Elizabeth Olsen
© Marvel Studios 2020

Elizabeth Olsen: “I just had to step it up”

Short Profile

Name: Elizabeth Chase Olsen
DOB: 16 February 1989
Place of birth: Sherman Oaks, California, United States
Occupation: Actor, film producer

Elizabeth Olsen stars in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in theaters on 4 May 2022.

Ms. Olsen, would you say that you grow as an actor with every project?

I do feel that way. Especially right before I did WandaVision, I was filming a second season of a show I made called Sorry for Your Loss. It was my first time doing television and it was such a different muscle, I had to reorganize how I worked because your brain really does need to work harder when you do television. It's just a harder situation. I felt like everything was tightened a bit, and like I knew what I was doing. So yes, I do feel like there's a bit of a change in growth and process every year. I also think there's something to be said about making the choice to commit and invest more. I think I realized that maybe I was a bit lazy on some jobs in the past.

Lazy in what ways?

Just in terms of how much you let your job take up space in your life. And I've always been someone whose work life and home life, they are separate things to me, I don't want them to be the same thing. But I also realized I can still keep it separate, but commit more of myself to my job. From a prepping standpoint, from getting involved from the beginning with the writing, with conversation, with asking more questions, instead of just saying, “Oh, I’m just an actor. I just come in and someone else makes the thing and I leave.” Now I want to be invested more curious about all the steps and stages. In the last four years, I've just become a lot more committed to my job.

“I honestly think I could be happy doing any job that’s collaborative with lots of people.”

It sounds like that commitment has also deepened your love of the job.

It feels more personal and more fulfilling. It's so funny, I finished a job recently — that was a seven month job, and I still miss it. I feel still attached to that whole experience! I really love being a part of a team. And I honestly think I could be happy doing any job that’s collaborative with lots of people. There are people skills that you develop, there's a lot of empathy you build, there’s a lot of putting yourself in other people's shoes. And what you put in is what you receive! There's just so much that you get from working with a group of people intimately, and that's one of my favorite aspects of the job.

What else has been important in terms of really loving your job?

I care a lot about how I create the energy of a set, I care a lot about the people enjoying their job, and feeling respected. I care about people treating each other with kindness. And I also care about people being prepared to do their job. I think you can do that without making anyone ever feel bad. You can do that just by leading by example. I do think that helps in hard times when things get a little bit physically uncomfortable, when you're outside and it's raining and everyone's in wet gear… We're all  in this together. If you've created a healthy morale, it makes the job feel much more enjoyable. But that's all been in the last four or five years for me, I think it was because I produced Sorry for Your Loss and was an actor in it. And I just had to step it up.

Did working as a producer give you insight into what you need as an actor?

Yeah, and now I pretend like I'm a producer on everything and it's so annoying! (Laughs) What I try and do is I want to make sure that all the actors have what they need. Usually you have leaders who are capable of that but sometimes things fall through, so I like being able to be present for everyone.

Does that kind of personal involvement in a film also mean you’re getting more attached to the characters you play?

Well, my theater training in college was all about walking away and leaving it all out on the field. But I think as I've gotten older, I realized that I'm more attached to the characters than I think I am! Especially when it comes to a character like Wanda Maximoff, who I’ve played over several Avengers films, the WandaVision TV series, and now also in my new film Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness… I mean, it's been quite a journey. I feel like as she's grown, I've grown. It made me have a deeper love for Wanda and really excited to do something different with Dr. Strange, where she has a lot of clarity. It’s a different growth for her in this film. They've done a great job giving me an arc and something real to play.

“There’s something to be said about a certain amount of hours spent doing anything, practicing anything... That does affect growth.”

It must also be exciting to bring that character to a totally different style of project, like WandaVision, which is a sitcom.

WandaVision taught me a lot! It also freed up my body. There's this thing that happens when you do too much modern stuff, you start acting only with your upper body. Whereas with WandaVision, which is influenced by old fifties and sixties television series, you have to remember to move your entire body through space and tell a story physically. That was an amazing reminder for someone coming from the theater and not having done theater in such a long time: it makes me want to do theater again, I need it in my life. But I also know I need breaks… That's another thing I learned about myself, I need definite breaks when I can feel myself getting tired.

It seems like you’ve really found your stride as an actor.

I mean, I feel better about doing my job than I did eight years ago! I feel more capable. And I do think there's something to be said about a certain amount of hours spent doing anything, practicing anything or doing any kind of job that you learn from. I think the amount of hours that you rack up, that does affect growth. I just hope that continues.

Do you think you’ll ever reach a point where you feel totally at ease, or will that mean that you’ve stayed too long in your comfort zone?

I don't know! I don't know if anyone feels that way. It's really vulnerable. And it's scary, like, starting a job is always horrifying. It’s like the first day of school, it feels terrible every time. But I hope that it continues to feel that way because I like new experiences. And this job really allows you to meet lots of interesting people and have lots of new experiences. And I'm really enjoying it.