Most recently on screen, Olivia-Mai Barrett was in the cast of Rebel Cheer Squad – A Get Even Series playing the role of Mouse, which is currently streaming on BBC iPlayer and is set to be released on Netflix internationally later this year. Upcoming projects for Olivia-Mai include Masters of the Air, Kandahar and The Man Who Fell to Earth, with the latter being released on April 24th. Olivia-Mai has previously played starring character Penny Mendez across all three series of Penny on M.A.R.S. for Disney alongside Shannon Gaskin as Camilla, with both characters being introduced in a prior Disney show Alex & Co. For her first feature film, Olivia-Mai played Jules in My Dad’s Christmas Date and she was also seen as Michaela Williams in Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle. We caught up with Olivia-Mai about playing Mouse in Rebel Cheer Squad, her time as Penny Mendez in Penny on M.A.R.S. and her upcoming projects.
What was Mouse like to play in Rebel Cheer Squad – A Get Even Series, and was there anything that drew you to the role?
Mouse was very different from what I’ve done before. She’s vindictive, angry and careless. Yet she’s also lost and vulnerable. That’s what drew me to her.
How was it being part of the cast and what did you enjoy most about filming the series?
Genuinely and honestly, this cast is full of some of the most real and beautiful inside and out kind of people. I was a little anxious joining a big cast again but I felt instant ease when I met everyone. If we weren’t on set we’d be at the bowling alley next to our hotel together.
Is there anything you can tell us about working on The Man Who Fell to Earth?
Hmmm well… it’s not out till April 24th so I can’t say much! But the script is amazing, when I first read just the first ep, genuinely I was laughing out loud. Also, Alicia is so boisterous, she’s mad, so that was kind of freeing to play with.
What was it like filming as Ida Harris in feature film Kandahar and what are you looking forward to for the release?
I was in and out of Saudi Arabia in four days, it felt like a fever dream. Filming was very fast-paced as we were shooting in Jeddah airport, I loved the energy on set. I also came right at the end of the shoot so I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.
How have you found your time filming Masters of the Air and what is it like to be part of?
It was my first period project which is something I’ve always yearned to be apart of. Again! I can’t say too much but the sets were insane and the costumes. Even the most tiniest of details were mind-blowing to see. You hear about these kind of projects and I was very fortunate to play a small role in it.
How did it feel booking the role of Penny Mendez in Alex & Co. and Penny on M.A.R.S. and can you tell us about your character?
Booking Penny… I always call her my girl 😀. She became an extension of me by the end of Season 3. Being my first professional role was intense but exhilarating. At first, I did find the pressure sometimes overwhelming but, thankfully, I had kind of a trial working on Alex & Co first to find my feet. Also, having Shannon (Gaskin), who played Camilla, with me from the beginning is something I’ll always be grateful for.
What was it like being in the cast and performing the music and choreography?
The P.O.M cast, we spent three summers over three years together. We grew up together for a while you could say. I remember the first time we had a rehearsal in Milan for the opening titles with Xu, our choreographer, and all of his dancers. That’s when it really sank in like damn, I’m doing a Disney show.
Do you have any stand-out memories from your time on set of Penny on M.A.R.S.?
Season 3 we shot a music video which, to this day, has never been released. We filmed in the Sempione Park. We used the park throughout the show for filming and I think it was on Thursdays they held this weekly festival type thing we’d go to as a cast. It was a bittersweet day for me as I knew this was the last time as a cast we’d do this together but, also, we all knew it was time for the next thing.
Can you tell us about playing Jules in the feature film My Dad’s Christmas Date and what was it like to film?
This was my first feature film. I had a lot of fun especially with Mick (Davis), our director… But also a lot of crying. Jules is at a breaking point in her life where the film is set. Mick and I really wanted to portray her grief even though it’s set at Christmas which is traditionally a time of happiness we wanted to really push her pain.
You played Michaela Williams in the TV series Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, how was this?
This project will always have a special place with me. I personally learned a lot from that experience. I remember being at the read-through and being surrounded by so many amazing creatives, some that I grew up watching and admiring. It was surreal for me being a part of a project that was so important and informative about what’s happening in real time in our country and the damage it’s causing.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I think it stemmed from watching movies. I watched Bugsy Malone, saw Jodie Foster as Tallulah, and that was it. Sounds so cliché! But it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I have a lot! I definitely have comfort movies that I watch repeatedly… like Marie Antoinette and Anna Karenina are just visually exquisite to me. I could watch Moonlight every day. Also, I’m still pissed Netflix cancelled Grand Army.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
To be blunt, taping for the next role. I’m kind of an all or nothing person. When I do have downtime, I try not to go on my phone too much. I journal a lot. Make vision boards. I recently moved and have my own place and I’ve found a new love of cooking, especially pasta. I love pasta.
Can you say about some of the other projects you’ve been involved with over the years which have included commercials, music videos and theatre?
My first ever job out of college was a music video I did in Barcelona. Ozzie, the director, really trusted me with it. I was 19, fresh out of college, I’d love to work with him again. I’ve always used music to set the tone for my days on set since, as at one point in the shoot I’m sat on a tram and Ozzie got me to wear some headphones he played a song I’d been listening to for years. The video is about a break up and listening to this song and thinking about this girl’s thought process really resonated. Ever since, I make a playlist for each character I portray.
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