To say Olga Fonda is more than a pretty face is a bit of an understatement. Over the past several years, she established herself as an actress on the rise in Hollywood and is poised to become a breakout star in 2016. Quick witted, intensely driven to succeed and dedicated to her craft, she pours her heart and soul into every role, allowing her characters to spring from the screen. As her career comes into full bloom, her impressive work continues to excite fans and critics alike.
Her story begins simply enough, as she was born and raised in Ukhta, Russia where she was a competitive ballroom dancer who traveled the country. At age 14, she left her hometown for a year to be an exchange student in the United States. After returning home, she continued her education by studying business-economics at a university in Moscow. Because of her outstanding academic accomplishments, she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, which enabled Fonda to finish her degree free-of-cost in the U.S. This brainy beauty began modeling after she returned to the States and was quickly signed by Ford Models when they recognized her star-potential.
Her big break came when she was cast alongside Hugh Jackman in the 2011 blockbuster “REAL STEEL.” Additionally, Fonda is best known for her appearance in FX’s cult hit “Nip/Tuck,” as well for playing fan-favorite Nadia, daughter of Katherine (Nina Dobrev), in the CW drama “The Vampire Diaries.” Other credits include some of the biggest shows and films of the last few years, such as “Ugly Betty,” “Entourage,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Little Fockers.”
In 2015, the statuesque and stunning actress is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with as she stars opposite Sharon Stone and Jeff Hephner, in TNT’s new drama “Agent X.” Fonda steals the spotlight starring as Olga Petrovka, a mysterious and fearless Russian spy who is continually followed by the danger and excitement of being the #1 target of Agent X (Hepher), whose existence is so heavily classified his existence and top secret missions are only known by the vice president (Stone).
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Olga Fonda to discuss her journey as an actress, the process of bringing her characters from script to screen, breakout role on TNT’s ‘Agent X’ and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!
I want to give our readers a little background on you. What originally intrigued you about acting and made you pursue it as a career?
I started in the fashion business as a model and shortly thereafter I started doing TV commercials. That led to small appearances on different TV shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Ugly Betty.” Then, a friend of mine, set me up for an audition for a Russian ballerina for an independent movie called “Love Hurts.” He said, “I know that you have been taking acting classes and I know you also have a dancing background. Would you like to go and audition for it? You should call casting because they are having a hard time finding the right girl.” I said, “Why not?! That sounds interesting and fun. Let me try it!” I called and went in. Long story short, I got the role! I got to play a Russian ballerina in an independent movie directed by Barra Grant. That role kind of confirmed my love for acting. I really enjoyed being on set and playing that character. Right after that, I went out and got myself theatrical representation. Within three months, we booked “Real Steel,” “Little Fockers” and “Entourage” for TV.
That is an impressive start for sure!
It was very exciting!
When you made the choice to take the plunge and pursue acting full-time, did you have any reservations?
No. Not at all. I love being in front of the camera and I really enjoyed, at that time, doing commercials and that first movie. I really love everything about acting. It gives you the opportunity to play so many different characters from different backgrounds, who have different opinions and have great storylines. I went from playing a Russian ballerina to a wealthy robot owner in “Real Steel” to playing an international spy in TNT’s “Agent X.” It is never boring! It is always fun and exciting! I love it!
Were there any influences or mentors who helped shape the artist we see today?
I would have to say my biggest mentors were my parents. I am very close with my family and very close with my mom and dad. I appreciated that, since childhood, my parents trusted me with my decisions and always supported any decision I would make. I used to study for business management and business marketing at University and I had a full scholarship. When I made the decision to become an actress, both of my parents supported me. They said, “If that is what you want to do and what you really enjoy, don’t have fears. Follow your heart and dreams.” My dad is someone I have always admired because of his hard work. I admire his discipline and motivation. I think that combination of support from both of my parents has been really important when it comes to my acting career.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
I have to tell you, this business is not easy. There is a lot of competition and a lot of ups and downs. There are more downs than ups and you hear more no than yes. For me, the biggest thing that keeps me motivated is having moved from a different country to the United States at an early age. It gave me so many more opportunities for a better life but it also came with sacrifices. The sacrifices that I have made in the past are now worthwhile because I am now living my dream. I left my family behind, I missed a lot of birthday parties, weddings, family gatherings and those sorts of things. It is was hard because I am so close to my family. Being here and living my dream and building my career has been an amazing experience. Having left everything behind, it was great motivation to succeed and at some point there was no turning back because there had been too much sacrifice and too much time put into it. When you have a moment where you hear another no or it becomes hard, it becomes clear when you look back and see how far you have come and it inspires you to keep going. I am here to succeed and I am here for the long term!
That is a terrific way to look at it, Olga. You are doing so well! A great example of that is your starring role on TNT’s new primetime drama series “Agent X” as Russian spy Olga Petrovka. Tell us a bit about your character and being cast for the role.
