The trope of playing a villain entails a criterion dating back to silent films. Villains ooze confidence and lack remorse. They carry themselves above the world in which they inhabit. As an actor, setting aside your personal morals and beliefs to justify the words and actions of your heinous character is mandatory. For Olivia Rose Keegan, transforming into a villain has become her trademark. The sweet and endearing tone of Olivia’s voice makes you wonder how the young actress is able to portray wickedness time and time again.
At 11 years old, Olivia Keegan decided to transition from the stage to on-camera. Starring in critically acclaimed projects such as the short film Picture Perfect and the feature film Decoding Annie Parker, Olivia tended to her acting skills. This led to her landing the role of Claire Brady on the beloved and world-famous soap opera, Days of Our Lives. The “acting boot camp,” as Olivia describes it, prepared the actress for her latest role of Lily in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, streaming on Disney+. Lily joins her fellow Wildcats at East High, some of whom include Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo, with the determination to land the leading role in the school’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Season 2 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is currently streaming on Disney+.
As Olivia’s career continues to flourish with every cutthroat line and glaring stare she delivers, we hopped on the phone with her to discuss High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Days of Our Lives, Twilight, and so much more!
Cliché: What inspired you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry at such a young age?
Olivia: That’s a good question! I don’t know what possessed me really, but I was so determined. I started in musical theater when I was about 7 years old, so that’s probably how I caught the ‘bug’. When I was 10, I woke up one day and knew that I needed to pursue on-camera acting and dedicate my life to it. I wrote essays to my parents every day, for almost a year, to convince them. After a while, I wore them down and they let me go and do it. I found myself an agent online in San Francisco and she started sending me to auditions. I think I’m very lucky to have [started] at such a young age. When we’re young, we go through life head first and follow our instincts. We’re less afraid of judgment and fear. I’m very grateful I got into it at the age I did because I don’t know if I would have the guts to do it now.
Cliché: How did it feel to join such a successful show like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and work alongside Joshua Bassett, Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett and so many other talented actors?
Olivia: It has been amazing and a literal dream come true. I used to dress up as Belle as a child and now I get to wear this beautiful Broadway-caliber Belle dress for a Disney+ series. Coming in for season 2 could have been an intimidating situation inherently because the cast was so close. But as soon as I walked through the door, all of those feelings melted away. Everyone could not have been more warm and welcoming. That cast is so incredibly talented in their own way, so I’m just enjoying it all and trying to soak it all in. It is such a dreamy and inspiring environment to be in.
Cliché: Tell us about your character Lily in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series?
Olivia: Lily is a transfer student who comes to East High with her heart set on landing the lead role of Belle in the school production of Beauty and the Beast. She is a very determined girl and willing to knock down anything in the way of what she wants. It has been a really fun journey, with lots of twists and turns and I’m excited people get to see it all play out over this season.
Cliché: Up until last year, you portrayed Claire Brady on the beloved series Days of Our Lives. What was that experience like and what did you learn from your time on that show?
Olivia: I probably learned almost everything I know on that set! I also grew up on that set, so all of my awkward phases were nationally broadcasted! It was so, so great though. Soap Operas really are the best [acting] boot camp. We would shoot anywhere from 60-70 scenes a day with so much dialogue. Usually, on any other show, you would shoot 4 scenes on a ‘heavy’ day. It’s a very ‘sink or swim’ world. It pushed me to new limits and gave me a sense of confidence in what I can handle.
Cliché: A few of the roles you have portrayed in your career have a “villain” undertone to them. What draws you to those roles?
Olivia: It has absolutely been a coincidence! I’ve been reflecting lately and thinking maybe it is time to look inward and see what kind of energy I’m putting out into the universe. It purely is a coincidence, but, with that being said, it is so fun to play the villainous character. It’s a great challenge because my characters, Lily and Claire, are doing some bad stuff and it can be difficult to justify their actions as an actor. It is a beautifully cathartic experience.
Cliché: Is there a role or genre of film/television you hope to explore in your career? If so, what is it?
Olivia: I’ve had an obsession with vampires since I was a kid. So, I’m trying to manifest being able to play a vampire. I’m not sure what hooked me into that, maybe it was seeing Twilight when I was younger, but I’ve wanted to play a vampire for about a decade now. I also recently finished the show Outlander and loved it! It made me want to do a period piece as well.
Cliché: What can fans expect next from you?
Olivia: Well, they can expect some fun stuff from the rest of season 2 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. We’ve got some twists and turns that I don’t think people will expect! Other than that, just trying to manifest a vampire role!