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Interview with Carol Burnett Lands Olivia Freeman '22 in 'Vanity Fair'

Looking back, Olivia Freeman '22 never would have envisioned herself a published author in the magazine, Vanity Fair by the age of eighteen. She also never would have seen herself interviewing one of her childhood idols, Carol Burnett on a random Saturday afternoon in late 2021. But through a self-started club at Bush— “The Spotlight Speaker Series”—those two things came to fruition. On Monday, June 27, Olivia’s written interview with Burnett was published online by Vanity Fair. 
“It means so much,” Olivia said of being published. “Vanity Fair is such a huge publication. When I started the club I never thought I would get to interview so many cool people, and I never thought I would be able to get published based off of it.”

So how exactly did Olivia land an interview with the eighty-nine-year-old award-winning American actress, comedian, singer, and writer, Burnett? And then turn that into a published piece in Vanity Fair

 For Olivia, who has always possessed a passion for the arts, it started in Middle School. 

“In Eighth Grade I wanted to interview someone in the entertainment industry so I just started calling people and managers,” OIivia said. “My final Experiential independent Project (EIP) in Eighth Grade was interviewing different people, and I wrote songs based off of their perspective, which is kind of when I started interviewing people,” she said.

Olivia’s first big-time interview she landed was with actor Noah Schnapp, who stars in the Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” 

“That was the first interview I ever did, which was terrifying,” Olivia said. “ I (then) wrote a song about it.” 

When Olivia started Upper School at Bush, she put her interviewing on the backburner to focus on her academics, the theater, and acting. But once the pandemic began, and with a little more time on her hands, she decided to start the “Spotlight Speakers Series”— a club that hosts talks and Q&A sessions with working professionals in the entertainment industry. During the 2021-22 academic year, the Bush student club interviewed and hosted virtually a handful of individuals, including theater actor and producer Román Zaragoza, from the CBS show “Ghosts”, and actress Annarah Cymone of the Netflix hit series “Midnight Mass”. 

Olivia said during the pandemic in her Eleventh Grade year, she got really into contacting people. 

“What I do is I cold-call people, their managers, agents, and publicists and I ask them if I can do an interview with their client,” Olivia said. “I have a speech I will give that I write out before I call.”

It was at the end of her junior year when she found contact information for Burnett. Just like any other routine call, Olivia said she dialed up the number not expecting anything. 

“I left her a voicemail, it was a pretty long voicemail, and I didn’t think much of it, and I didn’t expect her to respond,” Olivia said. But what happened next exceeded her expectations and set her up for a once in a lifetime experience with Burnett.

It was during a math class when Olivia received a call from an unknown number. She answered and the voice on the other end was Burnett returning her message for an interview request. 

“It was absolutely insane because she called me on Friday and said, ‘Oh, do you want to do an interview tomorrow?’ Oh my gosh, sure. I spent the whole rest of the day making questions and figuring out how I was going to talk on the phone with her without freaking out.”

The next day, Saturday, at 1:00 p.m. Olivia conducted her interview with Burnett, talking about her career, forging her own path as a female  in the industry, and her upcoming guest appearance on “Better Call Saul”. Despite the anticipation of the call, Olivia said the dialog with Burnett erased all nerves. 

“I called her and she picked up, and I got to introduce myself, talk to her before the interview, and my parents got to say hi to her, too,” Olivia said. “She’s so easy to talk to (and) she’s such a kind person, and she would ask me questions, too.”  

After her interview, Olivia put together her piece and sent feelers out asking if any publications would be interested in publishing her interview with Burnett. To Olivia’s surprise, Vanity Fair, the first place she contacted, responded just like Burnett with a yes. She explained the article got delayed because of the news of Burnett’s role and timing in the series of “Better Call Saul”. 

“I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is throw as much as you can into the world and don’t give up, because honestly, I contact at least twenty people a day and half of those people never respond,” she said. “If you really want to do something, you have to keep trying.”

Olivia is excited to attend Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle this fall where she’ll focus on getting a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) in acting and original works. And like Bush, Cornish affords her the opportunity to not limit herself as she plans to continue to pursue her passions for  singing, writing, and interviewing. 

Click here to view Olivia's YouTube Channel for more interviews and original music

“When it comes to being at Bush, I would say my biggest support system was the theatre department, and Upper School Drama Director Hilary Moore who was the faculty advisor for Spotlight and my Senior Independent Project,” Olivia said. “The art department is really what helped me to get to where I am today and pushed me to continue my passions.”  

-by Mary Albl, Communications Manager
The Bush School is an independent, coeducational day school located in Seattle, WA enrolling 715 students in grades K–12. The mission of The Bush School is to spark in students of diverse backgrounds and talents a passion for learning, accomplishment, and contribution to their communities.

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