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Check out this gorgeous photoshoot for Just Jared, also a lovely little interview, behind the scenes video and Q&A below too…
Odeya Rush may have cracked into Hollywood with recent hits like The Giver and The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but the Israeli-born beauty has been working behind the scenes since her early days of childhood. In fact, the actress credits the development of her professional chops to her army of male siblings. As a child, Rush would occupy her brothers by creating a myriad of plays for them to star in. She directed them, hosted performances for her parents, and paid her stars in homemade brownies, all the while dreaming of taking her talents to the next level. From her home in Haifa, Israel, Rush studied her American television heroes like Hilary Duff, while watching subtitled episodes of Lizzie McGuire and Full House. Then, at the age of nine, her father was relocated to The States for work, landing the acting enthusiast her chance to pursue her true calling.
But first, she had to learn how to leave certain parts of home behind. “It’s a challenge getting rid of your accent,” says Rush, who complicated the process by living in New Jersey for three months prior to eventually settling in California. “I went to a dialect coach and she told me that I had five problems; two were my Israeli accent and three were my New Jersey accent. I don’t even want to know what I sounded like back then!” she jokes. After mastering the American dialect, Rush earned a few guest spots on long-running shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Curb Your Enthusiasm, before setting her sights on the big screen. In 2012, she obtained the role of Joni Jerome in Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green, in which she starred alongside Jennifer Garner. Two years and many “embarrassing” auditions later, she was cast in her breakout role as Fiona in The Giver.
When asked if she gets noticed on the street now post The Giver, the humble actress reddens sweetly with embarrassment. “Yes,” she coyly admits but quickly adds that she’s still getting used to her fame. “I do get recognized sometimes and it’s really nice. I’m happy the film meant so much to people who were such big fans of the book.” And after having mastered the movie adaptation of Lois Lowry’s cultural staple, the emerging actress has moved on to tackle another beloved franchise, Goosebumps, which hits theaters on October 16th.
Rush is currently in the midst of promoting the project with co-stars like Jack Black, whom she became especially close with on set. The esteemed comedic actor raves about how perfectly his costar brought the role of Hannah Stone to life. “Odeya’s strength is her sincerity,” Black tells Just Jared. “You believe every word that comes out of her mouth. She is also super charismatic and lit up the set every day.” Another Goosebumps colleague, Amy Ryan, echoes Black’s sentiments. “I admired Odeya’s ability to be so grounded and deeply focused for someone her age. She is sophisticated but playful and simply a joy to work with. I imagine her career will be a long one because she is curious about the world around her. She’s interested in many stories and she has the talent to tell them.”
Just Jared: Everyone is so excited for Goosebumps! How much did you enjoy being a part of the film?
Odeya Rush: It so much fun! I made it with people that I can now call best friends. Jack [Black] was so much fun. I messed up a lot of takes because Jack’s so funny. He’s really family oriented and he brings that energy to set. He’s a really personable and approachable person. Jack walks into the room and he just makes fun of himself already so he just puts you at ease. He says the most outrageous things. The energy on set was amazing!
JJ: Were you a fan of the books before doing the film?
OR: I read them after I made the movie! My brothers read the “Goosebumps” books so I knew about it from them and a lot of my friends read them. I understand what a big deal this is for people because people are just obsessed. And this is not based on a specific book. We’ve taken all of the monsters from all of the books into one film and created kind of our own origin story.
JJ: You’ve worked on some really intense horror films. How will Goosebumps be different?
OR: Goosebumps is scary but it’s combined with comedy, adventure and action. You’ll get scared and there are things that will come out of nowhere but it’s not scarring and it’s not super gory. It’s a fun kind of scared. It’s more Halloween style scared!
JJ: We heard there was a stunt that you did where you had to keep dragging yourself around an ice skating rink. What was that all about?
OR: Basically most of the film is one long night and it’s us trying to run away from monsters and get them back inside the books. So there’s a scene in the ice skating rink with the abominable snowman and we were running on the ice with our sneakers. In the film, it doesn’t look like you were running very far and it wasn’t in real life but it was very slippery so I did fall a few times.
JJ: So you came home with some souvenir bruises?
OR: Oh for sure. But I always have bruises just from my own life and clumsiness! (laughs)
JJ: How has life changed since you filmed The Giver? Do you get recognized on the street a lot these days?
OR: My life isn’t completely different. I’m still doing the same things but I do get recognized sometimes. It’s really nice. It’s usually people who loved the movie so much and loved the book so much. It’s always a good feeling.
