Elizabeth Olsen on ‘Love & Death’ Sex Scenes and Taking a Marvel Break: ‘I Don’t Miss It’

Elizabeth Olsen calls herself an “unemployed” actor — even after playing Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and her latest role as Candy Montgomery in the HBO miniseries “Love & Death.”

“I don’t want to work for work’s sake,” she tells Variety. “I don’t know how to half-ass stuff, so I have to love something a lot. And there are things I love, and it’s tough to raise money for them.”

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Olsen, 34, has multiple projects she wants to make with some unnamed first-time narrative directors but is finding it difficult to secure the financing that would allow them to have creative control. So, while she continues navigating Hollywood’s grounds during an unsteady economic time and a possible writer’s strike, she says she’s enjoying this break after working three years straight with Marvel (including two years of shooting and one year of promotion). “I don’t miss it,” she says.

However, she may or may not have given a sign that something could be coming with her in the future of the MCU. The “signal” comes after being asked to “blink twice” if she had anything with the superhero franchise on her docket. You can watch the video and judge for yourself.

On this video episode of the award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast (listen or watch above, or subscribe wherever you download podcasts), Emmy-nominee Elizabeth Olsen discusses her new role in HBO’s limited series “Love & Death.” She shares the hunger she had to take on the murderous and feminine part of Candy Montgomery while sharing her experience in the industry on the heels of a possible writers strike.

Also on this episode, “Succession” star Kieran Culkin, who plays the sarcastic Roman Roy on the HBO hit series, talks about the show’s surprising twists and turns this final season — and why he has decided to compete in the Emmy best drama actor category. And finally, the Awards Circuit Roundtable returns, talking about the recent firing of Jeff Shell at NBCUniversal, as well as this year’s competitive slate of television contenders hoping to nab themselves a coveted Emmy nomination.

Love and Death
Love and Death

“Love & Death,” from creator and Emmy winner David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies”), tells the true-life story of Texas housewife Candy Montgomery, following a chance collision on a volleyball court with fellow church choir member Allan (Plemons), orchestrates an affair between the two married adults. Unfortunately, the encounters (which took place in 1980) lead to Candy being accused of murdering Allan’s wife, Betty (played by Lily Rabe). The series also stars Patrick Fugit, Keir Gilchrist, Elizabeth Marvel, Tom Pelphrey and Krysten Ritter.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Emmy predictions in all categories.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation with Olsen.

The scene that depicts the first time Candy and Allan sleep together highlights the importance of intimacy coordinators on set, which has become a weirdly debated topic. How do you feel about their roles on set?

I didn’t have them when I first started, and I was definitely in some wild scenes when I first started. I actually thought it helped tell the story, not because anyone ever made me do something I didn’t agree to do. I was a dancer, so I think of any intimate scene as choreography. The most important thing for intimacy coordinators is to support [everyone], not just the production’s main characters. I think it’s important for extras and day players, because you’re not already comfortable in that environment. You’re in a place of trying to make other people happy.

With this project, we get to watch this woman choose to be liberated and free in her sexual life, and then we find her in the most vulnerable moments later in the show. There’s even a story about how much you reveal of her body in this show and when. I liked seeing her physical body in her most vulnerable moments, which has nothing to do with sex. So that’s the creative conversation with the director.

I think this is the best performance of your career. Did you ever think you would reach this point in your career where you could deliver work as strong as this? What characters are piquing your interest?

I want to work with directors who have strong points of view on how they tell stories. Whether it’s tonally or visually — people who have had an opportunity to do narrative features, or not. It’s an awkward time to get projects going because of the state of the industry. But I feel we will have an interesting life in film again. We’re already seeing that. I just saw “Beau is Afraid” in theaters, and I feel like you see projects like that made in Europe but not in the States. I felt pretty tuned up.

What directors are you dying to work with?

I love Ruben Östlund’s films and have for a long time. I love Yorgos Lanthimos’ films; Ari Aster makes great movies. I would love to work with [Quentin] Tarantino before he retires.

What is your take on the possible writer’s strike in Hollywood, and what do the studios need to change so people of all disciplines in this industry can be paid fairly?

We need to reimagine structurally how people can of all levels can continue to make a living now that we have these streaming services. Actors who used to be able to live off residuals and can’t anymore because they get paid for one day. And it goes on a streaming service, and they don’t see a penny after.

We need to figure that out. There’s that (new media) agreement that we were all participating in. And Netflix, who has tons of money, overtime wasn’t the same, which was weird. I had that experience working with Facebook. I was like, “Hey, this isn’t how TV works. I’ve done this before. You’re supposed to pay me after hours.”

I have cast members that are who are No. 32 on the call sheet explaining they can’t live in the outer ring of Austin because that’s where we filmed. So a huge amount of our cast were local hires, and it was interesting to learn how expensive that city is. Through them, I understood there are still crazy contracts where they don’t get any residuals because of this new media deal.

The whole thing is new media now. We have to figure it out because it’s not like we will go backward. We will continue to stream, and whether streaming becomes ad-based doesn’t make a difference with how people work on films and TV. Hopefully, it will start a trend of people being protected so that people can continue to earn the way they used to.

Do you miss Marvel, and should we expect you in “Agatha All Along?”

I think I answered a question wrong. Someone asked me if I would be “returning,” and they said, for instance, “are we going to see you in ‘this thing.'” And I said, “Well, I hope I’m returning.”

I’m not “returning” to anything right now. I’m not doing anything for Marvel. Nothing, and it’s not that I’m trying to be cheeky. They’ll let me know when they’ll let me know.

And do I miss it? I don’t miss it. I just did two years straight of it. I think the break’s been good for me. I need to build other characters. It’s important for me. I’m grateful for this show [“Love & Death”] because it came at a great time — after playing Wanda for two years straight, and then I had to talk about it for another year. So it’s nice having something else to focus on and highlight.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

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