Interview: Olivia Olson Talks Raising the Stakes for Adventure Time‘s Marceline


There’s no question that Marceline the Vampire Queen has become a fan-favorite character on the Cartoon Network hit Adventure Time. Recently, Marceline fans got a huge treat in the form of an eight-episode Marceline-centric miniseries called Adventure Time: Stakes, wherein Marceline decides she’s had it with being a vampire, and Princess Bubblegum helps “cure” her. In honor of Stakes being made available on DVD tomorrow, I got to chat with the voice of Marceline, Olivia Olson, exclusively for TMS!

You may have seen a younger Olson in the now-classic Love Actually as the talented Joanna who steals Liam Neeson’s son’s heart and sings a rousing rendition of “All I Want For Christmas is You.” In this interview, she talks about how she’s evolved alongside Marceline, and how she’s managed to rein in her “Mariah Carey runs” to take on the role of an emo, rocker, vampire chick.

Teresa Jusino (TMS): I’m thrilled to talk to you, because I’ve seen Stakes, and it’s amazing. Marceline has become a fan-favorite character on Adventure Time, and it’s about time that Marceline got her own story to sink her teeth into – no pun intended.

Olivia Olson: (chuckles) Aboslutely. Every time we were given a snippet of her backstory everyone was like I want more!

TMS: How much input do you have into your portrayal of Marceline at this point? How does the collaboration work between you and the writers and composers?

Olson: It’s been such a good process. Pen Ward, who created the show, he kinda sought me out to play her. I was doing a voice on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb where I played, funnily enough, another kind of emo rocker chick with an evil dad. (laughs) I guess that’s my type now? He saw that and sort of was like Oh, that’s the vibe I wanted for Marceline. So, when I came in and read for it – which is weird, because I actually read Princess Bubblegum lines and I did something completely different – and he was like Nonononono, do YOU.

The writing of her character is so amazing and it was really easy for me to see who she was and kinda bring my own personality to her – I definitely give her her sass and all of that! But I don’t have a huge role in character development just being a voice actor. But I did get the really cool chance to write the latest Adventure Time novel that just came out [Marcy’s Super-Secret Scrapbook] and wrote her entire childhood diary. That was a really cool experience. Especially knowing the character so well inside and out already, it came almost naturally to me. I kind of knew the storyline and where I wanted to go with it. It was a lot of fun to make up where she was in her life back then.

TMS: Music certainly seems to follow you around as people recognize your talent and want you to sing as much as possible! Is music what drew you to the part of Marceline?

Olson: Absolutely. You know, I just was filling out a questionnaire-interview thing last night, and it sparked this thought in my mind…the question was: Do you have advice for how people can follow their dreams? or something, and I kind of was like….you know, working in animation and doing voiceovers was never a dream of mine, or something that I had considered. I wanted to be, like, Beyoncé when I was a little girl! (laughs) Really, just tackling different projects that kind of scare you. Like, I’d never done voice acting prior to my one gig on Phineas and Ferb, and it was intimidating!

You kinda think going into something like voice acting as opposed to regular acting that Oh, this is great! I have the script in front of me, I don’t have to use my body, I don’t have to look a certain way….it’s going to be easier. And I found out it was harder. Because you have to portray every single emotion just with your voice, every single action just with your voice. Which was challenging at first. So, just taking on new things and just diving into it and saying What the hell? and try to conquer something new and difficult.

Now that I’m sort of in the groove of it, I’m just so happy that I get to play this character who has so many levels. She has the music, she can turn into a psycho demon if she wants to…it’s like, I get to portray all the crazy thoughts in my head as my job, and it’s become such a dream come true – of something I never thought I’d be doing!

TMS: Is music still something that you’re pursuing on its own? Or has acting become more your thing?

Olson: No, singing is absolutely my number one passion and love in life. I’m just so lucky now that I get to be on a show playing a character who’s so musically inclined. Seeing the Marceline album in Hot Topic really shocked me, and got me thinking I….should probably….get back to working on MY music! (laughs) So that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on recently. But it’s so hard. Scheduling and being creative don’t really work, so…when it comes, it comes, and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

TMS: What type of music do you tend to write when you’re writing your own?