JJ: Was it weird to see yourself on screen in black and white in that film?
OR: It was weird! I don’t know if that will ever happen again. It’s pretty rare. It was kind of a big risk to make that film in that way.
JJ: Growing up in Israel, what was the first American TV series that you watched?
OR: I would watch Lizzie McGuire with Hebrew subtitles. I watched Full House. That was really big. When I was younger, I was kind of fluent in Spanish because I was kind of fluent in soap operas and I’d watch them with my Russian grandmother and my mom. So it was a Spanish soap opera dubbed in Russian with Hebrew subtitles and we all watched it together. That was very dramatic. That was my introduction to it!
JJ: At what age did you decide that you wanted to be an actress?
OR: Honestly I’ve always put on shows at home. I’ve always been into theater and movies. When I was in school, I did a monologue for my talent show. I would go to the local theater. I was always in dance. I was always performing. That was always my thing. I would make plays with my younger brothers or make movies. I was directing, writing and acting!
JJ: You grew up in a house with six brothers and two sets of twins. How crazy was that?
OR: I don’t know any different than growing up with all my brothers. It makes you strong. I’m feminine and nice but it makes you strong and tough and [teaches you] to not be afraid to get hurt.
JJ: Is it true that you got some of your early acting chops in when your mom would say, “Go and occupy your brothers?”
OR: Right! So when they got to an age where they didn’t want to play girls anymore, I had to write a play, “The Secret Ninja,” because it was the only thing – they would only fight or eat food. And then I had to make them sign contracts because in the middle they’d just be like, “Oh I’m hungry” and walk out of the room. So I made them sign contracts and then everyone ended up quitting and/or getting fired. And nobody gave me money because they were nine and they didn’t have money. So it was stupid on my part. (laughs)
JJ: What’s your worst audition story?
OR: For my first audition [for The Giver], I wore this light blue shirt. Then I got a callback and I thought, “They like me in this; I’ll wear it again,” which is typical. Most people wear the same thing, look the same way, do the same thing. And I got another callback and I thought, “OK. I’ll wear it again.” And then I got another callback. I had like five callbacks and I kept wearing the same blue shirt and I think they thought I only owned one blue shirt because I ended up coming in six times. The sixth time they were like, “Do you have any dresses or something else?” And I had to bring in other stuff. But I was just scared that they wouldn’t recognize me if I wore something else. You know when you’re nervous, you’re like, “This works!” I’m one of those people that believes in superstitions and if a shirt is good luck, I don’t want to take it off.
JJ: What do you do on your days off from acting?
OR: I like to read. I like to swim. Now that I live in California, I like the beach. I like to write. I like to watch movies and I like to be with my friends.
JJ: How do you describe your personal style?
OR: There are days when it is really t-shirts and jeans and then there are days when I like to dress up. But for me, if one look works for me, I wear it for a week – honestly I wash it! — and then I never wear it again. So I become obsessed with one thing or one look, a Bohemian look for instance, and then I wear that for a while. Then I’ll wear little dresses for a look and then it’ll become only shorts for a while or only t-shirts for a while. So I go through different phases but I combine different things. I don’t like things that draw too much attention. It’s usually just things that complement me and aren’t too loud.
JJ: What’s the current fashion phase that you’re in right now?
OR: I really like crop tops now and they’re in so I’m into them.
JJ: What would you tell your younger self?
OR: Stop worrying so much! I’m worried about everything at all times.
JJ: Is there a moment from your life that you’d love to relive?
OR: That’s a dangerous question! It would be cool to go back to second grade with this mindset. In second grade, you’re not taking on the weight of the world yet but you’re still aware. It’s not like three years old when you’re not developed yet and everything is fun and games. Second grade, responsibilities do start but you haven’t seen everything yet. From my experience, second grade is when you start realizing things and you’ve become more mature and more developed but there is still such an innocence and so I’d like to go back to that.
JJ: What was the biggest challenge that you had to face when moving from Israel to the US and trying to break into the acting scene?
OR: It didn’t happen right after I moved but a few years after I moved. I started acting when I was 13 so I needed to work on my accent. I lived in New Jersey for three months so when I went to a dialect coach, she told me that I had five problems and two were my Israeli accent and three were my New Jersey accent. It’s a challenge getting rid of an accent by yourself. I have parents that have such thick accents. They are like, “She sounds fine.” They didn’t know. To them, I spoke perfect English because their accents were so heavy. I don’t even want to know what I sounded like. I don’t want to know!
JJ: How often do people mispronounce your name and how do they most often say it?
