the extensive boot collection I do now. I like to think Marceline turned me onto that obsession lol. As far as having a say in the character....not really. With any show, the scripts are pretty much set, and the writers (especially on Adventure Time) have such a clear vision for where the storyline is going to go. The most creative control I had was on the book my Dad and I wrote, for sure. It was such a cool experience getting to come up with some of Marceline's back story. She has such a complex past, that throughout the series was always shrouded in mystery. I had so much fun bouncing ideas off of Adam Muto our producer. Being so young and new to everything in this business, I was honestly surprised anytime they would accept my ideas. I'm still in disbelief Cartoon Network let me take on such a huge task!
Most kids would balk at the idea of working with their parents, but it seems like you enjoy it. Your father (Martin Olson) plays your dad on Adventure Time, as Hunson Abadeer. How did you two end up working together on that show?
We both like to bicker about who actually got who involved with the show (laughter). My dad insists I got him the role, but I know he had a major part in me being cast as Marceline. Pen Ward, creator of Adventure Time knew my dad through the animation world, and was a fan of his book Encyclopaedia of Hell. One whiskey-filled night out, Pen gets to talking with my pops about how his new series got picked up on Cartoon Network. I guess a lightbulb went off for Pen and he said something along the lines of this to my dad: "There's a character on my show that I think one of the V/O actresses on the show you write (Phineas & Ferb) would be perfect for! She has a very similar vibe to that Vanessa Doofenshmirtz girl. Do you know that actress? Could you find her contact information?" My dad's response: "Do I know her? Uhhhh, Pen that's my daughter, and I pay her cell phone bill. So yeah, I think I can get you her contact info." Couple of weeks pass, I audition for the part, have a call back, and ended up booking the role! The way that we all got connected was way too funny, and such a strange coincidence, that when the thought of casting Marcy's father came up it was a no brainer for Pen. Seeing as Hunson Abadeer, Lord of Evil is basically the devil character in the show and my dad's book, Pen that loved so much was written by the devil, it seemed too perfect. My dad insisted "I'm not an actor! I wouldn't even know what to do!" But we both talked him into taking the part. I think anyone would agree that he does a great job.
That’s awesome, that the two of you work closely together like that.
Even at a really young age, I always had an interest and major respect for my dad's work. We always wrote and played music together, and I was constantly trying to sneak my way into his office when him and his writing buddies would be getting together to brainstorm. It was the only time I would follow in his footsteps. I like to joke that really, we've always done these kinds of weird creative things together. Now, we've just tricked people into paying us for it. (laughs)
You co wrote Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! with your dad. How did that come about?
Well, going back to The Encyclopaedia of Hell that Pen was such a fan of, he asked my dad to write a similar style book, The Adventure Time Encylopaedia : Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. - 501 A.G.E. At the time my dad didn't know very much about the show, so he was constantly calling me up to fact check things he was putting in the book. He would send me chapters, and I would help him correct the mistakes to the best of my knowledge. This sparked a hilarious idea of Hunson not always getting the facts right, and Marceline puts hand written notes throughout the text correcting her confidently confused father. That's actually my handwriting in the book, and while a lot of the notes were calculated jokes, a lot were real, i.e. the notes I was giving him that triggered the idea. The book was such a hit! He made the New York Times Bestseller List!
Cartoon Network asked him to pump out another one. This time he would be taking on the task of writing a major book that is actually featured in the show, The Enchiridion. He pitched the idea of making it two books in one, and having the lost diary of Marceline's mysterious childhood included. At the time my dad started writing the book, he was also working three other jobs. Taking on that, and writing two books in one was a lot of work for one person. Since I had so much fun helping him with the first book, I offered to help out as much as I could with editing the new one. His gigantic work load really did end up being too much, as he confessed he didn't start a single idea on the Marceline side. Luckily for him, the one person who knows the character better than anyone in the world was ready and eager to help. "I'll start on some ideas to get the ball rolling for you." I offered. He was very thankful, and I could tell how exhausted and over worked he was at the time.
