Even though it was released nearly 15 years ago, actress Olivia Olson still receives comments about her role in Love Actually – especially around Christmas time.
The American starred in the 2003 romantic comedy as Joanna Anderson, the schoolgirl with an impressive singing voice who stole the heart of lovestruck Sam (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster).
“Around Christmas every year, people start coming out of the woodwork,” the now-25-year-old told The New Daily while in Australia earlier this year.
“Uncles by marriage who are since divorced are like, ‘Hey my family member Olivia is in this film!’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t even know you’.
“People who haven’t spoken to me since high school will write on my Facebook wall and say, ‘Hey, I just watched you!’ when they haven’t spoken to me in 10 years.”
Love Actually, which also starred Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth and Bill Nighy, is widely regarded as the ultimate Christmas film, thanks to its focus on love, family and holiday celebrations.
Olson, who was only 10 when the film was made, re-entered the spotlight this year following a lengthy hiatus when fans of the classic romantic comedy unearthed her Instagram account.
“It came out of nowhere!” Olson said of the mass attention she received thanks to her grown-up pictures, which immediately inspired viral side-by-side comparisons of her in the film and today.
“Love Actually premiered almost two years after we shot it and let’s just say puberty hit me.”
Olson said her ensuing absence from the public eye was absolutely “intentional”.
“Love Actually came out and I was doing the on-screen acting thing for a while but I hated the auditioning process. I was not doing well in school because I was rehearsing lines rather than writing essays and missing out on time with friends,” she explained.
Instead, Olson focused on voice acting, with starring roles on popular animated TV shows like Adventure Time and Phineas and Ferb.
But at the start of this year, Olson reunited with her original castmates to shoot a 10-minute Love Actually reunion special for Red Nose Day.
“It was very surreal, and very odd seeing Thomas [Brodie-Sangster]. I felt like I was transported back to my 10-year-old self, nervous about having my first kiss.”
Their on-screen romance has been revisited in the weeks following the royal engagement between Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, with many pointing out the eerie similarities between the two couples.
Like Sam, Harry is a British redhead mourning the loss of his mother, while Meghan, like Joanna, is also biracial and American.
Olivia, who acknowledged the resemblance and congratulated “the happy couple” in an Instagram post, said starring in a film people still obsess over is a blessing.
“As an actor you hope people care and it never happens that a movie really becomes such a classic that people watch every single year,” she said.
“The fact people care is what every actor and writer and director hopes for.”