Olivia Scott Welch has my full attention. It started back in May with her starring role in the suspenseful YA thriller Panic, a breakout performance so good I binged all 10 episodes in two days. Then, there was the retro Tory Burch sweater-vest, followed by the covetable Missoni number and the vintage Tom Ford for Gucci suit she wore to promote the show. The looks were so spot-on that I knew Welch was one to keep on my radar. Now with her second summer project upon us—the campy, nostalgic, scary-good Fear Street trilogy—and another round of noteworthy press looks on display, including a particularly dreamy Simone Rocha frock, I can confidently say she is fast approaching It-girl status.
Welch’s eyes light up at the mere mention of fashion. Whether it’s professing her love of ’90s Gwyneth Paltrow looks, recognizing the small but beautiful detail in a pair of Gucci sunglasses, or scouring Depop for the perfect vintage finds, Welch can speak on the subject for hours, something she does often with her stylist Erica Cloud. Together, the two have spent the last two months crafting a clever sartorial story—a page-turner, if you will—of noteworthy look after noteworthy look (Coach, Ferragamo, Vivetta, the list goes on), begging the question, What will she wear next?
With two buzzy summer projects and a jam-packed press schedule, Welch is proving she’s not just a rising star in Hollywood. She’s a red carpet muse, too. Ahead, I chat with the actress, fresh from a fitting with Cloud, about finding common ground with her Panic character, getting to live out her horror-genre fantasies, and her go-to vintage spots.
This is the summer of Olivia Scott Welch! You have the Fear Street trilogy on Netflix, which we’ll get into in a moment, but first, I want to talk about your Amazon series Panic, which premiered at the end of May. I loved the show! What stood out to you about that script?
The thing that made me really want to be a part of the project initially, I was like, “This will be a fun YA show,” but then when I went to my screen test [and saw that] the director was female and all of our producers were women, that was something that made me really excited. When I got to meet all of the people who would be involved and it was just a room of ladies, I was like, “This is so cool.” And all of our producers were still pretty young. It was a very inspiring thing to see all of these young women in charge of this whole show for Amazon. They were all very warm and welcoming and have become some of my really close friends and mentors, and that was a very exciting part in the audition process.
Were you familiar with the book prior to auditioning for the role, or was it something you read later?
I read it in between booking [the show] and when we filmed it. I worked at a restaurant as a hostess and had so many jobs at the time. I worked at The Grove, I worked at Madewell, and I was a photographer’s assistant. So I read the book while I was at the restaurant during dull moments when nobody would come in. I was like, “I’m going to read as much of this book as I can.”
How would you say you relate to your character Heather Nill?
I was just thinking about this. [Heather] hasn’t become her full self yet, and I think that was something that I felt very deeply at that age and also still do. There are big life things, like the show coming out and stuff. That was such a big life change [for me], and I had to be like, “Okay, who am I now?” You get used to yourself and then something happens, and it throws you off, and you have a weird ego death. You go through these phases of life, and you change in big ways at these milestones. So I think it was cool to be playing [Heather] at the same time I was starting to be a working actor because it was such a big, pivotal moment. My life changed so drastically so quickly, and that’s the case that she is in. My life and the character’s life are so different, but it was that thing that was a big connective tissue in playing her. It was nice to feel that through her as all that stuff was happening in my life. She was a conduit to process my emotions.
Did any of the Panic challenges test your real-life fears?
Oh my gosh, yes! The first one, jumping off the cliff. I didn’t know this about myself, because I don’t have a fear of heights. I can go to a really high place and be totally fine. But then, we go to do the stunt of the cliff jump ( it’s not me in the show when she jumps off the cliff—that’s my stunt double, but I did a lot of stuff on a stage wearing a harness), and the minute they were like, “Alright, run and jump” from this huge three-story fake cliff, I was like, “Yeah, sure.” And then, every single time, my brain would be like, “No.” I could not jump off the fake cliff. I had to get over it fast because they were like, “Alright, we’re shooting this today, so you have to,” and I was like, “Yeah, got it!” At first, I was like, “I can’t physically do this. My body will not let me jump off.” It was so scary, but it was good. I guess now I can jump off of things. It was immediate immersion therapy.
