If you don't know who Olivia Cooke is, chances are you will soon. The UK-born actress, 20, has appeared in the past two seasons of A&E's hit "Bates Motel", as Norman Bates' bestie Emma Decody, who even while burdened with cystic fibrosis and the Oxygen tank that comes with it, manages to be the show's most lovable and optimistic character. Audiences saw her continue the horror groove earlier this year with THE QUIET ONES, in which she played a teenager haunted by malevolent spirits. And now Olivia is facing the unknown once again in THE SIGNAL, the Sundance Film Festival hit which just opened in theaters across the country. In the film, Olivia plays Haley, a character who along with two other friends is abducted by mysterious forces in the middle of the American desert. Safe to say Olivia doesn't mind being creeped out.
I spoke to Olivia about her recent busy schedule these last few years, her proclivity for playing tormented characters, getting her American accent down, and becoming recognizable to the public.
Congrats on your year so far, with THE SIGNAL, THE QUIET ONES and the second season of "Bates Motel." This past year or two must have been incredibly busy.
It really has been crazy, so overwhelming. But I couldn't ask for anything better.
They're all sort of in the thriller/horror genre - you must really enjoy being scared.
It's not really that, it's just these characters I play happen to be in that genre. I feel like I get a lot more to do and a lot more to play with sometimes, I don't necessarily seek out horror or supernatural projects.
THE SIGNAL is really impressive. It's obviously not a big-budget movie, but it sure looks like it cost a lot to make. What was the experience of making it like?
I've only really had the experience of shooting low-budget movies anyway, so they all come with their own problems. With THE SIGNAL, we were battling against temperatures of 100 degrees sometimes. in the desert. There were storms - hail storms, in the middle of June, which is just ridiculous. It comes part and parcel with shooting a low-budget movie, and you just have to go with it, otherwise you're going to lose time, lose your light, and lose your money.
It's a difficult move to discuss without spoiling - has it been tough for you to talk about without ruining surprises?
Yeah, definitely. I just say it's LIKE CRAZY meets THE TERMINATOR. (Laughs) My friends would watch the trailer and say, "I love it, I want to see it, but I have no idea what's happening." When I was reading the script I just felt like I didn't know what would come next. Even when I watched it, I had forgotten some of what happened and I was completely bowled over by what emerged. It's like when you read a book but then you hear it spoken out loud, it resonates on a different level - that's what it was like finally watching it.
Can you hold on for a second? I'm going to a children's hospital to meet a girl who has the same kind of cancer that I have in the movie I'm about to star in.
Oh really? That's interesting. Do you prepare like that often?
I try to do a lot of research when I'm playing a character. Like with Emma on "Bates Motel", I never met anyone with cystic fibrosis, but I tried. But teenagers are sometimes uncomfortable talking about it, which is completely fine, but in this case we found someone who is on board, and the doctor is on board. So it's amazing that they'll be completely fine talking to me about it. I'm looking forward to it.
In addition to the scary movies, it also seems like you're playing a lot of characters with ailments. I hope you're not being typecast.
I know, me too! But I'm really enjoying playing these characters, and the horror and sci-fi genres have really put me on the map, so I'm happy about it.
Because of "Bates Motel", I'm sure you're being recognized a lot more now. What has that aspect of your profession been like?
It's weird. In England, no one knows who I am at all, which is really lovely, but here it's different. Yesterday I was in a social security office with tons of people just minding my own business, and this couple shouted, "Oh my God, are you on Bates Motel?!" And then the guy who was doing my social security looked at me and said, "Oh, now I know where I know you from." (Laughs) When people recognize who you are, they're just generally nicer to you.
You have a ton of fan pages devoted to you: websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages. Are you aware of all those?
My friends tell me about it. It's lovely. I see pictures of myself that I've never seen before, and then I think, "That's a bit weird." I'm not on Twitter or anything because I'd like to keep as much of myself as possible.
How do you go about perfecting your American accent, because it's really impressive.
Thank you. In England we grow up watching American TV shows and films. And in Vancouver I have a dialect coach, who is completely awesome. She's the one who taught me how and where to move my mouth, where the sound comes from. She's had to tell me how to say "near" so many times. I would say [uses bad American accent] "near" and she'd say no, it's "near!"
What do you do when you're not busy?
I always say I'm going to learn a language or something. What I do is have a glass of wine, kick off my shoes and stay in my pajamas all day. Just be a general slob.
Just like everybody else!
Thank you for your time, and good luck with everything in the future.
Oh, thank you so much. It was really great talking to you.
THE SIGNAL is out in select theaters now. "Bates Motel" returns in 2015.