LIVING While she has had a number of high-profile comedy and dramedy roles, Olivia Macklin has talents in all genres, having been trained in the theatre, as Jack Yan discovers
Photographed by Josh Fogel
Make-up by Beth Follert
Hair by Erika Vanessa using T3 Micro
Styled by Karlee Parrish
Photography assisted by Nick Sutjongdro
First published in issue 45 of Lucire
Olivia Macklin has a flair for comedy, as was evidenced last year in her series Pretty Smart, playing Claire, the less than intellectual sister of Emily Osment’s high-brow, Harvard-educated lawyer Chelsea, who finds herself sharing an apartment with her sibling and her friends. Claire’s optimistic, with an effervescent character, and sees the bright side of life—things she shares with the actress who portrays her.
The 28-year-old Illinois native says there isn’t a time when she didn’t want to be an actress, as she grew up in Glencoe, on Chicago’s north shore. ‘The north suburbs of Chicago are great,’ she remembers. ‘It’s beautiful and super-safe but also incredibly close to the big city. I was able to get a little bit of both worlds. I could walk around town with my friends and just be a kid. But with Chicago so close I had access to many great acting schools.’
Her family nurtured her interest, as she happily recalls: ‘I feel so lucky to have parents that have always supported my dream, especially when I have seen many of my friends experience the opposite. It takes a lot of trust to allow your child to pursue something so risky and potentially heartbreaking. That said, I don’t know if they really had that much say. I was pretty determined to become an actor no matter what. I was always looking up different classes to take, plays to audition for, etc. Most of the work was done—I just needed a ride.’
From there, the BA degree in theatre performance at Fordham University piqued her interest. ‘I was mainly interested [in] Fordham because they only accept about 20 students to the acting track each year so I knew I would be getting a really concentrated, personal education,’ she says. ‘The last thing I wanted was to feel like a number in a sea of kids. I had also met some really incredible alumni who taught me when I attended a summer theatre intensive at Northwestern before my senior year of high school and they just seemed like exactly the kind of actor I wanted to be. I really looked up to them and am grateful I met them around the time I was considering my options.’
It’s during her studies that you first see stories about Macklin, with various theatre companies, including her university, in New York City (including performing in the Fringe Fest in 2013), and even in Rome, Italy in the role of Anna in Dario Fo’s one-act play Non tutti i ladri vengono per nuocere. Macklin is one of the better known actors in the independent Less Than Rent Theatre company in New York, which explored numerous genres, including comedy.
‘Hi to my LTR fam!’ exclaims Macklin when asked about her time there. ‘I have met some incredible theatre people by being a part of that company. But my love for comedy came much earlier. I grew up watching sitcoms like The Nanny and Will & Grace, and films like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and all of that made a very lasting impression on me.’
Graduating in 2016, Macklin quickly gained TV credits, appearing in one episode of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, and regularly as the biological mother of a future pope in the flashback sequences in HBO’s 10-part The Young Pope, which starred Jude Law and Diane Keaton.
Macklin showed her dramatic skills in Radium Girls, a 2018 film about women who were ill from radiation poisoning from working with radium-laced luminous paint used in painting watch faces in the 1920s.
Her first well known comedy role was in the ensemble airline sitcom LA to Vegas in 2018, as Nichole, a stripper who travelled the route for work. It received positive reviews but appearing mid-season didn’t help its chances. She returned to drama—the series might be better labelled a comedy–drama, or a ‘dramedy’—in the US remake of the New Zealand series Filthy Rich.
Her role of Becky Monreaux, the daughter-in-law of the deceased Eugene (who turns out to be not so dead later in the series), didn’t have a direct equivalent in the original series, though the remake starred Kim Cattrall in the role of Eugene’s widow, Margaret, following the role that Miriama Smith originated.
Macklin says that she never saw the original series, but asked cheekily, ‘Am I off the hook though since my character didn’t have a New Zealand counterpart?’
She adds, ‘While Becky was in much more “grown-up” circumstances than some of my other characters, she was pretty immature and had a very narrow view of the world, so it didn’t feel like I was playing someone much older than my other characters.’
It was a welcome chance to show her dramatic capabilities to a wider audience. ‘I’m a sitcom nerd but I’m a theatre nerd as well, and when you go to drama school you get to play a myriad of characters throughout those four years. I really enjoy stretching my limits and proving to myself that I can play anything. Again, I sort of fell into this comedy route, and I love it, but I have just as much of a desire to get my hands on something really dark.’
The cast of Filthy Rich played a family—not one that always got along, however, with illegitimate members who find themselves in the thick of the action—but there was a real family feeling on set. Cattrall continues to follow Macklin on Instagram, commenting and liking posts, for instance. ‘That was a really fun group. The fact that we were all generally at different ages and different places in our lives actually lends itself to the family dynamic. I was the youngest and definitely felt like it when I would hang out with some of my cast-mates who are married or have children. We were all really cool about each other’s varying life circumstances. And that show is where I met my boyfriend so you can definitely say the bonds continued!’
Her boyfriend is a fellow actor, Benjamin Levy Aguilar, who played Antonio Rivera on Filthy Rich, and is occasionally seen on Macklin’s Instagram, though the pair tend to be quite private. ‘Neither of us are very fixated on social media and have no trouble keeping the majority of our relationship private,’ she says. ‘And anything we post … is about work—we don’t let that get in the way of who we are when it’s just the two of us. I do get a little lovey-dovey on social media every once in a while but who cares?’
Being in a relationship with someone in the same profession has its advantages, says Macklin. ‘This industry can be so exhausting at times that I think we are often eager to leave that at the door and spend time together, and not feel like we’re in actor mode. But it’s nice to have someone always around who totally gets the struggle that comes with this job and someone who you can confer with and run things by if you need help.’
After Filthy Rich came 2021’s Pretty Smart, where the fish-out-of-water premise was ripe for comedy. ‘Pretty Smart and Claire specifically were exactly what I was dreaming I would get to be a part of when I first got that audition. I had dreamt of a multicam for so long but that medium isn’t as common as it once was. I was also very eager to work for a streaming platform like Netflix. And Claire will always hold a special place in my heart. Playing her made me so happy every day.’
Macklin herself has four sisters, including a smart, older one called Emily, and she found that she could relate to Claire.
It’s apparent that there’s a lot of love on the set, and the behind-the-scenes interviews given by Macklin and Osment show that there was plenty of fun behind the scenes. Macklin says they all bonded. ‘Unlike Filthy Rich, the cast of Pretty Smart is all around the same age and going through many of the same things which was a cool change. We were all free to hang out and spend time together as a fivesome pretty often. They are a cool bunch.’
At the time of the interview, Netflix had not announced if Pretty Smart would be renewed, though word came at time of publication that sadly, it had been officially cancelled. Osment heads to a series-regular role on Young Sheldon.
As to Macklin, this multi-talented performer has the acting capability to land any role in any genre. Whether or not it’ll be that ‘really dark’ role remains to be seen, though it’s clear she has a great love of comedy, having said in other interviews that she respects great comedic actors. Regardless of her direction, it’s clear that she has a lot to offer, and we’ll be keeping a keen eye on her next role. •
Jack Yan is founder and publisher of Lucire.
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