It’s likely that you’ve stumbled across the beautiful Olga Fonda on your TV, whether it was during her thirteen episode appearance on The Vampire Diaries or starring alongside Sharon Stone on TNT’s new show Agent X. If you haven’t yet, you will soon, and one thing is for sure: You won’t be changing the channel. Her subtle Russian accent is punctuated with a plethora of laughs so inviting that you can’t do anything but smile back at her. She might kick bad guys’ butts on T.V., but this actress is so down to earth and genuine, you would think you went to college with her. We caught up with Olga and talked about love, dreams, and making it as an actress.
Being an Eastern European girl myself, I wouldn’t expect a Russian bombshell like you to have the last name Fonda. Is this perhaps an homage to a particular actress? Are you asked this all the time?
I’m asked this all the time! Usually I say that it’s a mystery, so since it started as a mystery, I’m going to keep it a mystery. There’s really nothing to it but maybe one day I’ll tell the story of how I got my name.
Congratulations on your marriage! I know it can be really tough to date in Los Angeles, especially for a girl with a good high kick.
I am married! I got married this summer. I think that dating anywhere is not the easiest thing, whether you’re here in L.A. or not and in any profession. It’s not the easiest thing to find someone who you click with, and someone who you fall in love with, and someone who is going to be a great partner. Some people get lucky and find their soulmate at an early age and for some it takes a long time. I’m so lucky that I was able to find this amazing guy who changed my life. He’s the love of my life! It’s interesting. For the longest time, I would hear my friends say, “When I saw my husband, I knew he was the one,” but I didn’t know if this was necessarily true. I thought girls were making it up, but then I met my husband and I completely understood what they were talking about.
It’s so nice to hear things like this. Do you find that it’s hard to stay balanced in your relationship being an actress and going to other places to shoot, sometimes for long periods of time?
Not in my relationship at all. I got very, very lucky with my husband. He’s the most amazing guy. He used to be an actor and he’s from a family of actors so he understands how it is. His dad was on the T.V. show The Waltons so he knows the whole process. He is so supportive of me and he knows that this is my dream. He’s so loving and caring and I couldn’t wish for a better partner. Even when I was traveling and living in Atlanta for The Vampire Diaries, he was just so great about everything. I’m the luckiest girl and I wish everyone could have a partner like him. I think it’s about being in the right place at the right time. We talked about it and we both agreed that, had we met each other a few years earlier, it wouldn’t have happened like this. You both have to be in the right state of mind and want to be in a relationship.
You give me so much hope! I think it’s all about staying true to yourself and staying open to finding someone who is a good match, even after kissing some frogs and having your heart broken. One day, someone will be there to surprise you.
Absolutely! It’s all about knowing what YOU want and when you have a clear picture of exactly what you want and what you don’t want, then choosing a partner is so much easier. You know when you see exactly what you do want and you can work with it.
Also, it’s so important to do the best for yourself because you are going to attract a better partner.
Exactly! I think a lot of girls are looking for someone to make them happy and I think that the most important thing is to want to make yourself happy and to want to share that happiness with someone else. You can make yourself happy with work, with your friends around you, or whatever it is, but when you make yourself happy, you will be able to have a better relationship because you don’t have any expectations and all you do is share your experience.
You put that so perfectly! Now, let’s talk a little bit more about you. GQ Magazine just released an article about you, which they titled “Meet Olga Fonda Who We Humbly Nominate as the Next Bond Girl.” What was it like to be compared to such an iconic group of badass women?
I am SO flattered. When I read that, I was at a loss of words. That was the nicest, sweetest, coolest thing I’ve heard. I’m very thankful to be compared to them. It’s great! Bond Girls are so beautiful, so strong, and so iconic, so being compared to them is just amazing.
Speaking on being a woman, what has your experience been as a woman in the male-dominated entertainment industry?
I don’t think it’s really about being male or female in the industry right now. You know, I went into the industry knowing that this is what I wanted to do and that I had to follow my dreams and I have been very blessed and lucky to be where I am and to have the opportunities and the jobs that I have had. I have met the most amazing males and females in the industry and I am very thankful for it.
That’s great to hear. Things are moving up and there are a lot more of women working in every position in the industry. I’m sure you remember the exact moment that your agent called to tell you that you booked Agent X. What thoughts went through your head?
Honestly, I think I just kept jumping up and down for a really long time. I was so excited because it was a bit of a struggle for this role. I really wanted it, but I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was in Atlanta working on The Vampire Diaries and I taped my first audition for Agent X and sent it to L.A. and I didn’t hear them for quite a long time. When I got back to L.A., I kind of thought it was over and done with, but they called me to tell me that I had a meeting with the producers and directors.
When I came out of the room, I wasn’t sure if I did well. I knew I did my best, but I wasn’t sure if I was the right girl for them. I’m not superstitious, but I wrote down my thoughts about the show and why I wanted to do this role on a piece of paper. I didn’t tell anyone, but I carried it around with me in my pocket for the longest time and I even put it under my pillow. It was such a cool role and I really wanted to do an action piece and I thought it would be such a great step for me as an actress. When I got a phone call from the creator of the show, Blake Herron, to tell me that I was his Olga Petrovka, I was beyond excited.
What was the moment in your career that you were able to take a step back and say to yourself, “I made it as an actress and I’m never going to have to be a waitress.”
I haven’t had this moment. I feel like if you have that moment of, “I’ve made it and I never have to do anything else,” it’s a death for your growth and your creativity. I don’t have those moments and hopefully I never do. I still live every day like every day is the last day. If there’s something else I need to do to, then I’ll go do it, but I never want to stop following my dreams.
Did you ever have any terrible jobs or were you ever really a waitress before the acting jobs came in?