How do you think you would fare in a real-life game of Panic?
When it starts to get to the more psychological stuff, I think I’d do pretty well, but I would not be able to get past stuff in the beginning. I don’t think I would enter because I simply can’t jump off a cliff. If I could jump into Panic episode five, the haunted-house challenge, I’d win, but I wouldn’t be able to do the first ones, and I’d immediately be out.
Okay, let’s talk about Fear Street! The trilogy is based on R.L. Stine’s infamous book series and takes place across three different time periods: 1994, 1978, and 1666. I read you have been a big fan of the horror genre since you were a kid, so you must have been a kid in a candy store working on these films.
What did you enjoy most about the process? Did anything surprise you?
The thing that surprised me the most was how it’s such hard work to make a horror movie. It’s funny because you see them and you think, “Oh, that would be so fun,” but the timing of them is so essential. If you have a bunch of blood in a scene and then you have to do the scene again, you have to clean up all of the blood. It’s very thoughtful to make a horror movie in a way I didn’t expect. It’s a very tedious process, which was really cool. And that’s the thing. I love them so much and want to take them seriously, so the fact that, by nature, you take them seriously was very satisfying. It really was like being a kid in a candy store making them because they also pay so much homage to the movies that I loved growing up. So there would be times where they would be like, “We’re going to make a little reference here to Nightmare on Elm Street,” and I’d be like, “Yes! This is the best day of my life because I know immediately what this reference is, and we’re doing it right now today.” Anytime they would bring a jug of fake blood in, I was like, “This is awesome. This is the fake blood that’s in all of the movies I love.” Not this exact fake blood, but the fake blood in theory.
You essentially play parallel versions of your character Samantha Fraser across the three films. Do you have a favorite version of her or a favorite film?
I’ll give you both. I think my favorite version of Samantha to play was the second version, the one that is sandwiched in the middle. It was very fun to make Samantha and form her as a character, and then when the second version of her was required, it was like, What is she now? Because it’s a thing where we play parallel versions of ourselves, it was fun to be like, “Who is a parallel person to this person I’ve already lived as for so long?” which is the most fun acting challenge in the world. We all got to do it, so we would all talk about “What’s your next character like?” It was fun to be on set and see people be so nuanced about their changes and the things they kept and the things they were changing.
My favorite movie was the first one, and I’m very biased. I will admit it to you now, but I love it. I think it’s such a fun movie, and the sequences are so cool, like the grocery story sequence and the hospital sequence. We were all really close, and it felt like we were truly a little gang of teens running around in the woods. Because everyone was equally committed and so loving and wonderful, it was a blast to make that movie.
What were some of the scary movies and/or stories that stuck with you growing up?
In terms of stories, I had a girl who used to babysit my sister and I, and she would tell us the craziest ghost stories. Every time we saw her, I would be like, “Yes, this is it. We’re going to talk, and she is going to tell me some messed up stuff.” I feel like I could still recite them to this day if I really thought about it. Nightmare on Elm Street was a big one. I loved Scream as a kid. My mom has a lot of siblings, and one of her younger brothers was in college when I was a kid, and I remember I would go to my grandparents’ house, and he had a huge Freddy vs. Jason poster [on his bedroom wall]. I would go into his room and stare at it and be like, “Who are these men, and what’s their story, and why do they look like this?” I would go in and be like, “I simply have to know more about what’s going on in this poster.”
I was pretty young when I got to see Scream for the first time because my dad was like, “You should see this so you are aware of your environment.” He showed me the first scene, the Drew Barrymore scene, and he was like, “What did we learn? Close the windows at night. Don’t answer the phone.” I think it was a real scare tactic. So I saw that pretty young, and I saw Nightmare on Elm Street pretty young, too, but maybe like 10 or 12. I loved them. I was like, “These are where it’s at. These are great movies.”
Who are your favorite scream queens?
