Exclusive: ‘High School Musical’ Olesya Rulin Talks About Her New Movie Apart
Film Equals recently had the opportunity to chat with Olesya Rulin, the star of the upcoming movie Apart which follow two teenagers Noah and Emily linked by love and a rare psychological disorder classified as ICD-10 F24, madness of two. The film also stars Josh Danziger, Joey Lauren Adams, Bruce McGill and is directed by Aaron Rottinghaus.
During our talk, the very bubbly and charming Olesya shared some interesting details about her character, the movie and her career as a whole. Check out what she had to say below and don’t miss the movie which is released today to limited theaters and on demand. You can find all our coverage of Apart here.
How would you describe the movie to someone who’s never heard of it?
Olesya Rulin: A ‘Romeo and Juliet’ set in modern times with a twist and a psychological disorder. It’s about knowing yourself and about true love and the lengths that you go to for it.
You play the character of Emily. Tell us about her.
Olesya Rulin: Emily is a beautiful girl that’s talented. She’s an artist, but she also suffers from a psychological disorder called ICD-10. She’s just trying to balance living a normal life and meanwhile being with the person that she loves and being creative. Mix that up with teenage hormones and so it becomes a hot mess.
What attracted you to the role?
Olesya Rulin: It was right after I did ‘High School Musical,’ like two months after that movie and I wanted to do some indie films just to give myself a way to experience different characters and to play with different layers that I hadn’t developed yet. I read this script and it scared me so much because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I have no clue if I can play a girl that’s schizophrenic. I don’t know if I can go this dark or this deep.‘ Once I started feeling that I knew that I had to do it. I was like, ‘Okay, this is scaring me. This has to be done.‘
What was the casting process like?
Olesya Rulin: I got the script like a week before they started shooting and then I called the director and we hit it off on the phone and talked about the concept of the film and he hired me. So, I actually didn’t meet Josh [Danziger] or anyone else until two days prior to shooting in Texas. I was like, ‘Oh, hello, everyone.’
How did you get into that skin since the character is so different from you?
Olesya Rulin: Luckily my minor in college was psychology. So, I had a lot of experience with psychological disorders and instability at that point from just a logical point of view. I knew what schizophrenia was and why people have it, just the logical aspect of it all. I didn’t really know how I was going to get into it, but luckily I’m Russian and I’m kind of naturally crazy and so that wasn’t a far stretch. Getting out of the character was the hard part for me. It took me like four months. I’m not kidding. [laughs]
So, you were all method about it?
Olesya Rulin: I didn’t really have a choice. We shot in twenty days, sixteen hours a day.
That sounds like an intense production schedule. How was that?
Olesya Rulin: It was intense, but luckily Aaron Rottinghaus, our director, and Ryan Rettig our producer and everyone in the crew knew exactly which scenes we needed to get. Aaron was such a wonderful director, he knew, like, ‘Okay, we don’t have time for this scene. I’m going to cut this and make it work this way,’ because he also helped write it.
So, having the writer and the director be on set at all times and it being one person, it was smooth which is wonderful for me because Olesya was not present in any of the film. It was just Emily. Like I completely just dissociated because I didn’t have time to go in and out. I just had to stay as her, but it was hard in a wonderful way though. It was like a beehive. Everyone was doing their job and it was relatively smooth. There weren’t any problems.
There was plenty of diet coke and the crew was fed and they were trying to make everyone happy and meanwhile shoot a film. Everyone believed in the project, and I think that a lot of that had to do with Richmond, Texas. The people there were so welcoming and open to us just kind of taking over a café here and an apartment there and all the crew trucks. We were like, ‘Sorry,’ but they wanted us there. So, it was nice.
What do you remember as the funniest moment during the production?
Olesya Rulin: Oh, jeez. I cried like everyday and so there wasn’t like a lot of ha-ha-ha moments. Honestly, like I said before I wasn’t really there consciously. Maybe, Me making fun of Josh. I have a really sick sense of humor and so does he. So, we got along really well. On our one day off I had a really good time. Josh and I went out for sushi and we had a couple of drinks and it was like, ‘Woo.’ So, that was probably the most low key moment. I would make fun of Aaron because I had two days where I didn’t have to cry. So, I was like, ‘Aaron, I don’t have to cry for you today. Thank, God.’ So, those were good moments.
On the flipside, what was the toughest moment?