I did! I think everyone has to go through it and I think it’s actually a great experience to do those kind of jobs. My first job was when I was 12. My father had a business at the time and he had grocery stores in one of the Russian villages that I grew up in, so I sold tomatoes on a truck in the summer. I really wanted to do it! They had really good tomatoes, but they threw out the bad tomatoes and I said, “Why would you do that? You can just sell them for cheaper. They aren’t bad, they just aren’t pretty.” All of a sudden, people wanted to buy the bad tomatoes to feed to the animals. We ended up not wasting them.
When I was in college in Maine, I cleaned offices and waitressed, worked at the front desk at a hotel, and cleaned hotels. I’ve done a lot of those jobs. It taught me to show up on time and it taught me a lot about myself. Sometimes you’re so tired after a long day of work but you know that you’re growing and learning and making your own money. You feel like a self-sustaining adult and I enjoy that feeling.
You’re definitely a hard worker and I see why someone like you would become successful. You’re very appreciative of what you have and where you came from. How did your family respond to your desire to work in the entertainment industry and when did you know that was what you really wanted to do?
My parents wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor or have a business. I was heading towards a law degree, but that turned into a business degree, and then I was discovered to do some modeling in Los Angeles. I told my parents that I really wanted to try it because sitting in the office wasn’t really my thing. I was really grateful to have my education and I apply my education to the job that I do now. Every actor or model markets themselves so it’s great to have the background that I have. My parents have always been so supportive and they have been since I was 14 when I told them that I wanted to go to the United States and study. They were nervous that they couldn’t help me in a place where we knew no one, but I really wanted to try it and, worst case scenario, I could always go home. They really trusted and believed in me and they just let me follow my path and I’m so, so grateful for that. That gave me so much strength.
My parents are the best parents in the world. I love them so much. I’m very close to them. We travel all the time and try to see each other as much as possible. This winter, I’m going home and taking my childhood trip. When I was a kid, I used to take a train from Moscow to my hometown because I couldn’t afford a plane ticket. It’s about 26 or 27 hours. I felt like I wanted to do this again, so I’m meeting my mom in Moscow and we are going to take the train together to my hometown to meet my brother’s baby. It’s grounding to go home. You get overwhelmed here and you go home, you see a different life, you remember your childhood and it balances everything out.
Yes! People sometimes say that L.A. is not a real place. People don’t live this lifestyle anywhere else. It’s always good to get back in touch and into “real life.”
Especially as an artist. It’s so important to stay true to yourself and remember where you came from. The only challenge is that my accent comes back! Every time I go home, I have to go back to dialect coaching for two weeks!
I heard that on your show, you do a lot of your own stunts when they let you, which is so cool. Were you already heavily trained in martial arts before the show, or did you have to do a lot of grueling training to get you there?
I wasn’t heavily trained necessarily. I worked with a friend of mine who has been my personal trainer for a long time. He is a master of Kung Fu. He also taught me boxing, weapon training, and that was our way to exercise. I love it! I love martial arts. It’s so great for your body physically and it’s great for your mind. All of a sudden, you think like a warrior. Your head gets clear. As humans, we usually want everything now. We are very emotional. As a warrior, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into winning. As a warrior, it’s not about who is bigger. It’s about strategy, time, and patience. Taking martial arts really helps me with my daily life to teach my brain to actually think, rather than being so emotional. Before the pilot, I went through intense training where they brought me to Vancouver three weeks early to train in Krav Maga.
How nervous were you to work with Sharon Stone for the first time?
She is amazing. I was so nervous to meet her because she is such a big star. When I saw her, my heart skipped a beat. When she walked in, it was like it all happened in slow motion. She’s so beautiful and natural and she had a big smile on her face and the wind blowing through her hair. Then she said hello to me! She is so fantastic and I really admire her body of work and her career and as a person. Being on set is the best acting class you can take. To have someone like Sharon Stone on set and to be able to watch her get into character and watch her performance is a dream come true. It’s such a gift.
Besides Sharon Stone, which actors are at the top of your list of people you would like to work with?
Of course Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock. There are so many talented actresses and actors! Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, there are so many that I would love to work with. I didn’t start acting that long ago, so to work with these people would just be beyond amazing. Honestly, I didn’t start acting seriously until about 5 years ago. Before that, I did a lot of T.V. commercials and little appearances here and there as a model. When I booked my first indie film, Love Hurts, where I played a ballerina, I realized I really enjoyed acting and being on set. Then I got representation and I pursued it!
Is there anything you could have done differently looking back at the beginning of your career? What advice do you have to give to people who are looking to get into the industry?
I wouldn’t change anything. I look back at it, and I feel like I don’t like to live with any regrets. I think that any experience, whether bad or good, makes us who we are today. It’s a learning process. Everything that I’ve done happened because I was there at the right place and the right time and I’m very grateful. For any actor going into it, keep growing. Keep living your dream. Never give up, even when you’re about to give up. I haven’t told anyone this, but right before I booked The Vampire Diaries, I had a moment of weakness and I thought that maybe acting wasn’t for me. I booked here and there but I really wanted a solid job. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.
You get more no’s than yes’s in this business and it’s so competitive and a lot of people give up. My friend gave me the best piece of advice. She told me that every time you want to give up, you’re very close to succeeding and that’s when you should be pushing harder. And I did. A day or two after, I booked The Vampire Diaries, and it was thirteen episodes. Keep doing things to make yourself interesting. Take classes. Right now, I’m obsessed with dirt biking! The knowledge and experience you have will always make your characters deeper. This week, I’m going to take a cooking class. Stick to your dreams!
story by Kasia Szarek
photos by Justin Wilczynski