The Mary Sue Exclusive Interview: Olivia Olson, Voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen
What time is it? Interview Time! Abrams Books, in partnership with Cartoon Network, has put out The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, a definitive companion to the ever-popular television series, and it is worth a look. Written in character by Martin Olson, who voices His Lowness Hunson Abadeer, Lord of the Nightosphere, on the show, the book is a lavishly illustrated guide to the Land of Ooo, featuring work by cartoonists Renee French, Tony Millionaire, Celeste Moreno, Aisleen Romano, and Mahendra Singh, and designed by Sean Tejaratchi. With extensive character notes, commentary from series characters Finn, Jake, and Hunson’s daughter, Marceline, and a wealth of information about the mysterious, post-apocalyptic world, the Encyclopaedia is a tempting treat for fans of the cartoon.
In honor of the book’s release, I had a chat with voice actress (and real-life as well as in-show daughter to Martin Olson) Olivia Olson, who plays Marceline, to talk about bringing life to the undead Vampire Queen, meeting her gender-swapped counterpart, and what it’s like to work with her father.
Zoe Chevat: How did you initially get into voice acting? You started out with Phineas & Ferb, right?
Olivia Olson: I pretty much got really lucky, with people that I knew. I was doing a lot of acting as a child, and I pulled back from it a little bit, because I wanted to have a kind of normal teenage upbringing. So, my Dad, he worked on Rocko’s Modern Life with Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. They were the three head writers of that show, and then Dan and Swampy turned around and did their cartoon, Phineas & Ferb. So I had known them since I was a little girl, and they just gave me an opportunity to audition for it.
Z: And from there you ended up doing other shows, obviously!
O: Yeah, it’s funny because my dad was working on Phineas & Ferb as well, and he had been sort of a friend in passing with Pen Ward, who started Adventure Time. They were drinking buddies, and knew a lot of the same people. Pen asked my dad, “Hey, Martin, you work for Phineas & Ferb. Who’s that girl who does the voice of Vanessa? I want her as a voice.” [My dad] goes, “Um, funny you say that; that’s my daughter.” So it ended up being this whole weird, kind of lucky, family-friend, humorous, random thing.
Z: I know that a lot of voice actors have different processes for getting into character. What’s yours? Do you find that you adopt a different posture as Marceline?
O: It’s kind of small. It’s very similar to my regular voice, so that aspect of it isn’t very hard. But getting her attitude down and stuff like that…I always find myself, that on the days that I go in to record Marceline, I’ll dress like her, in a weird way. People tell me that I dress like her anyway, sometimes, but especially on that day, I’ll throw on some rock n’ roll boots, maybe some red lipstick, and just go in there. I feel like that helps me get into character. Especially [helpful is] the fact that we all get to record it together. So I’m with John DiMaggio, and Tom Kenny, and Jeremy Shada, and we’re all playing off of each other. They’re such great voice actors, so I think that really helps, too.
Z: Yes, I was going to ask you was what recording is like, if you’re by yourself, or if you’re all in the same room, as though it’s a radio play.
O: For Phineas & Ferb, no, I go in and do it by myself, just reading the lines back and forth with Swampy. But for Adventure Time, oh it’s so fun. I’ve learned so much, being kind of new to the voice acting world, being in a booth with Tom…Tom is just amazing and so is John. It’s just crazy, because they’re probably some of the best at what they do – Dee Bradley Baker, too – it really has shown me that I can push my limits. They help me be more weird, and have fun with.
Z: I like that, “help you be more weird”.
O: It’s true though! On some of the parts for Marceline, I was reading over the script for the first time I turn into some big demon, and I was like, “oh my God, how am I going to do this?” And John, I think, said something like, “Just make a fool out of yourself. Just do something and something will stick.” I’ve learned that that is the best way to go about it; just do the weirdest thing possible and it probably will end up being the funniest take.
Z: Have you ever talked to your gender-swapped counterpart, Marshall Lee (voiced by Donald Glover)?
O: That was so cool. I actually met Donald at ComicCon, just two weekends ago. I didn’t even know who he was until after. It was so funny. He was like, “Hey I’m Donald,” and I was like, “Hey, I’m Olivia, “ and he goes, “Yeah, I play Marshall Lee,” and I was all, “Cool! Let’s be best friends.” Little did I know until after we hung out and did the panel, that I was sitting in the greenroom humming his song “Heartbeat” right next to him, having no idea he was Childish Gambino. Afterwards, because I posted a picture on my Instagram, all these people were like, “No way, you met Childish Gambino?!” And I was like, “I did???” He was super chill and laid back. I actually went to the movies last night with my friend and he was in the movie, and I felt like a total idiot. I was just sitting next to him, humming his song, having no idea!
Z: What do you like most about Marceline? Are there parts of the character that really come from you?
O: Overall, not to be biased to my character, but I think she’s definitely the coolest Princess on the show. She’s just laid back and is totally different from anyone else. I think it’s really great, too, that I get to do the episodes where my dad’s in it and it’s actually my dad. That was really weird recording that [first] day [we were on together], because I’m just going “Daaaad,” just saying it, and it’s so weird because it’s to my real dad. That was really fun. I feel like the aspect of Marceline and her father’s relationship, and me and my dad’s relationship is something I can definitely relate to, between the both of them. It’s real. And getting to play off your real dad, I feel, it’s not even like it’s acting.