OR: Odee-ya. I get that. Odai-yah. I get Odessa a lot and there’s no “s” in my name. I think I say “Odeya” and people think “Oh I forgot her name. Was is it? Odessa?” Odayah, or Odet is another one.
JJ: Is there a cool Israeli meaning behind it?
OR: It’s actually a Hebrew name and it means “thank God.” Ode is “thank” and ya “is God.”
JJ: Do you get to go back to Israel a lot? What is one thing that you always have to do when you are there?
OR: I wish I could go back more than I do but the first thing I do is see my family because I miss them. I love to eat hummus, falafel, tahini. The best chocolate is in Israel too. There is nothing like it.
JJ: What celebrities do people confuse you for?
OR: I get Mila Kunis probably every day of my life. I go into the supermarket, some people are like, “Jackie!” That’s her name from That ’70s Show. Any picture I post, half of the comments are “Mila Kunis!” One time I posted a picture of Mila Kunis and I said #TBT and a lot of people were like, “You look so pretty.” “Thank you.” I get that a lot. Sometimes I get a young Brooke Shields. I get my mom.
JJ: Have you ever met Mila?
OR: No I haven’t. But it would be funny to meet her because she’d probably be like, “I look nothing like you.” I’m like, “I look nothing like you!” We’ll both just get mad.
JJ: You’ve been dabbling in directing a little bit and just made a short called Thanks. Tell us a little bit about that.
OR: It’s a short film that I wrote and produced and also acted in. It was a pretty crazy experience. I’ve always directed my brothers in small things but this was crazy. I would run out of the room after being in a scene and I’d yell “cut” and I would direct actors as I was in there with them. I’ve never been this involved but it taught me so much about this business, about all the aspects, about what a difficult job it is to direct. I’ve always appreciated directors but I have a newfound appreciation for them and producers and everyone who does what they do that actors don’t see. When you have one job, that’s all you care about, that’s all you’re supposed to focus on. But focusing on so many different things, I was introduced to how hard everyone else works too.
JJ: So how does Odeya Rush direct Odeya Rush?
OR: It was so hard to watch myself back because whatever movie I do, I never look at the monitor. I hate looking at the monitor. And coming to edit this, it was so hard to watch myself and critique myself because of course I don’t like anything that I do. But you just have to be mature about it and look at it from a different perspective. And it’s not always right or wrong, black or white. When you look at yourself, you see things that other people don’t always see. But as a director, I had to think, what is best for the story? What is best for the film? What carries the message that I want?
JJ: You were rocking out to some Taylor Swift while doing your photo shoot for us. Did you become friends with her after working with her on The Giver? Do you guys keep in touch?
OR: Yeah. She became one of my close friends. She’s very much like an older sister. She is really, really caring and really sweet.
JJ: What’s something that you learned from her?
OR: The level that she’s at is beyond anything that I think anyone could even swallow but she’s just so sweet and down to earth. And it’s crazy how normal she stayed through this whole entire crazy year and how normal and sweet she is. It’s really insane. She is proof that you can be a genuine person no matter what you go through. She inspires me to always stay sweet and always stay caring and be nice to everyone, no matter what.
JJ: What’s your guilty pleasure?
OR: Chocolate! That’s my favorite thing in the world. It’s scientifically proven that chocolate improves your mood. There is something in it that can make you happier and I stand by that theory. Milk chocolate. It’s so good!
JJ: Do you have a celebrity crush?
OR: Chris Pratt. I’ve loved him since Parks and Recreation. Yeah, he’s a huge movie star now and really buff, but I’m just attracted to funny and he’s a funny, genuine person. I’ve always watched that show and I’m so happy [for him]. When you follow someone from the beginning, every big thing that happens to them, it’s kind of like it’s happening to you too so you’re really happy with it.
JJ: What about a girl crush? Is there one badass female in Hollywood that you are dying to work with or pal around with?
OR: Jennifer Lawrence is really amazing. I really love Julie Delpy. I love that she writes and directs too. Charlize Theron is a badass bitch.
JJ: We’ve heard that you love to sing. Will you ever make an album?
OR: No, as a favor to everyone else. If I had a good voice in me, I love to perform but I just can’t. It’s just so bad. I’m tone deaf. It’s not a good situation. But in my car, I just blast the music so loud that even I can’t hear myself and that’s when I like to sing.
JJ: What’s one thing that you want your fans to know about you?
OR: That I’m not Mila Kunis (laughs). No. That I’m really grateful for them, the people that support me and like what I do. I’m very grateful for them.