It’s been six years since Olivia Olson performed the second most-famous rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” as Joanna, “the one” for Sam (Thomas Sangster), in 2003’s Love Actually. Since we find ourselves wondering where she is every time we watch the movie — which is frequently this time of year — we decided to find out. Now 17, and a senior in high school, Olson voices Vanessa Doofenshmirtz, the evil scientist’s daughter, on the Disney show Phineas and Ferb. In a nice twist of fate, Ferb is voiced by Sangster and has a crush on Vanessa. “He records over in England, so I haven’t seen him since the premiere of Love Actually,” she says. ”I talk to him on the phone, though. We had to talk about the whole Ferb-Vanessa situation ‘cause it’s pretty funny.”
Upon graduation, Olson plans to finally focus on the music career she was offered after the film. “Record companies were trying to sign me, but honestly, I just really wasn’t interested in it then. I’ve known since I was two years old that I wanted to be a singer, but I was 10 years old — what really would I be singing about? I was already writing songs, but they were like the songs that I heard on the radio, which were too old for my age. It wouldn’t have worked out. I just wanted to get some sort of life experience. Now, I’ve done high school. I’ve been normal. And I’m over it,” she says, laughing. “Now, I’m trying to kick it into high gear and work on my music.” After the jump, she talks about filming Love Actually, the kind of music she wants to make (her YouTube channel), and whether she’s Team Edward or Team Jacob. (She’s voicing vampire queen Marceline in Cartoon Network’s upcoming series Adventure Time with Finn & Jake; we had to ask.)
How did you get the role in Love Actually?
It was one of my first major auditions. I had just gotten an agent, and I went in and sang “Fallen” by Alicia Keys. Later on, the director [Richard Curtis] told me that every single girl that went in sang that song. I didn’t hear back from them for a month or two, so I thought I did really bad. Then I got another call, and I did about five auditions with them. Then they flew me to New York, where there was about six girls for the last audition. When we touched back down in L.A., I got a call from my agent saying I got it. I started screaming so loud that some guy in the parking lot thought that my dad was trying to kidnap me or something. I was like, “No, no, no! I’m just really excited!’”
I’ve read that they actually asked you to sing “All I Want For Christmas” not as well as you could. Is that true?
[Laughs] Yeah. They had blocked out two days for me in the studio to record it. My dad, who came with me, was like, “I really don’t think that she needs it.” They were like, “Well, okay, Olivia, do you want to do a test run first?” I was like, “Okay, sure.” My dad was in the room with the producers, and he was like, “I’m telling you. Just record the practice. Record the practice.” They’re like, “Are you sure? Okay.” I sang it all the way through, and they were like, “Okay, thank you,” and then they turned the volume off so I couldn’t hear what they were talking about. But my dad told me later that they were like, “She sounds too good. No one’s going to believe that she’s really singing that.” So they’re like, “Okay, Hi, Olivia. Um, great job. Do you think you could do it a little less good?” They just pretty much told me to sing it more straight, not do as many runs and trills. We recorded it one more time, and they used that. So it took about 45 minutes to do it when they gave me two days of studio time.
What do you remember about being on the set with all those big-name actors?
The scene where Emma Thompson confronts Alan Rickman about the necklace, I remember me and this girl Lulu were sitting right by their feet as they were filming that, and I watching her crying on cue over and over and over again. The director was like, “Oh, you girls can’t sit here,” and she was like, “No, no, it’s fine. I like it.” I asked her, “How do you do that? How can you just cry on command?” ‘Cause they kept having to stop because there were airplanes going overhead. She was just snapping right in and out of it, going back from crying to happy. I was like, “Do you think of something sad? I would think my dog died or something.” She goes, “No, I put myself in the situation of my character. If my husband really did get a necklace for another woman, I just believe that.” I’ll always remember that. If I ever get a role where I have to cry, I know how to do it.
Your plan is to focus on music. Describe your sound.
I’m really inspired by so many random artists that don’t even make sense to be put together. [Laughs] Lyric-wise, I like to shock people, so I’ve really gotten into Lily Allen lately. Music-wise, I love underground rap, so I love Atmosphere. Those kind of beats, but still very soulful. Gotta bring the soul into it. [Watch her perform her original songs “Sunny” and “Barriers”.]
Who would you like to model your career after?
Well, once Beyoncé gets too old, I’m gonna take over her spot as the head diva. [Laughs] Aim big. [Watch her cover “Halo”.]
In the more immediate future, you’ll continue doing voiceover work with Adventure Time.
That’s fun. I love Twilight, so I was like, “Hell yeah. Vampire!”
Alright. Team Edward or Team Jacob?
[Laughs] My friends are going to hate me for saying this, but Team Jacob.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Edward more than anyone could know, but my friends told me if I’m even contemplating, I’m Team Jacob. And they’re all mad at me because I’m, like, the only one.
Did you like Jacob from the books, or did New Moon the movie turn you?
I liked him from the books. I always got so happy when he and Bella would start having feelings for each other. I just wanted her to have both of them, but that’s not good. [Laughs] I think I wanted her to be with Jacob so I could have Edward.
But now you would prefer to have Jacob yourself?
I mean, once I saw the movie with his shirt off in every scene…