Z: Which Episode did you have the most fun doing?
O: I’d probably have to say, when my Dad came in and we did, I think it was “Return to the Nightosphere”, it was a double back-to-back episode that we did. It’s where Marceline puts her dad’s all-powerful amulet on, and she kind of turns into Hunson Abadeer. It was really fun when we were recording in the booth because they meshed my voice with my dad’s voice. So she has this giant long monologue, and I would be screaming the line, and then he would be screaming the exact line right after, mimicking me. We were going back-and-forth, line to line. That was just really fun, and silly when we were doing it because we were screaming back and forth at each other, and trying to match pitches and stuff. Then, hearing the after product of both of our voices blended together was pretty fun.
Z: I know that you’re a singer, as well. Which of Marceline’s infamous songs do you like best, and why?
O: I’m going to have to go with “I’m Just Your Problem,” definitely. It’s my favorite. I’m actually trying to perfect it, to make it better, and learn it on the guitar for myself so I could post a little YouTube video. I think that one is really when you got to see a lot of her personality coming out and being unspoken, being, “Yo, this is who I am.” Because before that, her songs were fun and playful, and kind of short, and that one was kind of in your face.
Z: Is it weird working with your father?
O: Not weird in a bad sense, just weird because we’re both weirdos! It’s weird because when you’re playing this character, and your character has this relationship with her father that you’re trying to portray, and when you get to act it out with your real dad, it’s a whole different thing. It’s super cool.
Z: Marceline and her father have a very complex relationship on the show. How do you feel about how that’s developed and been revealed over the seasons?
O: You know, I really don’t get a lot of backstory to it at all. We get the script maybe a day before. Even as an actor, I’m a fan of the writers, because I’m just waiting to see the next chapter of what’s going to happen. Of course they have a lot of the present-day, random episodes, but I feel like they’ve started telling the backstory to a lot of the characters. It’s really neat, because I’ll ask questions, and Ken Osborne will be like, “I don’t know yet. May-be!” With every script that they write, I feel that they know the whole story, but I’m learning it piece-by-piece, just like the fans are.
Z: That’s really cool, to feel like a fan, as well as someone who’s so deeply involved with the show.
O: Yeah! The writing is so great. I was so excited when I got the script where Marceline and Ice King, you figure out they have a past together. It’s so neat. The writers keep opening doors for more and more crazy stuff to happen.
Z: Where would you like to see Marceline’s story go in the future?
O: Well, I’m really interested, because a lot of the fans asked about this at ComicCon, but they don’t talk about who Marceline’s mom is. So that would be cool. Because she’s half vampire, half demon. She’s obviously half demon from her dad’s side, but they don’t explain how she became a vampire, if she was born a vampire. I would like to know that.
Z: I think that everyone wants to know that. That’s one of the big unanswered questions.
O: Because at one point she had to be human. Probably?
Z: We don’t know.
O: We don’t know, exactly. And I’m just as curious as all the fans are. I get asked the questions, and people think that I know. I’m right there with you, waiting, for the episode to come where they tell me, you know? For the four months before episodes come out, I feel like I know this cool little secret about the show. I can’t tell anyone, I’ll get in trouble. But I can say that there are some episodes coming up that I’m really excited about, and I know fans will be really excited about, for more of her backstory and some of the other characters, and it’s going to be really cool.
Z: There’s quite an extensive fanbase around the show. What has been your experience with fandom and fan response?
O: I can definitely see that it’s multiplied crazy. Just two years ago at ComicCon, when we went, we had one of the smaller panel rooms. A lot of people still came out, a lot of people still dressed up like Finn around the convention center. Going from that, and thinking that was really cool…I think I saw two people dressed up as Marceline and I just thought, “This is so awesome!” Fast-forward to this year at ComicCon, where I think we had something like four separate panels that were all sold out, people camping out overnight, literally. I had some friends come to the Con with me, and they were in shock. Literally, anywhere you look, anywhere in your range, you’re going to see at least two people dressed up like Finn. It’s crazy. Everywhere you go it’s Adventure Time, Adventure Time, Adventure Time. Just seeing it, in front of your eyes…because on a day-to-day basis, I might get one person saying, “Oh, I love that show.” But going to a place like ComicCon, you see firsthand how much this show means to some people and how huge it is, and how the fans have increased over the past few years.
Z: There’s a lot of tie-in materials to the show, like the Encyclopaedia. Are you aware of, or do you read, any of it, such as ‘your’ comic, Marceline and the Scream Queens?
O: I got a few of the copies, I have three or four, I think. They’re so cute. I was talking with some of the people who work on the show, and we’re going to try to get Pen and we’ll see if he and Cartoon Network are up for it…just a theory, but how cool would it be to come up with a Marceline and the Scream Queens CD.
Z: That would be really cool. A lot of people would like that.
O: Yeah! It would be really fun. Like a weird collector’s item. We’ll see, we’ll see. We can dream, right?
New episodes of Adventure Time air Mondays 7:30/6:30c on Cartoon Network. The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is available now from these and other retailers: ABRAMS, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, Indigo.