“Family Weekend” is a comedy about a 16-year-old overachiever who takes her parents (Kristen Chenoweth and Matthew Modine) hostage after they miss her jump-rope competition.
“High School Musical” alum 27-year-old Olesya Rulin talks about her starring role in the film, and her unusual animal passion.
Q: How did you get involved in the film?
Olesya: I read the script and fell in love with the character of Emily, and the family dynamic. What happened after that is Hollywood magic
Q: Was Kristin Chenoweth as chirpy in real life as she seems on screen?
Olesya: Absolutely! She is one of the most caring and sweet individuals I have had the pleasure of working with. I secretly call her a canary: little and quick, but boy, oh boy, can she sing. She really helped me get through the long shoots, and inspired me to hone my craft and work harder.
Q: Was the experience on set similar to the “High School Musical” movies?
Olesya: Every film is different but what they do have in common is the desire to make something good. It is a meshing of 200-plus creative minds to make one piece of art. No matter how it turns out, you are just happy to have been part of the undertaking.
Q: The character that you play, Emily, is a high achiever. What were you like in high school?
Olesya: I was a high achiever… had straight A’s and all the AP classes I could squeeze in. Honestly, I was kind of a loner and didn’t fit in much. I was either at school, skipping class, painting, at ballet, or on a set. Let’s just say I ate lunch in my car a lot.
Q: How did you train for the jump-rope scenes in this film, and did you use a stunt double at all?
Olesya: I trained for four months with a trainer in LA prior to getting to location. Once I got to set I started training with a jump team in Michigan (those kids kicked my butt!) where I soon realized my pilates body wasn’t going to do the trick. I trained every day on set and on my day off… needless to say I was exhausted. I gained six pounds of muscle in my legs, which on me is a lot, but I needed it to jump for that long and that fast.
I had a double for some of the scenes because it is simply impossible to pick up such a sport and be able to jump that fast and have the form needed. I will say that my jump team was really proud of me and I am forever thankful for them.
Q: Has your family seen the film? What did they think of your crazy onscreen family?
Olesya: I think my brother said something like “yep, that’s about right”.
HA! In all seriousness, I come from a very creative family, plus we are Russian so we’re extreme by nature. I’ve been blessed to have a family that not only supports me, but also encourages me to be different. They push me to achieve the seemingly impossible so they’re not surprised when my projects come to life… they want that for me.
My grandma’s have yet to see it but they are already hanging up the posters.
Q: Tell us about your passion for sharks. Where does that come from?
Olesya: I love this question! I love the water and the peace that comes over me when I’m swimming or surfing. I know I don’t belong there, like fish and marine life do, which means I feel like a guest and I try to be as polite as possible so that I’m always welcome.
About two years ago I heard of shark finning and was brought to tears because of the cruelty and injustice of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to be on my surfboard and see a shark next to me – that’s not a great feeling. But by no means would I blame the shark… I’m in their hood after all.
If you look up “shark totem” or “shark meaning” on the good old inter-web you will find that these animals (they are fish but I like animal better) stand for taking action, being a survivor, having a gut instinct, having forward momentum in life and so much more. When I think of sharks I think of a creature that has seen this planet evolve, grow, crumble, and rebuild, yet the shark stays almost unchanged.
Sharks can’t swim backwards nor can they stop moving. This animal has to have inner trust and make decisions that it has no choice but to follow through on. Energetically that blows my mind. They have to keep swimming to keep breathing… giving up is not an option. That lesson is something that sharks teach me: to have inner core trust in myself and to keep moving forward. That’s so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.
I work with WildAid to stop shark finning around the world… a practice where sharks are caught, the fins are removed while the shark is alive, then the shark is thrown back into the ocean where it suffocates and dies. We are forcing this animal to die in its own home… we are guests in the ocean’s waters… even worse we take the sharks energy of propelling forward and never giving up and we watch as it struggles and doesn’t give up… it tries to swim with no fins and no hope of survival but it still tries… that to me is very much like the human spirit… and as long as we can do this to sharks we are in turn doing it to ourselves. This is why I’m passionate about sharks. This is a creature that symbolizes adaptation, growth, forward movement and survival, and if we strip that away from one of the oldest animals on the planet what chance do we have for our planet to change?
Sorry, I had a rant…
I heart sharks and people and this planet. Sharks also symbolize that just because something may look scary and, yes, is a great hunter and survivor, that it’s not indestructible. One may say that humans are similar. We’re smart, trained survivors, and yes, each and every one of us is scary sometimes, but you show me one person out there that doesn’t need a little help every now and then.
On a lighter note I partnered up with WildAid and will be auctioning a series of oil paintings of sharks to benefit the campaign against shark finning! Check it out!!!!!!!!!!!!! All of the proceeds will go to save a little “jaws” out there.
Q: Sharks certainly have a friend in you! Final question – what projects have you got coming up?
Olesya: Oh the secrets I have a couple of projects in the works but nothing I can talk about just now. I love a little mystery!