I didn't just start on some ideas. When I sat down at my laptop, I basically didn't get up from it for three days straight. I got super into it. I was really having a blast writing these diary entries not as myself, but as my character who is such a big part of who I am. I sent him off my first couple of chapters, and we both realized what a cool thing we had there. The fact that the actress who brings Marceline to life is writing her life in first person was this AH-HAH! moment. It doesn't get more personal and authentic than that!
The first deadline for story ideas came up, and we submitted our pages without saying a word about me writing it. The feedback was extremely positive! He then confessed who wrote the Marcy's Super Secret Scrapbook side (me), and fortunately Cartoon Network was just as excited about the idea as we were.
Adventure Time really has gone above and beyond in helping me further my career. It's crazy to think that before this show, I was just an actress and my dad was just a writer. They gave him a shot at acting, and me a shot at writing, all in good faith that we could pull it off. I am really going to miss working on such an amazing series.
When people hear that you do cartoon voice over work, I’m willing to bet that most people think it’s an easy job to do. I suspect that’s not true.
While the schedule of being a voice over actor is pretty easy, it isn't as simple as most people think. Coming up with character voices is a very weird and specific talent. No normal person can do that, you have to be slightly crazy I think. I'm constantly mocking people to their faces without realizing what I'm doing. Then I have to explain myself like "Oh my god, I am so sorry! That was really rude. I'm a voice actor and I just really admire your accent. I am totally not mocking you, just trying to see if I can mimic it for a future voice." I've gotten myself into trouble with that before.
Most people think you go into the booth and just read your lines, no one thinks about all the emotion and action noises we also have to do. With on screen work, you have your body and your face to help portray certain feelings. With V/O work you have to do it all with just your vocal chords. Reading in a script "stomach punch react", "nervous murmur", or "blood sucking sound", are not normal sounds that just come to you. You have to feel it out and figure it out, and hope whatever weird sound comes out of your mouth works. It can be awkward at times.
Voice over work has also made me extremely health conscious. Most people can roll up to work with a bit of a common cold and be fine. When I get a common cold, I'm out of work for that week, because I simply just do not sound like my characters. The amount of times I've had to skip out on that party or that concert, because I felt my voice getting a little raspy. Gotta protect that money maker!
How do you feel about being the voice of Blisstina 'Bliss' Utonium, the newest Powerpuff girl, and how did you land the part?
I was over the moon when I go the call that I landed the part! I literally dropped to the floor and cried. When Cartoon Network first rebooted the show, I auditioned for the main three gals. I like to think I did a pretty damn good job on it, so I was a little bummed when I didn't even get a call back. Of course the show came out, the actresses they chose sounded great, so that was that! When the audition for Bliss came through my agency, I wasn't aware that she was going to be like a legit Powerpuff girl, I thought she was just a random character. When I booked the roll and they explained a little bit more about who Bliss was, I thought it was such a clever twist to bring in a new sister. I'm starting to learn more and more as I get older, that everything really does happen for a reason. I think every little 90's girl wanted to be a Powerpuff girl at some point in their childhood. So I was so excited to audition for the reboot to actually be one of the three girls. In my eyes now, the only thing cooler than being one of the main three is getting to play this new character who's like the OG prototype Powerpuff. I love the fact that she is a little darker (emotionally and racially speaking [laughs]), and that the show really is taking this reboot to new levels. I'm so excited to see where Bliss' storyline takes me.
Is there anything that you do that might be considered a “superpower”?
I can bend my pinky finger back all the way to almost touch the back of my hand. Making anyone I show cringe without failure. Does that count? (laughs)
What’s going on with your music? You did The Father-Daughter Album of Unspeakable Beauty with your dad, but I recall seeing some artwork for an album or single of your own once?
I have a new EP coming out very soon. Everything music wise for that project is complete! I'm in the works now of getting the artwork together, and getting ready to shoot a music video for the single Los Angeles. I'm in the studio too, working on another album, so just keep keep a look out. My dad and I have also been talking about doing another father/daughter record. A lot of new music is on the way! I'm really anxious for everyone to hear it.
Follow Olivia at Twitter, YouTube, and check out her profile at Instagram.