YEM Interview: Olga Petsa shares how she got the role of Nicky in Mixtape

Olga Petsa is an actress who can be seen in Mixtape. Mixtape is a Netflix film about a young girl who accidentally destroys the mixtape that belonged to her mother, and sets out to track down each of the obscure songs on the cassette. The film premieres on December 3rd. Olga portrays the character of Nicky. YEM was able to speak with Olga about what it was like working with Julie Bowen, what inspired her to become an actress, and her favorite part about being an actress.

Young Entertainment Mag: How does it feel knowing you have a role in a Netflix film?

Olga Petsa: Thrilling and terrifying simultaneously.  Knowing how many people will watch Mixtape on Netflix is beyond exciting!  There are no words to describe how grateful and honored I am to be part of this story, its cast and crew.  Working alongside Julie Bowen and being directed by Valeri Weiss makes it even more unreal.  I pinch myself and still see my name and my face on the screen, and that is so out of this world.  Filming Mixtape was an amazing experience I will remember forever, and now I am ready to take on the next step and continue building my career.  

YEM: Without giving away too much, what can you tell YEM about this coming-of-age film?

Olga: Mixtape is the sweetest story about friendship, family, and self-discovery.  Expertly written by Stacey Menear, the plot follows 3 girls on their journey of untangling the musical message left via mixtape!  One of the girls – Beverly, finds a tape belonging to her late parents.  With the help of her friends, Ellen and Nicky, she tries to learn about her mom & dad through the music they recorded on this tape.  Throughout the film, the viewers will get to enjoy some of the finest 90s tunes, fantastic cinematography, and just overall feel-good emotions.  

YEM: With this role, how do you feel you’ll grow as an actress?

Olga: Nicky was my first major role, in a film produced by the Academy Award nominated producer Gil Netter, and Jim Wedaa, and to be streamed by Netflix!  It doesn’t really get much better than that!  From this current standing, I can continue growing from the platform already set high up.  Additionally, portraying Nicky wasn’t an easy task; I carried her from the scary and intimidating loner to a kind and caring friend, a challenging shift to make.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to believe I did a good job!  Moving forward, I would like to try myself in as tough and inspirational roles as possible, because that is how your grow. 

YEM: What are you looking forward to most about this role?

Olga: I carry near my heart Nicky’s confidence in who she is.  I take all the ways she expresses herself: through her clothes (with help from the phenomenal Mona May!), her makeup, her music, her attitude.  My hope is that Nicky will inspire young people to do the same: build that self-confidence, self-love, self-care, self-expression.  That’s what I look forward to about this role – to see the impact it’ll have on people.  

YEM: Your character, Nicky, is described as intimidatingly tough. Have you ever played a role like that before?

Olga: Some of my previous auditions were for the characters with traits similar to Nicky, but Mixtape was my first real opportunity to portray a role like that.  I must admit that it was super fun to be the “badass toughie”, especially since that is so different from who I am.  I worked on finding similarities with Nicky, building the connection with her and then embodying her in front of the camera.  I would definitely welcome more opportunities for challenging and complex roles, they are more difficult but also more rewarding.

YEM: What is filming with two-time Emmy winner Julie Bowen like? Have you learned a lot from her?

Olga: I remember the day us girls learned that Julie Bowen will be taking part in Mixtape – we were literally screaming with excitement like 5-year-olds!  And she was everything I hoped for, and more!  Super friendly and kind, and very patient with us newbies.  Just overall amazing!  Initially I was obviously quieter around her but quickly she made us all feel comfortable and at ease, even our parents!  Acting wise, she is a true professional, performing effortlessly and flawlessly.  And by bringing that attitude to the set, she was setting the tone which helped everyone on the set.  It was such a wonderful experience and a true privilege meeting and working with Julie Bowen.  

Photo Credit: Farrah Aviva

YEM: What was the process like for getting this role? How did you find out about it/what was the interview process like?

Olga: My very first audition for the role of Nicky was sometime in May 2020.  Followed by a callback a couple of weeks later, then a Zoom one-on-one with the director Valerie Weiss, then a chemistry read with my co-stars.  At the end of it, I was impatiently waiting to hear the “verdict”, when another call came in for another chemistry read of one of the scenes.  So once again I prep my lines, calm my nerves, and join the new Zoom call.  Valerie greets me and says, “now I will invite the rest of the team for the read” and a second passes and she says, “No I won’t, because you got the role!!” A life-long memory!  If I could single out only one part of the auditioning process, it would definitely be a call with Valerie that happened between my callback and a chemistry read.  We spoke briefly about the film and Nicky, but mostly were just trying to get to know each other.  Thinking about it now, that casual talk actually helped me feel more comfortable which in turn possibly helped me get the role!   I guess that’s what a good director does, enables you to give your best, and Valerie surely did that!

YEM: What drew you to accepting this role?

Olga: From my very first audition, I was drawn to Nicky’s character development.  I understood that no stereotype held her back from evolving and moving forward.  Even though the story is based in 1999, it references back to things that people of all ages and all times can relate to: friendship, family, loss, love, music, high school years, the pressure of fitting in.  After identifying all these points, and reading the entire script, I knew what a heartwarming story we get to share.  

YEM: What roles leading up to this helped you feel more confident in playing this character?

Olga: My inspirations didn’t come from personal past roles but rather from some iconic 80/90’s characters as well as some modern ones.  I cherry picked what was suitable for Nicky and applied.  The characters I had in mind are John Bender from “The Breakfast Club”; a stereotypical reckless boy, who doesn’t care what others think, Max from “Stranger Things”; loud & confident; JJ Maybank from “Outer Banks”, energetic and wild!                                               

YEM: What inspired you to become an actor?

Olga: To perform for anyone who cared to see, it was always my “thing”.  Once I immigrated with my family to Canada in 2016, this hobby got a chance to become a dream and then a reality.  I obviously started small, attending some local acting schools and auditioning only for student films, but as the time went on, I became more invested in my dream.  I am equally inspired by the things some actors do on and off camera: speaking on matters that are important and voicing for others who don’t have voice.  Joaquin Phoenix speaking about animal welfare, Leonardo DiCaprio speaking about climate change, Meryl Streep talking about press freedom.  That is what inspires me: a chance to stand tall in front and behind the camera and hopefully inspire others the same way I was inspired.

YEM: What is your favorite part of being an actor and learning new roles?

Olga: The exploration of a new story and a new character.  Meryl Streep said, “that’s the essence of my acting.  I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.”  So, I could spend my whole life being only Olga or I could be…like you!  

YEM: So, Emma Watson’s your role model; how does she inspire you as an actress/person?

Olga: There is absolutely nothing she does that is not deeply inspiring!  The fact that she is a part of the movie industry from such a young age and yet is so much down to earth is remarkable.  The way she stands up for all the women around the world, our right to education and gender equality.  Absolutely a shining star and role model for young women everywhere.  To add to that her acting achievements, not shying away from variety of roles, from “Beauty and the Beast” to “Little Women”.  She truly empowers me both as a young woman as well as an actress too.  

YEM: What would it be like for you to work alongside her one day?

Olga: It would be a dream come true, that hopefully I get to tell you about next time we meet!

Watch Olga Petsa in Mixtape!