I was in Atlanta shooting “The Vampire Diaries” when my manager called me in and asked me to make a soft tape, which I did. The next thing I knew, I was back in Los Angeles meeting with the producers and the director. I honestly didn’t think the meeting went that well! [laughs] I came out of it thinking, “Oh boy. I’m not sure if they like me.” [laughs] When I got a call from Blake Harris, who is the creator of the show, congratulating me on booking the role of Olga Petrovka, I was happily surprised! She is a great character! She is a lot of fun and she is intelligent. She lives her life fully and enjoys it. She also has great fighting skills and I find her very entertaining.
Do you and the Olga you play have any similarities? Did you draw from any personal experiences to aid in bringing her to life?
The role was very well written. I brought a bit of my personality into it. I work hard and at the same time enjoy life and have fun and we have that in common. She was originally just written for the pilot but the writers kept writing me in. I think my personality when mixed with hers really works, along with the chemistry I have with other characters. I am really glad they kept writing me in and it has been a wonderful experience!
Be it this character or any other, do you have a process you undergo when taking on a new role?
As any actor does, I break down the character to understand where they are coming from and where they are heading. You build off that to build their backgrounds, their relationships with other characters and on and on. It is a very interesting and creative process. This particular character, she is very good with her fighting skills, so I had to go and prep to get a better understanding of martial arts. I had to train myself a little harder.
It is a very physical role in addition to the drama involved. What has gone into bringing that to screen?
There was a lot of training involved. I spent more time working out. I like to do my own stunts and I find it very interesting and entertaining but I can only do as much as they will allow me to do. We have a great team who does most of the stunts but I like to do as much as I can and volunteer myself to do those stunts. I have a background in martial arts and for years I have been working out with my friend, Xavier Declie, who is a master in kung fu. I have also taken classes on Krav Maga, along with boxing classes. The more preparation you have for these type of roles, the better it is because you want to play the character as real as you can and part of this character is that she has these really good fighting skills. I had to go and explore that field to make it come to life in a better way.
You worked with some amazing people in your career both in front of and behind the camera. What springs to mind as the biggest thing you learned about your craft along the way from these gifted individuals?
I have been so lucky to have had the chance to work with these amazing people. They are so talented and amazing professionals! I have learned a lot, to be honest. I think the main thing I admire about these kind of actors, directors and producers is that no matter how big they are, they are always so helpful and supportive of everyone on and off set. I think it is the greatest quality and I try to bring it as much as I can to my own sets.
The roles you have taken on as an actor have been very diverse, which is terrific. Any particular genre or material you are anxious to tackle?
Sure! I want it all! [laughs] I haven’t been doing this for very long but every job and character is a gift. I am very grateful that in this short period of time I have been able to do the job that I did and work with the amazing people I do. For the longest time, I wanted to do an action piece and now I am part of it! I am very excited! I also love drama, real-life stories, comedy and horror movies. Sci-fi would be another genre I would love to shoot! I would also love to play a hero one day, maybe a superhero! Maybe I could play someone who could fly! I think a superhero would be a very interesting role to play!
Absolutely! I think you would be perfect for it! Looking back on your career to date, what is your biggest evolution as a performer?
Right now, my biggest evolution comes with “Agent X.” I feel like with every job, you get more experience. I tell my friends that being on set is probably the biggest acting class one could wish for! To me, the more jobs you take on, the more experience you gain and the better actor you become.
Looking back on your career in the industry, what stands out as some of your creative milestones?
I am proud of every role but I think the biggest milestones are yet to come!
That is a great outlook to have, Olga! We are expecting big things from you! You can serve as an inspiration to young creatives. What is the best lesson we can learn from your journey so far?
Never give up! Never give up and always do everything you can to continue growing. I think when an artist reaches the point where they say, “There is no growth,” I think that is the death of creativity. Do anything to grow! Take language classes, martial arts classes, ballet classes, pottery classes, motorcycle riding classes, whatever gives you more experience and knowledge. There is so much out there to learn! As I said earlier, with more experience, you find yourself becoming more creative and can bring more depth to a character. I think fear is the one thing that stands in the way of a lot of people when it comes to creativity. Don’t have that fear and don’t be afraid of anything. Most importantly, keep dreaming!
Are you involved with any charities we could help shine a light on and help bring awareness to?
Yes! I have two charities I am involved with! My friend, Jason Thomas Gordon, is in the rock band called Kingsize. His grandfather, Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They are leading the field in the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer. They don’t refuse any families and they do amazing work. Jason, as a musician, started a campaign called Music Gives To St. Jude Kids. I love supporting them! The other one I support is called The Heroes Project. I was introduced to the project by its founder, a dear friend of mine, Tim Medvetz. It is a great way to give back to those who help protect our freedom and those who have given so much of their lives for the rest of us to continue living our dreams. Tim works with wounded soldiers, some with post traumatic stress disorders and some with injuries to different parts of their bodies. He trains them and then takes them to seven summits and gives them a new outlook on life. That is another charity I love supporting. They do many different events. One is Cycling for Heroes on September 11th on the Santa Monica Pier. They are both amazing charities to support!
We are happy to spread the word on them! Thank you so much for your time today, Olga! It has been a real pleasure and we look forward to seeing where your journey takes you next!
Thank you so much for your time, Jason! I really appreciate it! Talk to you again soon!