Interview with Olivia Sandoval – Janet on Lodge 49

This week, we were able to connect with the mysterious Janet, from Lodge 49 .  Janet is played by the amazingly versatile actress Olivia Sandoval.  Olivia, unlike many who go to Hollywood to seek their fame and fortune, grew up there as her father is actor Miguel Sandoval.  Thanks for taking the time to visit with us and share about your life and living in Tinseltown. 

TTL: Many aspiring actresses make their way to Hollywood to try to break in, you grew up in the thick of it, how did growing up with the backdrop of Hollywood shape who you are as a person and an actress?

Credit: C.A. Frances Photo

OS: Growing up in Los Angeles was objectively strange, and fascinating, and fun. I’m lucky in so many ways. I think the biggest gift is perspective; I never had any idealized image of “Hollywood” swimming around in my head, something that must lead to disappointment, because Hollywood is just a place like anywhere else, and just like everywhere else, there is no there there. The localized industry happens to be creative, but people are people and concrete is concrete. I never had to grieve the loss of Los Angeles being a magical place where dreams come true, it was always just the awesome grimy city that I love. The most interesting parts of LA are the parts that have nothing to do with the entertainment industry.

TTL: Speaking of family, your father Miguel Sandoval has an amazing credit list and has worked with pretty much everyone in Hollywood, do you have any childhood experiences you would like to share?  

OS: My Dad is totally cool! Way cooler than I am. And he’s got some great stories as you can imagine. In terms of my childhood experiences, there is a home movie of me, age three, having a walk-n-chat with Steven Spielberg while filming Jurassic Park in Kauai. I believe we’re discussing ET. When I met Shirley MacLaine on the set of Mrs. Winterbourne, she asked me if I wore colored contact lenses. I was seven.

TTL: Along with being an actress, you are an accomplished musician, both vocally and playing bass.  You have stated you started playing bass middle school. What drew you to the instrument?  

 Also, did you play anything else in high school, like marching band or in a garage band?  

OS: Two things drew me to the stand-up bass: it was the biggest instrument in the room, and none of the other girls were choosing it in my Intro to Strings class. I was always picking things that were for the “boys”, consciously or not, because, well, screw that. More poetically: it was the comforting smell of rosin and wood, and the way playing a bass felt like having a dance partner and an instrument at the same time. I never played in marching band, but I was a faithful orchestra dork and I DID attempt to be in a rock band one time in high school. I forgot to turn my amp on. But I think I sold it? I dunno.

TTL: After college, you got the opportunity to work with your father in some of your early roles. What did you father share with you, as you got into the industry? 

OS: I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my father. His advice was simple, and practical. Remember that at the end of the day it’s just a job. Do your job. Know your lines. Be the person. Be kind to everyone. Listen. Ask questions. If you’ve had a big disappointment, give yourself 24 hours to feel everything, and then let it go.

TTL: The two episodes you did with your dad on Medium are beautifully done, how did that come together? 

OS: Thank you! I shot the first episode during my freshman year at NYU, and it was a happy accident that the writers at Medium wanted to do a bit of backstory about my father’s character Manuel Devalos and he happened to have a daughter who was studying acting in real life. Lucky me! Several years later, I was visiting dad on set and I ran into Glenn Gordon Caron, the show’s creator, and we had a great conversation and I remember him telling me I “looked ready.” I had no idea what he was talking about until, sometime later, the script for “Dear Dad” was written. I was working on my degree at CalArts at the time, and it was very exciting. When the episode aired, we crammed into my friend’s dorm and watched it on a barely functioning CRT TV from the nineties. Everyone cheered during the opening credits. It’s one of those memories I treasure, and I’m forever grateful to Glenn and everyone at Medium for giving me those first stabs at building a career.

TTL: Also,  in “Dear Dad” the opening credits feature a bunch of pictures that look like original home photos, are they and do you care to share about them?  

OS: They are indeed original home photos! A friend of the family once called me “the most documented child in Los Angeles.” If I remember correctly, there’s one where I’m twisting my mouth like I’m enjoying some sour candy, but this was in fact how I thought one was supposed to smile in pictures. I’m not sure how I come to this conclusion, perhaps I was given bad information, but there are several solid months of my toddlerhood where I look like I’m enjoying a lemon sandwich in every picture.

TTL: In researching for this interview, I ended up binge watching Fargo Season 3.  Fantastic Television.  How did you get involved with that cast? 

Also, which is your favorite episode from that series? My favorite is the Peter and the Wolf themed episode with Billy Bob Thorton as narrator.

OS: Oh, my goodness yes, fantastic television indeed, cannot argue with you there. Filming Fargo was truly one the most special creative experience I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m so very proud of what we made. I was just another struggling actor in LA when I got the audition for Winnie. They literally plucked me out of obscurity and changed my life. It’s an old, tropey story, but I was thinking of quitting the business when I got my big break. It’s so worth it to not give up. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how my life would be different if I had listened to those voices in my head telling me it was never going to happen and I should stop hoping it would. I can’t express how indebted I am to Noah Hawley and the entire team for believing that an unknown actress with barely any credits was worth their time, effort, and faith.

It’s so hard to pick a favorite episode ‘cause it’s really like one long movie but if I were to choose I’d say episode 9, Aporia, because of the brilliant array of one on one scenes. Two actors talking in a room. Connecting with each other. The stuff of life. Also, one word: Swango.

Working on Lodge 49:

TTL: The quirkiness of Fargo and Lodge 49 seem to go hand in hand.  What drew you to the role of Janet? 