I love Jamie Lee Curtis, always. She’s the original one. I think she’s a wonderful human being, too. I love anything that she’s in. I think Jodie Foster is a great scream queen in Silence of the Lambs. I would say that is a scream-queen performance. The arc of Nancy [Thompson] in the Nightmare on Elm Street series wins her an award for scream queen. She is great in those movies, and having the last movie be meta and she’s playing Heather Langenkamp having to pretend to be Nancy, I was like, “This is genius.” Those are my big ones.
So I want to get into fashion, which I am happy to hear is a topic you love as well.
I have literally read Who What Wear since I was in middle school, so I was very excited about this. I love Who What Wear.
I love hearing that! You are working with stylist Erica Cloud, whose clients include Kacey Musgraves, Awkwafina, and Dan Levy, to name a few. What do you love about her approach to styling?
She is just so thoughtful and incredible at talking about things in a way that is not pretentious at all. She is so in love with fashion and fabrics and the way things fit. It’s the most fun to talk to her because that’s how I feel about fashion. I love having fittings with her because I will be like, “Oh my goodness, did you see the new Gucci sunglasses? There is that small detail on the very back behind the ear,” and she is like, “I know! Isn’t that the most incredible detail of all time?!” And we’re like, “Yes, can you believe that they’ve made sunglasses so beautiful?!” We just geek out about stuff, and that’s the thing I love so much about working with her. We just clicked so well over that.
Take me inside the fittings for your Panic press appearances. Was there a story you wanted to tell with those looks?
It was fun because both of us were like, “It’s your first time. We’ll get in some designers that you really love, and look to look, we’ll have it be something you feel comfortable in and something you feel empowered in.” It ended up being this retro [theme], like lots of blazers. I wore that Tory Burch sweater-vest, and I got to wear that Missoni dress, which was such a dream. One day, I had two different press events and a little bit of time [between the two], so we did a red blazer with some Re/Done jeans, and then [Erica] came back over, and we switched and did a Coach outfit. It was trying to diversify and find what we liked for everything, and it ended up being this retro aesthetic through the whole thing.
How are you approaching things differently for Fear Street, or will it be a continuation of what you and Erica started with Panic?
I’m a big vintage fan, so everything we are doing is always a little retro, but the Fear Street stuff is going to be more colorful.
You did a takeover for us for the Panic premiere, where you re-created a Claudia Schiffer look with a vintage Gucci suit by Tom Ford. I know that sustainable fashion is very important to you. How do you carry that through into your everyday style?
For the premiere outfit, [Erica and I] had talked about how we both loved ’90s Gwyneth Paltrow looks, and she had mentioned that she had the red ’96 Gucci suit. We talked about that in our initial Zoom meeting, and I was like, “Oh, Tom Ford. That’s crazy you have that suit.” And then at my first fitting, she was like, “I found the blue suit!” It was 10 minutes into the fitting, and we were like, “Okay, that’s what we are wearing to the premiere because, How could you not?” How can you get handed a Tom Ford Gucci suit and be like, “That’s an option”? I buy everything secondhand now. I rarely buy anything new, and I just love the act of going and finding something secondhand and thinking about things you’ve seen and looking at them on Depop or Etsy or eBay and Wasteland. It’s such an easy way to keep the planet alive, and it’s cost efficient. I am a big believer in that, so it was cool to wear something that was from a local vintage store. And everything in that look was vintage, all the jewelry, the bag, and the shirt. Everything was a once-loved-and-brought-back-to-life item, and that was really cool.
Since you are a big secondhand shopper, can you let us in on some of the best vintage haunts?
You know I love you guys because I’m giving you my stores, but I love Squaresville in Los Feliz on Vermont Ave. The buyers do such a good job of curating, and everything is affordable and priced very fairly. You can find really great pieces there. They have amazing T-shirts and dresses and will do designer vintage pieces sometimes. I love Wasteland. I think that’s one that a lot of people know, but Wasteland is great because you can find modern things that have just been worn a few times. I am a huge believer in Depop. Maybe 90% of my wardrobe is from there because you can find anything.
Catch Welch in Fear Street Part One: 1994 and Part Two: 1978, now streaming on Netflix, and Part Three: 1666 premieres July 16.