Elizabeth Olson Says Protecting the ‘Family Nucleus’ Is Important While Self-Isolating
Avengers: Endgame star Elizabeth Olsen, 31, is bringing her dual role as the reality-altering Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch to TV in the first Marvel Studios series spinoff, WandaVision (Jan. 15 on Disney+). It will feature Wander and her android partner, Vision (Paul Bettany), trying to live idealized suburban lives and keep their powers under wraps – until trouble comes calling.
Do you think superheores are needed during this pandemic?
WandaVision, instead of just being superheores, is about the family nucleus and our want and need to protect our children and create a safe space for them. I think that’s important right now. Within this self-isolating that we have to do to stay safe, there’s a constant fear and we have to figure out a way through it.
How different is the tone of the series from the Avengers films?
We filmed the first episode [a black-and-white “homage” to classic TV sitcoms] in front of a live audience. It was amazing to be an actor on a multi-camera show with a live audience for the first time in my life. I don’t know if I will ever have that experience again.
How cool is it for Wanda/Scarlet to be the start of a six-episode TV series and finally get her own story?
It’s been a really lucky opportunity for me. I’ve always really appreciated the care and the way Marvel has used Wanda throughout the films I’ve been in. As an actor, it’s important to always know when you’re serving an ensemble, when you’re serving the script and what your role is in it as part of an analytical process. It’s very different to then be the leader of that story, and so it was fun to have the six hours of exploring this character. Where maybe if you combine all the time on the other films, it maybe wouldn’t even add up to an hour.
Will Scarlet Witch be exploring her powers more in this?
Yeah, there is definitely a growth to her powers and her abilities in this, and that’s very important to the story as well.
Why were Wanda and Vision perfect for a TV series?
Marvel is now dipping their toes in television. And as intimidating as it is to be the first Marvel Cinamatic Universe television show, this story couldn’t be told not on television because we have the medium of the American sitcom to help explore the emotional storylines of our characters. It represents quite a few different things that will reveal themselves starting a few episodes in.
It looks as if there are homages to The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched. Is there more?
We blur the lines between sitcom, but we stay within whichever decade that we are living at that time within that episode, and it can turn maybe into Twilight Zone, or it can turn into some thriller. We are also in constant conversation with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how we tell stories from that tone. But its all in order to serve a greater purpose, which is the emotional lives and inner lives of our characters. It was the greatest time getting to be in an American sitcom through the ’50s, through its thoughts. I probably had too much fun.
Is it true that Dick Van Dyke was consulted for his expertise?
Matt Shackman, our director has directed every genre of television you can think of. He’s directed 100 episodes or something. He’s just a workhorse. What we did was, whether it was the Dick Van Dyke episode, our first episode, we truly tried to make the most authentic experience of that show. Whether it was with the lenses, the lighting, the way we frame a shot, it was all very specific to whatever we were referencing. And I believe Matt Shackman, and maybe [executive produced] Kevin Feige, had a day with Dick Van Dyke and talked to him about his experience and his process. Which just sounds phenomenal, because he seems like the loveliest man.
When you were a child, you spent a lot of time on the set of your sisters’ show, Full House, so you were introduced to acting at a young age but you chose to wait, and you studied before launching your own career. Were they a lesson for you that it was better to wait and have an actual childhood?
It wasn’t so much that they were a lesson for me; I really wanted to act. Besides the camps I did, and being in my dance class and singing classes, I loved Frank Sinatra musicals, and I really wanted to do that as well. What happened was my parents said, “OK, well if that’s what you really want to do, they you have to know that you are going to risk not being a part of the sports team, you’re going to have to risk not being a part of ballet after school.” And so, I did that for three months of my childhood, but it wasn’t worth it to me to work for a living.
What I saw my sisters do was work, not play, and I really enjoyed ballet and I really enjoyed playing sports. it took away from that experience. My dad quite literally asked me to write a pros and cons list so I could make an informed decision at the age of – I think I was in fourth grade, so you’re 9 I think. So I wrote a pros and cons list and I decided that it was more important for me to be able to do extracurriculars.
And then as I got older, I think the desire to be an actor while living in L.A. was embarrassing, because when you’re from L.A. you’re kind of like, “Oh, yeah, everyone wants to do that. Do something more interesting.” I was a really academic student, so I had a lot of shame about that. I just pretended like I didn’t want to do it. I was like, “I’ll just be an accountant,” because I was good at math. I’m 14 saying these things.
And then I was in a school play at 16; I had a great drama teacher at the school. He was a great educator of the history of theater, of Russian theater, and then American theater, and all the different techniques. My way in to being OK with the want of being an actor was through the theater, because it felt more academic and it felt less like the experience of celebrity and whatever that is. Right now, it’s on steroids, whatever that is on social media.
But it was more about the process, and the history, and the intellectual experience of what it means to collaborate and tell a story. And through thinking about theater from an academic perspective, I allowed myself to be OK with it. Which is sad that you have to give yourself a better reason to do something you want to do, but that’s what allowed me to want to pursue it in college. And then while I was in college, I just started working. There wasn’t a lot of thought that went into it; it just had its own journey.
Your breakout role was in Martha Marcy May Marlene, a 2011 indie film. Now you’re starring in blockbusters. Do you see yourself going back to “smaller” movies?
I do. The last indie films I did were just a few years ago, Ingrid Goes West and Wind River. I was really proud of those, and then I did television for the first time, Sorry for Your Loss, which was on Facebook, so not many people got to hear about it, which is too bad.
What’s next for you?
I’m always looking for the next thing. The next project I’m dying to do is a very small three-hander [a play for three characters] written by a brilliant playwright. We’re just waiting for funding after the COVID of it all so we can do it next year. It will be directed by a really great young theater director.
I’m always looking for people that I have a strong desire to collaborate with who are like-minded, and I’m always hungry to go back to something smaller. It’s where I feel most comfortable, which would therefore make me feel more safe to be vulnerable, and uncomfortable, and more experimental. There’s not as much pressure that you put on yourself because it feels like it’s more feeding your soul.
What has the pandemic taught you about yourself?
Since I was a little kid, I was always really a scheduled child with the dance and sports and stuff, which means a really scheduled adult. For a while I’ve been working on being OK with doing nothing. And so, it was this amazing time to really work on something that I was already trying to get better at, which is not using your comparing brain. Lucky, it was easier because everyone was doing nothing, so my comparing brain couldn’t really turn on anyway.
But it was this amazing time to really just sit with yourself and wake up and decide, “Oh, I want to walk.” Or “Maybe I’ll read for however long I want to read for, and then maybe I’ll make myself food.” I don’t have kids; I have a responsibility to my family, and that’s it. And so, I understand how different it is if you have kids, and if you have a job where you have to work from home. So it was a really lovely time to be OK with doing nothing, and then it allowed for more creativity, which you hope is the result of that without searching for it.
Now, I’m back at full throttle. I missed it so much. I’m lucky to be at work.
Original article at Parade.
This article has been reproduced for archive purposes.