Born and raised in Sweden, actress Jannica Olin is a force to be reckoned with, whether it be through her acting chops or her dedication to immersive theater. For Women in Horror Month, Megan spoke with the actress about everything from working within the horror genre, to being diagnosed with Alopecia.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Jannica, thank you so much for speaking with me! What does the term “Women in Horror” mean to you and what changes would you like to see within the industry to allow women the chance to have a larger impact?
Jannica Olin: What if we could live in a world where it was just “People in Horror” or “Awesome Men and Women In Horror”. We don’t see a “Men In Film” organization, but we have “Women In Film”… I have definitely been conditioned, as we all have, to this all being normal; that we are separate. I think, in horror especially, when you talk about women, we think about scream queens and girls running away in their underwear. I think it’s time to let the women take center stage now when it comes to the writing and directing. There are obviously fantastic writers and directors that are men too, I’m not dismissing that, but we could use some more women in those roles in horror, I think. To help craft a different narrative.
I remember watching I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, ages ago…. cause I loved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Sarah Michelle Gellar. But what I mostly remember from that film, now, are that all the girls wore skimpy clothing. I think it’s time we evolve past that.
Nightmarish Conjurings: How long you’ve been acting and if it’s something you always knew you wanted to do?
JO: I always knew it was what I wanted to do, although I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, in terms of when and how. After I graduated from The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, I moved back to Europe and London, where I did a little bit of work in film, commercials and theatre, but it wasn’t until I moved back to the U.S. that I really stepped into it as my chosen career.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When were you first diagnosed with alopecia?
JO: I discovered my first bald patch in August 2013, and 6 months later, all my hair was gone, followed by losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Life wasn’t too great at that time, but deep down I knew that this was going to be a blessing. Alopecia, by the way, is an autoimmune condition where your immune system is over active and treating your hair as if it’s a foreign invader that needs to be treated. So by keeping my hair away, my confused immune system thinks it’s doing a great job, curing me of my hair.
It can be triggered by anything really; a physical or emotional trauma/stress, food or environmental allergens. Mine was most likely triggered by what my body perceived as physical stress; a root canal that wasn’t cleaned out properly by the dentist and caused a hidden infection that I couldn’t feel. My hair started falling out soon after that procedure. Kind of crazy and fascinating at the same time!
Nightmarish Conjurings: To what extent do you feel alopecia plays a part in the roles you are considered for? Has alopecia ever prevented you from landing a role you auditioned for?
JO: I have been part of some amazing commercials, that are all about empowering people to be who they are. That’s the kind of media and advertising I can stand behind. I have also booked jobs where I wear hair, and to my knowledge, I haven’t lost out on any roles because I have detachable hair. With CreepLA, I just finished my third production with them, and my no hair look has been such an advantage to those characters, and it has been so much fun to play with that.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I really admire the way you embrace all of yourself, especially with your baldness, you are truly gorgeous! However, I know for some people, women especially, it’s a very difficult thing to accept. My aunt has alopecia and she is very mindful about always wearing a hair piece as she is very self conscious about her hair loss. What feels more natural to you? Were you confident about embracing your baldness from the start?
JO: It was definitely a process. I had this ideaa, as many women do, that if you are bald, something’s wrong and you are ugly. But I saw some amazing photos of bald women, and they looked gorgeous. I just hadn’t been searching for that before. I came from a life long attachment to the idea of long hair being beautiful. And then I realized that I wasn’t any different without hair as I was with, as long as I didn’t look in the mirror. I discovered that I am not my body, or my hair, if the only time I am different is when I see myself from the outside via my reflection in a mirror. That gave me a lot of freedom. It is such an individual process. If wearing hair gives you that freedom, that is great. I love that I can have my hair “back”, the only difference is that I can also take it off. I don’t know if there is ever anywhere to get to, when it comes to embracing and accepting. It’s more like a practice. Some days, you don’t need to practice it, and other days, it’s a moment to moment practice. We all have days when we feel on top of the world and other days when we kind of don’t. And with that, I really don’t care for my hair to grow back.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What advice would you like to share with other actors/actresses living with alopecia?
JO: See it as your superpower. It makes you unique. And if you fall in love with it, others will too, and you will find yourself working. I have learned that my successes aren’t because of my look, but because I did the work on me to really appreciate ME; to be myself and not try and be like other people. And that is noticeable when you walk in the room. When you are standing firmly in your own shoes, grounded and confident in who you are, that makes a difference.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’ve been in everything from horror films to immersive theatre. Is there one you like more in particular? What is it about the horror/haunt world that you love?
JO: Film and theatre, especially immersive, are so completely different. I love being a part of the storytelling; the illusion and experience that is being created. The genre is less important to me then. But the world of the creepy and sinister is fun to be a part of. Which is maybe a weird thing to say, when you look at the state of the world. I guess…watching a good horror film allows us to feel a lot of things, and know we are still safe. And acting in that genre, is just so much fun. To know that I get to help create that experience for other people.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What are some women within the genre that inspire you?
JO: THE BABADOOK comes to mind by writer and director Jennifer Kent. I love how that story gets under your skin with such brilliant acting. Kate Siegel who cowrote and starred in HUSH. That’s really inspiring to me; creating your own work like that and showing a character who won’t give up. Karyn Kusama and her film THE INVITATION, as well. Love her!
Nightmarish Conjurings: What is it about the horror genre that you love?
JO: That you get to indulge in that feeling of suspense. As an actor, I love it, because the finished product will be completely different from your experience on set, which is usually one with lots of laughter and comedy.
I was on a film set not too long ago, playing the part of a ghost. I was wearing all this blood and prosthetics on my face, and after a whole day of walking around, you eventually forget that you have all that stuff on your face. I got a Postmates delivery from Starbucks and went outside to pick it up, and that poor delivery guy (laughs) he definitely got a bit of a scare.
As an audience member, it’s all about stepping into the unknown and know that you are going to get scared, surprised, and chills down your spine. It keeps up present and alert, and entertained.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Your career has been continuously rising, what can your fans expect to see from you in the future?
JO: A whole lot more, hopefully!
To connect with Jannica, follow her on Instagram @jannica_olin and Twitter @jannicao, and visit her website www.jannicaolin.com.