Olivia Levine is a queer actor, comedian and writer based in Brooklyn.
She received her B.A. in Theatre from Barnard College, Columbia University. Other training includes Uprights Citizens Brigade, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London) and The Studio/NY. Olivia’s film credits include Tallulah, opposite Allison Janney and I Hate Kids with Tituss Burgess and Tom Everett Scott.
Olivia joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about her work on the short film, Let Liv.
The film follows a young alcoholic woman who agrees to attend an AA meeting with her partner. When she unexpectedly runs into her estranged mother, she’s forced to confront demons from her past.
What was it like to act in a story you created?
It was really wonderful. At first, I was worried it would be hard to step out of writer mode – like, would I be judging my words a lot? Would I want to change things in the moment? But it ended up being so much fun. I really handed over my trust to Erica and my other collaborators and tried to stay as present as possible. I had a blast!
The film has an interested and sadly relevant subject of generational addiction. What inspired you to make a film about this?
I have a lot of friends and family that did or presently do struggle with addiction, and I have been to AA meetings to support folks. I grew up rather immersed in the world of AA and in the lexicon of AA, and I loved the idea of a short story that takes place at a meeting because it is such a rich space. I also think that addiction is so complicated and never the same for any one human or group or family, and I wanted to tell a story kind of questioned our assumptions about addiction and recovery.
There is a lovely dynamic between you and Christine Taylor who plays your mother. What was your process of working together?
She is the absolute nicest, warmest person in the world, so getting to know her was amazing. We did a day of rehearsal before the shoot, during which we got to talk about our characters’ relationship in depth, run the scenes, and tell some personal stories. We immediately loved each other so much, so that really helped. And Christine is so experienced and so generous with her energy, it was just really so lovely to work with/off of her.
Why is it important for you to tell LGBT stories?
Being queer is a huge part of my identity. It has impacted every aspect of my life, whether it be in a big or small way. I like to write what I know because I have a lot to say about what I know. I am very outspoken! And I also think we still get a very limited amount of queer stories, and most of them tend towards stereotypes and generalities. I think it’s crucial to explore queerness beyond the surface, beyond the stereotypes. I want to see all kinds of queer narratives – ones where queerness is at the forefront, ones where it takes a backseat to other things. But, most importantly, I want to keep seeing authentic and expansive queer narratives told by all sorts of voices!
Please share with us how you got into filmmaking…
I come from a big theatre and comedy background. I studied theatre in college at Barnard, studied theatre abroad in London at RADA, and then did a conservatory program at The Studio/NY post-college. In terms of my comedic background, I did a lot of sketch and improv in college and then started doing standup. Presently, I perform standup a lot around the city. The film came later for me. My father became a film producer when I was 15, so I was around it a lot, but I didn’t start to really write things for film and TV until the pandemic. I wasn’t able to perform at the beginning, obviously – at least not live – so I really turned my attention to writing pilots and shorts and features. And here we are!
What is next for you?
Erica and I are developing the feature version of Let Liv. I am also developing another feature right now, as well as some episodic projects!