Olson: Ohmigosh, everything? (laughs) I’ve written blues songs, I’ve written pop-techno songs. It just kind of depends on my mood and what I’m into at the moment. My voice in contrast to Marceline’s is actually pretty different. When I went in and recorded the first thing – I think it was The Fry Song – they were like OK, that was great, but…tone it down a little on the Mariah Carey runs. (laughs) She’s a rocker chick. So I’m definitely more R&B, kinda bluesey…but it’s fun. I feel like, as I’ve been playing Marceline, I have been leaning more toward rock type music. And maybe that’s just me evolving with my character.

It’s funny, sometimes I’ll go to these comic cons, and the second the Q&A portion opens up, they’ll be like Sing the song! and then be like That didn’t even sound like Marceline. And I’m like, Well, I’m trying to sing in my Olivia voice, not my Marceline voice! (laughs)

TMS: Having watched Stakes, and thinking about how the character has developed in her relationship to being a vampire, or her relationship to Princess Bubblegum…so much of Marceline’s story seems to be about not only being comfortable, but being proud of who you are, and I think that’s why this character resonates so much. What are your fan responses like when you go to these conventions? Do people talk to you about that at all?

Olson: I’ve had so many great fan experiences going to so many conventions. I’ve had girls come up to me and say I love Marceline, because she’s so proud of being different it makes me want to embrace my weirdness and not really care. It’s kind of created this fun rivalry in the fans. A lot of people are like I’m Princess Bubblegum! and other people are like I’m Marceline! And I’m like Team Marceline! Be the weirdo! Be the dark one!

But her character development, especially in Stakes – it was the first time you saw Marceline being really vulnerable about who she is. All through seasons one through six, she comes off as this strong I don’t care what you think about me-type of character, which is really good, but I think no matter how strong you are or confident in your own skin, people are always going to have insecurities and doubts about themselves. So, I think it’s really cool to see Marceline in this real light of saying I don’t wanna be this way anymore. I’ve been stuck in the same limbo for 1,000 years, and I’m still messed up. That was one of her lines. She’s like, Back then, I was a messed up kid, and I’m still messed up. 

Through everything she goes through in Stakes, she realizes that being a vampire is who she is. From little things like she goes to fly and falls on her butt and she’s like Oh right, I have to walk now. This is strange…. to big, big things, like I’m gonna live forever, and I have to deal with that knowing that I’m gonna watch the people that I love live their life span and eventually die, and I’m still gonna be here. I think that was a big realization for her.

But, she’s back! And she’s a vampire! So, I think she’s come to terms with it and is back to her confident self. If you can beat the Vampire King twice, you should be proud and happy about who you are!

TMS: It’s almost like she needed to go through this to come to that conclusion. Living as a vampire wasn’t enough – she had to have it taken away from her to understand how important it is.

Olson: People always say “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” and I think she definitely went through that experience in Stakes, being frustrated about where you are in life. And she was looking at just all the bad parts of who she was. She wasn’t looking at how awesome it is that she can fly around and has these powers and can rush in and save her friends if she needs to. She was really only looking at the bad stuff.

And yes, Marceline tends to be a little bit emo, so I can see her dwelling on the dark things, but after Stakes, I think she kind of realized This is me, and there’s a lot of good that comes with that, too. 

TMS: Random question – if you could voice any other character on Adventure Time, whom would you take a crack at, and why?

Olson: (laughing) Oh, man. Probably LSP [Lumpy Space Princess]. I’m so jealous of everyone that got to be in the Lumpy Space episode, where everyone is being pricked by this lumpy orb and then they all turn lumpy? So everyone had to do their best LSP impression, and I was like Ugh! Why couldn’t I have been in that?! Because we all do it in the booth – it’s kind of embarrassing….Penn is so busy. He’s got a million things that he has going on to oversee, so he doesn’t always have a chance to record with us, so we kind of, like, fight – if LSP is in the episode – we fight over who gets to read her lines.

Olson then treated me to a couple of amazing “Oh my globs!” over the phone before we ended the interview, and it was magical.

If you love Marceline as much as I do, and you haven’t yet caught the Stakes story arc on Adventure Time, you’ll be able to get the entire eight-episode miniseries, along with some awesome animatics, song demos, and an art gallery on DVD TOMORROW!

(Image via Cartoon Network)

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