OS: The writing! When I got the audition material I was blown away. Janet’s voice is so unique and weird and powerful. You never quite know what her game is. What her angle is. If she’s being genuine. She felt rather Shakespearian, certainly existing in a heightened space. Everything Janet does is extra. Janet’s words are her sharpest weapon. Such delicious fun.

Fun backstory: I had actually met Jim Gavin at a party several months before my audition. We have a dear friend in common, Jim’s writing mentor Lou Mathews. We were at a BBQ at Lou’s house and I met Jim and he told me he was developing a series for AMC. But I didn’t realize until after I got the part that it was THAT Jim and this was THAT series. The world is bound with secret knots, bruh!

TTL: Janet is a very intricate character as is Winnie on Fargo, but very different. Do you mind sharing if you have any similarities or dissimilarities with your characters?  

OS: I can’t help but put some of myself in every character I play, as is the case with most performers I think. With Winnie, both her constant talking and desire to connect with people is something I’m very familiar with, as well as her passion and stubbornness. Janet is further away from me as a person, I certainly could use some of her confidence, but I can definitely relate to the pressure of having to perform your own personality in public spaces and wear a mask to maintain the status quo. As Janet, it was fascinating to play with when the mask’s on, and when it’s off. When she’s in Blammo! mode, it’s full mask. When she’s speaking with Liz on the deck of the ship, I think her mask is softened. The battle of authenticity vs. ambition is something that everyone can relate to on some level.

TTL: What was your favorite episode to film for the series?

OS: Filming The Mingle was truly a blast. I mean, C'mon! We got to be on a boat! I watched the moon rise over Long Beach Harbor. It was definitely one of those “I love what I do” moments. Sonya Cassidy is a dream of a scene partner and I’m a true admirer of her abilities. Vik Sahay is hilarious and Hayden Szeto is the literal nicest and we all had so much fun mucking about on set, which that day happened to be afloat. How can you not be completely enchanted?

Also, the boat was full of books with my face on it. That was cool.

TTL: Any other upcoming projects you want to share about? 

OS: I’m currently shooting season 2 of For The People on ABC! I play AUSA Celia Chavez, who is worlds apart from both Janet and Winnie. Look for us as a mid-season replacement in the Spring!

Musical Influence:

TTL: Going back to music,  with Whiskey Sunday, several of the band members are actors in their own right as well. Does that have any influence in your performance or songwriting process?

OS: I played with Whiskey Sunday for 6 glorious years and I miss it all the time. Patrick Rieger is the front man and main songwriter, and a fantastic actor in his own right. He taught me what it truly means to be a storyteller, and there really is very little difference between a song and a monologue. Especially considering we played Irish Folk music, which is all about the story and the connection with the audience. I truly believe playing in Whiskey Sunday made me a better actor.

TTL: How would be best describe the music style? 

OS: Irish folk with a hearty pour of Americana.

TTL: You have mentioned being a huge Tom Waits Fan for a very long time.  Have you ever gotten the chance to meet him?  And what is your favorite song of his to sing? 

OS: So funny you ask because I DID get to meet him once and I completely embarrassed myself. I worked at a small boutique gift store in LA for years and years to pay the rent and he came in with his wife one day and I was so star struck that I thought my knees were going to give out. I never get star struck. Ever. But this is Tom freaking Waits! He was extremely polite and patient with me as a stuttered through wrapping his gift and giving him change. I so regret not telling him what his music means to me. He’s my hero. But I could not deal. I could barely ask “credit, or debit?” I’m such a dingbat. If you read this Tom, I love you and your music changed my life ok bye.

My favorite song of his to sing is “Innocent When you Dream.” It’s also what I listen to if I feel like I need a good cry.

Thoughts on Life and Hollywood:

TTL: What is your advice to young women looking into the field of acting?

OS: Put the work above everything else because it is the only thing that you can control. Be yourself, don’t change to try and fit an ideal. That ideal is a lie anyway. The industry needs individuals. No one else is like you and that is your greatest strength. You may feel at times that your quirks or perceived imperfections and hindrances, but they are gold. Don’t guess what they want. Make choices, then be flexible. Have a project you're working on, always. Don’t rely on other people to give you permission to use your creativity. Also, take good care of yourself. Rejection and disappointment will be with you every step of the way, so practice the self-care you need to weather those inevitabilities. You CAN make friends with them, it’s counterintuitive, but they will become old, irritating, freeloading friends if you let them.

TTL: Any secrets to success or guiding principles you would like to share about yourself?

OS: Jeez, well secrets to success I’m not sure about (if anyone finds out though feel free to email me at NoClue@MakingThisUpAsIgo.blogspot.com).

Jokes aside I do have some simple guiding principles: Be fifteen minutes early, know your lines, be kind to everyone.

TTL: Any charities or charity work you would like to share about involvement with or give support to? 

OS: The Weingart Center is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that works hard to break the cycle of homelessness and provides desperately needed resources and programs for the homeless community. You can find out more at weingart.org

The Midnight Mission and Para Los Ninos also do incredible work helping Los Angeles. If you’d like to donate or volunteer, visit MidnightMission.org and/or ParaLosNinos.org

TTL: Thank you again for your time, in closing, what do you hope people take away from Lodge 49?   

OS: My pleasure. I think my feelings about Lodge 49 are best expressed with this Tom Waits lyric (who else?),

“Son, there’s a lot of things in this world you’re gonna have no use for. And when you get blue, and you’ve lost all your dreams, there’s nothing like a campfire, and a can of beans.”

Thanks again Olivia. Look forward to your future projects and what comes next for Janet.

Credit: C.A. Frances Photo