Olesya Rulin: During the shoot, like day sixteen or seventeen we had a night shoot where we burn Noah’s house down. Obviously when you have a shooting schedule that means the fire department has to approve it and the police and everyone. So, you’ve got one day that you can do this, right? Of course that one day I’m going back to my hotel in my little rental car and a kid runs a stop sign and t-bones me. So, I get in this huge car accident. Luckily, both he and I were okay, but the cars were totaled and I had to go to the hospital in ambulance on a stretcher thing. I had muscle spasms in my back and slight concussion. I didn’t have a choice to not go to work. I had to go to work.
We didn’t tell Josh because I didn’t want him to worry or get him out of character. So, we kind of kept it hush-hush from everyone, but meanwhile the poor PA’s were running back and forth with ice on my back and Josh doesn’t know why. Only after, there was a field and I was like, ‘Please, God. Help me. I don’t have the strength to pull this off right now. So, if you could just somehow guide me to a place of fulfillment that would be great.’ We got done and then I told Josh after, like, ‘I have a concussion. I can’t feel my spine.’ He was like, ‘What?! What’s happening to our lead actress?’ I just went back to the hotel and got drugged up and I was fine after, but it was pretty funny. That was a hard day.
What was the most surprising moment during production?
Olesya Rulin: There was one thing that’s actually not in the film, but I cry hysterically, to the point of hyperventilating, when I hear about Noah getting into the house fire. I cried for about an hour and a half straight.
I don’t know where it came from, such gritty depth, but I remember my mom was on set at the time and Aaron goes over to my mother and goes, ‘Should we keep going? Is she going to be okay?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m fine,’ but in between takes I would do ballet moves and dance around in the hospital scene, and then I’d get action and I’d start hyperventilating and crying again. He’s like, ‘She’s crazy.’
I think that was the first time that I was like, ‘Wow. I can channel.’ I was learning also how to get in and out of character in a safe way. So, it was just a good learning process for me in general.
Have you gotten any reaction to the film since it’s premiered in any of the festivals?
Olesya Rulin: We’ve been getting really good reviews and probably the fact that we made it in twenty days for a tiny, miniscule little budget, but I think it’s a wonderful example especially to a younger generation that has the ability to make movies on their iPhones, like, ‘Hey, guys, if you have this great concept or idea and if you guys are creative you can make a beautiful film without having to get forty million dollars to produce it.’
Just through the Academy Awards this year alone, the fact that they had a whole category for short films done by people that just submitted, it’s amazing. We were just in Texas last week and we were talking to high schools and that’s something that I addressed, like, ‘Guys, go out there and make these films because you have technology and resources that we only dreamed about five years ago.’
You’ve worked in both TV and movies. Do you have a preference?
Olesya Rulin: No. It’s two different beasts. It’s like riding a horse. Which one do you want? Do you want to gallop quickly and fast or do you want to go slower. It’s just kind of what it is.
TV is wonderful. I do feel like it’s fast though. You get two takes of a scene and they’re like, ‘Okay, it’s great,’ and you’re like, ‘What?’ You really have to be on top of your game. Not only that, but you have a better relationship with the writers if you can have one. But there’s less control as an artist in the sense that I feel like if you want to change the word from ‘the’ to ‘a’ you have to get approval and it’s just more work when it comes to that. It’s just quick.
Whereas a film you get to fall into that beehive bond faster than a set where you have guest stars coming in and out. It’s just slower for the most part. Even when you do a shoot that’s twenty days you still get more time with your character and it’s kind of in your control. You can mold it more because it’s the one time you’re showcasing it versus three years.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
Olesya Rulin: There’s a new web-series called ‘Dirty Work.’ It’s a really dark comedy and I play a heroin addict. That should be out in March. It’s really funny. And I have a movie coming out in the fall called ‘Family Weekend.’ That’s with Kristen Chenoweth and Matthew Modine and Shirley Jones. I play a competitive jump-roper that kidnaps her family and tries to make them get along. It’s really funny.
If you could work with any director or actor that you wanted who would it be?
Olesya Rulin: [Martin] Scorsese probably. I would love to see what he would do to me, mold me in whatever way. I would die. There’s a gazillion actors that I’d want to work with and gazillion directors. Some are famous. Some aren’t. I think honestly for me to work in general is what makes me feel happy because it’s the only thing that I’m great at it, that I can feel that I’m great at. So, any time that I’m in front of a camera or on set I feel like I’m glowing. So, whoever it is and however they choose to project their art, I just want to be a part of that.