With the voice of an angel (and oftentimes a demon), Olivia Olson sang ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ in Love Actually and is probably best known for her work as Marceline of Adventure Time and Vanessa Doofenshmirtz on Phineas and Ferb. Olivia and Jessica DiCicco (Flame Princess from Adventure Time) were at Supanova for panels, signings and photo ops. We were lucky enough to catch up with Olivia and chat to her about voice acting, her career path, Rebecca Sugar and Donald Glover.
Olivia is perhaps most well known amongst mainstream audiences for her role as Joanna in Love Actually when she was just ten. For those who have listened to that performance, or her songs as Marceline in Adventure Time, it’s clear she is terribly talented. It’s also clear she’s a killer voice actor. So how does she choose what to pursue?
It wasn’t a conscious choice, she says, and not “like choosing one or the other”: “I kind of just fell into voice acting because of my singing voice.” Her singing voice has almost definitely helped her with voice acting, and her experience voice acting has improved her singing: “I feel like I’m maybe less scared to try a high note now because I always have to scream my lungs out to play Marceline when I turn into a demon or something like that. So I’m just lucky that every acting role I’ve ever had has had parts of singing in it.”
The first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network, Rebecca Sugar (check out her Tumblr) did some amazing work on Adventure Time as a writer, storyboarder and composer. She composed many of Marceline’s songs, including the ‘Fry Song’ and ‘I’m Just Your Problem’. Olivia is a big fan of Rebecca’s work: “She is awesome, first of all. I have so much respect for her as a writer and as a songwriter.” The Adventure Time family is a close one: “She would always stop whatever she was doing three floors up at Cartoon Network and come down and make sure she’s in the booth when we were recording the first Marceline songs.”
Of course, as Olivia has become more acquainted with Marceline’s character now, and Rebecca has left Adventure Time to work on her own show, Steven Universe, she has had “a little more creative control.” Still, if Olivia was offered a spot on Steven Universe? “If she asked me to do a little role, I would jump at it. She’s awesome.”
Voice acting is sometimes seen as lesser than acting, but the fact is acting with only your voice is a unique challenge. So how does Olivia play Marceline so cool? Singing definitely helps, she tells us. “I do have such a strong singing background that if I wanted to sound cool or sexy when I’m singing, it’s easy. So you kind of just use the same principles as you would when you’re singing a song but just to the voice.”
In the very popular genderswapped episodes of Adventure Time, Marceline’s double is Marshall Lee, voiced by incredible entertainer Donald Glover. Olivia has met Donald in a funny (if embarrassing) story:
“I knew who he was, but I didn’t put the pieces together.” At San Diego Comic Con in 2013, they met: “They kind of came up and said, this is Marshall Lee, and I’m like: ‘Oh hey, I loved your episode, best friends!’” While waiting to do their panel, she sang the hook of ‘Heartbeat’.
“And he was like ‘oh yeah!’ and I was like ‘…yeah!’ and I was like what is he talking about, you know? I didn’t even realise till like a week later, and I was like, I just made a fool of myself and I’m so embarrassed, because he’s awesome, and I love all his music. Because I knew him as the actor from 30 Rock and Community…it was all kind of a foof. It was still cool to hang out with him and I got a picture with him, but it was still embarrassing. I hope he doesn’t even remember.”
“Right now, I’m doing pretty good for myself with Adventure Time,” Olivia says, and she’s content with that. There’s no real hurry to be looking around, but if she does find herself with an offer for a live action role, she would “jump at the opportunity – it was so fun.”
Voice acting is “a new passion for me, so who knows, you never know what you’re going to audition for…I’m open to anything.”
So what about her ideal voice acting role? Is there anything she’s aspiring to?
“I’d like to play some sort of animal or something. I work with Dee Bradley Baker on both Phineas and Ferb and Adventure Time. He’s like the craziest voice actor ever, and ever time I see him I’m like: ‘Can you just do a giraffe, do a rhino, do something,’ because he can do any sound! So being able to something that Dee Bradley Baker could do and just do some weird animal noises, that would be fun, because that’s so not serious.”