Sierra McCormick created the role of prodigy student Olive Doyle on the show A.N.T. Farm when she was in eighth grade. Now fifteen, McCormick has made the role her own, and has made nerds a little cooler.
We chatted with Sierra about all that memorization, how being herself got her the part, and why playing awkward is so funny.
On “A.N.T. Farm”, your character Olive has eidetic memory. Can you explain that skill?
Sierra McCormick: Olive remembers everything she’s ever seen, heard, or read. She can pull up any kind of information that she may have casually heard, and she always has a fact for the occasion. She’s very smart and loves to further her bank of knowledge.
How do you prepare to play a character like that?
McCormick: She remembers things without any kind of stumbling so I really have to work on memorizing my lines so that it comes out lightning fast. For Olive, it’s second nature. I have to make it believable that I could remember it anywhere.
How is your memory in real life?
McCormick: It’s definitely improved! I make up little tricks. I’ll make information relate to things in my life, or I’ll put facts in some kind of order that makes sense to me, like alphabetical order.
The characters in the A.N.T. program use their special talents to their advantage. What are some of the talents you brought to auditions when trying out for this show?
McCormick: Since Olive loves facts so much, I chatted with the Disney people [at my audition] about a program I had seen on the Discovery Channel on tigers. Dan, the creator of the show, said that my rambling was something Olive would do. I thought I was making small talk but apparently it was perfect for Olive!
As a nine year-old, you appeared on the game show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” You’re also an honors student. Does acting feel as challenging as school?
McCormick: It’s a completely different world. There are some subjects in school that I love, but it can still feel like a chore. Acting never feels like a chore.
What have you learned from acting?
McCormick: It’s taught me about the real working world and how working life is. Recently, I took a psychology class, and I think the study of the mind can help me further my acting ability. It’s also taught me about getting into an environment with new people and acting like you’ve known them forever.
The show is really funny. How do you make Olive a comedic character when she’s reciting so many straight-forward facts?
McCormick: Olive is book-smart out the yin-yang, but socially, she’s the most nonadept person ever. In high school, it’s not awesome that she can recite these facts. That’s not going to make her popular. And I love that about her because she’s always herself.
What is the pace of working on a television show? How do you balance it with other sectors of your life?
McCormick: The TV schedule is great for me. They have everything planned ahead of time. You know that your job is Monday through Friday. It’s really helpful for me because I can find the time for school.
You’re around so many adults on set. Are there certain adult traits that you’ve brought back to your high school world?
McCormick: The humor in our show is aimed at kids, but all of the writers are adults. I’ve acted since I was nine, so I’ve grown up a little bit faster. When I go back with my peers, it’s easy to be a kid and do goofy, mindless things, and then once I’m on set, I’m mature again.
What are some tips you would pass on to child actors who are getting started?
McCormick: I used to take it personally when a casting director didn’t like me or I didn’t get picked for something. Now I realize you can’t do that. It’ll mess with your self esteem. Don’t take rejection overly personally. If that doesn’t work out, there’s something else waiting for you.
How do you think a child actor transitions into an adult actor?
McCormick: It’s about the projects that you choose. If you can show that you can carry the role of being a teen in a movie, then you can show that you can carry an adult role.
Tell me one cool bit of information that Olive has taught you.
McCormick: She’s taught me a lot of things! Just last week she said, “On average, identity theft costs US consumers over 1.5 billion dollars per year.”