Thursday, November 19, 2015

Interview: Agent X's Olga Fonda—Next Big Action Star?

Olga Fonda, photo by Dorit Thies
Russian beauty Olga Fonda is perhaps best known to TV audiences for playing Nadia on “The Vampire Diaries.” She also wowed moviegoers — and Hugh Jackman — when she co-starred in the feature film “Real Steel.” Now she’s co-starring opposite Hollywood heavyweight Sharon Stone in the new TNT drama “Agent X,” which airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT. I spoke with her recently about her new role, and she can’t wait for fans to get drawn into the action and intrigue of this sure-to-be-hit action/spy drama.

Celebrity Extra: You came to the U.S. from Russia when you were 14. Tell me how this opportunity came about for you.

Olga Fonda: The United States was always known as a land of opportunities and dreams. So, when I got the opportunity to go to the United States as an exchange student, I happily grabbed it. I always wanted to get an experience of living in different countries, studying in different countries, learning the different cultures and, of course, learning English was such a plus because I knew having this experience that when I got back to Russia, I’d definitely have better opportunities. I’m very happy and grateful that my parents supported this, because I know it wasn’t very easy for them.

CE: What brought you back to the U.S. after the exchange program was over?

OF: I came back after two years to go to university. Within those two years, the exchange rate of dollars and rubles grew dramatically. If I’m not mistaken, when I went there the first time the dollar was about six rubles; two years later, the dollar grew to like 26 rubles. My parents just couldn’t afford it. I’d been trying to get a scholarship to college, and they called me and said, “We can give you half a scholarship,” and I said, “Unfortunately, I just can’t afford it.” So they called me back and said: “You have a presidential scholarship. Please come back.” So, I couldn’t let that opportunity go. It was beyond something that I could imagine.

CE: I know you’ve modeled and you’re an actress; how did you get involved in it in the first place? Was it something you’d always wanted to do?

OF: I’ve always been fascinated with the beautiful and glamorous world of the film industry. When I came here, I got discovered into modeling, and I started filming commercials, as well. So, I started taking acting classes to make myself a better actor and to work on the dialects and my accent. I just fell in love with it. One day a friend of mine called and said: “Listen, in my building they are casting this role for an independent movie and they can’t find a girl. They are looking for a Russian girl with a dancing background.” I said: “Yes, I have a dancing background, but I don’t have any credits. I don’t have a presentation theatrically. I’m just in commercials and taking acting classes.” She said: “Why don’t you try? Why don’t you call casting and go in?”

So I talked to casting. I was so nervous. I went into the room, and the director was there. Her name is Barra Grant. I read it once, and she had me read it again. It was the most terrifying experience ever. Before I left the room she goes: “Congratulations! You booked it.” I think I almost fainted. I was so shocked. Barra pretty much started my acting career. She was the first director who believed in me and gave me the opportunity before I had any credits or theatrical presentations. And then after that, I was able to get a presentation together.

CE: Tell me about your audition for “The Vampire Diaries.”

OF: To be honest, I was struggling with the audition. I went into the room, and it went so quickly. When I came out, I was so nervous because I didn’t know if I did well. When I got home, my manager called me and said: “You booked the role. Can you get on a plane in two hours?” I was like, “Wait ... what?” I had to drop everything. I went to Atlanta for one episode, and I ended up staying there for several more. They were great, the cast and crew. They were such a great team and very welcoming. And they are like one big family. I couldn’t have asked for a better first big TV series. It was the best.

CE: I am going to assume that it was wonderful working with Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel.”

OF: It was my first big film, and working with him was amazing. He is such a nice guy. Probably one of the nicest guys I’ve met, and he’s very professional. He has a beautiful and sweet family. He used to bring his kids on set a lot. One memory that I still have, it was so cute: His son, Oscar, at that time was fascinated with the Russian language and was studying Russian. I remember he says, “Come with me outside.” So Oscar takes me outside, and he spells my name and a few Russian words with chalk on the ground. I even took a picture of it. That was a beautiful moment.

CE: What was filming like? What was life like on the set?

OF: No matter what kind of role you had — big or small — on the set, everyone — directors, producers, main actors — they all treated everyone with such respect. They were so humble, and they were so professional. That experience became such a great lesson for me that I try to take with me on every set I go.

Olga Fonda at the Agent X premiere
CE: You have to be so excited to be co-starring in the highly anticipated TNT series “Agent X.”

OF: It’s a dream come true! I cannot express how excited and honored I am to be working with this cast and crew.

CE: What did you think about the show, as well as your character, Olga Petrovka, when you first read the script?

OF: The pilot is very well-written. It’s entertaining. It’s a great combination of drama and action. And (creator) Blake (Herron) did a fantastic job of creating an interesting story and strong characters. Of course, playing Olga Petrovka is a dream come true for me because I’ve always wanted to play an action character.

CE: That leads right to my next question, which is that it looks like such a fun and bad-ass role to play, you must be having a ball!

OF: When I read about Olga, that was the first thing that — besides her having colors and layers, and being an interesting, intriguing and fun character — she always had a lot of action. And that was something that originally drew me to her.

CE: What are some other things that will draw viewers to the show?

OF: It’s a great mix of different genders and different ages, and a great mix of action, mystery and drama. And it has a sense of humor. It’s a well-done show. As you know, it’s about a secret agent who works for the vice president. And you have beautiful Sharon Stone and Jeff Hephner, who is this really good-looking guy. And I think people would be drawn to the show because of them and because of big action sequences. But I think they will enjoy learning about the different characters within the show and what their real intentions are.

CE: What is everyone like to work with?

OF: Everyone is amazing. When we first started filming the pilot, especially the first day of being on set and shooting with these guys, everyone was so excited to be there. It was such a magical day. For me personally, it’s a great experience just to watch them perform; I learn so much by just watching them. Sharon is beautiful and smart and a talented woman. And she is fun to be around. She is very supportive of her fellow actors. She’s a superstar.

And Jeff, I call Jeff a super action star. He’s this talented, nice good-looking guy with a great sense of humor. We have so much fun together. We have moments where we are filming a scene and laugh so hard that we’re crying. It’s nice to work with someone who you can share these laughs with.

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