How Elizabeth Olsen Stepped Out From Behind Her Sisters’ Shadows And Made A Name For Herself

Even though she is the sister of two of the most famous child stars of the ’90s, it can be argued that Elizabeth Olsen is the more popular Olsen right now. She was able to get out from behind her sisters’ shadows and become part of one of the most successful franchises to date.

She’s also in the process of filming her own show for Disney+. But how did growing up as the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley impact her? Keep reading to learn about Elizabeth’s road to stardom!

Family Values Grounded Her

Family Values Grounded Her
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Donato Sardella/Getty Images for InStyle

Growing up with two of the biggest child stars living under your roof couldn’t have been easy. Elizabeth’s parents also had no clue what they were doing when it came to raising children in the entertainment industry. Their mother was a personal manager while their father was a property manager.

They were smart, though, and hired a team to take care of the girls’ careers. Elizabeth’s sisters were lucky to have such a huge support team. But unlike them, she wasn’t a rising star.

Born Into The MK&A Era

Born Into The M.K.&A-Era
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Elizabeth was born into a strange world, one where Mary-Kate and Ashley had already been cast as Michelle Tanner in the hit series Full House. The world was watching her twin sisters as they grew up. But their journey didn’t stop there.

In the coming years, the twins starred in many movies. The entire family was changed because of their quick success. The famed defined everything, including Elizabeth’s life, although she didn’t realize it at the time.

She Livid A Charmed Life

She Livid A Charmed Life
Steve Granitz/WireImage
Steve Granitz/WireImage

Even though she wasn’t following in her famous sisters’ footsteps, Elizabeth lived a charmed life growing up. In an interview with Marie Claire, she said, “We got to go on vacations and lived in nice homes, and I got to play club volleyball and ballet, which you don’t realize as a kid are expensive.”

Her parents wanted to ground her, though, saying things like, “Lizzie, we are not the Rockefellers!” Even though they had money, they weren’t going to throw it all away.

She Appeared In Some Of Her Sisters Films And Series

She Appeared In Some Of Her Sisters Films And Series
Dominik Bindl/Getty Images
Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

Although Elizabeth doesn’t credit her cameo appearances as ‘true acting,’ it didn’t stop her from listing the parts on her resume. Growing up, she appeared in several of her sisters’ movies. She’s said that she didn’t really think of it as work, but more so something fun that they all did together.

Her IMDB account lists her various The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley appearances as well as The Olsen Twins Mother’s Day Special.

She Had Fun Making Films With Her Friends

She Had Fun Making Films With Her Friends
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

She wasn’t starring in any television series like her sisters were. Elizabeth hadn’t been bitten by the acting bug quite yet. But that didn’t stop her from making short films with some of her friends growing up.

Inspired by their favorite blockbuster hits, Elizabeth and her gang would film movies based on The Wizard of Oz and even Zoolander. The latter inspiration stemmed from Will Farrell’s character, Mugato, and not the title character, surprisingly.

Her Acting Inspiration Didn’t Come From Her Sisters

Her Acting Inspiration Didn't Come From Her Sisters
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

With international superstar sisters, one would think Elizabeth would garner inspiration to become an actor from them. Nope! In a plot twist to end all plot twists, the one and only Michelle Pfeiffer inspired her to pursue the career.

In an interview with Marie Claire UK, Elizabeth said, “I never had a heart-throb or a band I loved, but I had Michelle Pfeiffer, so I tried to copy what my friends would do and had magazine pictures cut out in frames. She was the reason I wanted to be an actor.”

She Tried Acting And Decided Against It

She Tried Acting And Decided Against It
Adela Loconte/WireImage
Adela Loconte/WireImage

With her Michelle Pfeiffer inspiration, Elizabeth tried her hand at acting. It didn’t go well, and she quit before she started. And it was all because the script to Spy Kids intimidated her! But that wasn’t the only reason her acting dreams fizzled before they got recognized.

Elizabeth wasn’t ready to give up a normal childhood. She was participating in a lot of after school activities, such as ballet and soccer. She wasn’t ready to drop all of that for acting.

Acting Had More Cons Than Pros

Acting Had More Cons Than Pros
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

During an interview with Modern Luxury, Elizabeth said, “I realized I would miss out on after-school sports and forfeit things I enjoyed doing at a young age. My dad had me write a list of pros and cons, and the cons side was bigger. I decided to stick to my after-school activities.”

Thankfully, that list switched later in life, and the pros began to outweigh the cons. But at that early point in her life, her father was helping her make the right decision for her wellbeing.

Her Father Is Her Number One Supporter

Her Father Is Her Number One Supporter
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Growing up, Elizabeth credits her father for helping her make tough life choices. He was always there for her and the rest of her siblings when they needed moral support and a good pep talk.

In an interview with Dazed and Confused, Elizabeth said, “It wasn’t that creativity was nurtured so much in my family as much as a spirit of hard work. My dad always says beat your last best score, and don’t worry about the person who beat you. Be the best you can be, and don’t compare yourself to someone else.”

She Went To School To Hone Her Craft

She Went To School To Hone Her Craft
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

With the last name Olsen, one would think that she wouldn’t have an issue breaking into the industry. But it was the opposite. Elizabeth didn’t want to use her sisters’ stardom to get ahead in Hollywood, even though she admits that she wasn’t taken seriously as an actor for a long time and they could have helped if she asked.

Instead, Elizabeth decided to study her craft. She attended the Tisch School of the Arts in New York and studied abroad a semester at the Moscow Art Theatre School.

She Had Strange Interactions In College

She Had Strange Interactions In College
Anthony Harvey/FilmMagic
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Although college helped Elizabeth discover her undying love for acting, it was a strange time. She accounts that her college years were the first time she felt the immense impact of her sisters’ fame. It was the first time she ever felt ‘different.’

In an interview with Marie Claire, Elizabeth recalled, “[p]eople would knock on my door and be like, ‘I heard there was a party here,’ just because they knew that I lived in that room. It was so weird.”

She Almost Gave Up

She Almost Gave Up
Jacopo Raule/WireImage
Jacopo Raule/WireImage

After graduating, Elizabeth thought about giving up her acting dreams. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to endure the hard work and long hours the career is known to bring, but it was because of the media.

Her thoughts of leaving the industry happened around the same time the paparazzi were all over the twins because of Mary-Kate’s health. They were regularly being followed and were almost in a car accident because of nagging reporters. Elizabeth didn’t want to deal with that.

The Twins Kept Her Grounded

The Twins Kept Her Grounded
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Luckily for Scarlet Witch fans, Elizabeth didn’t give up on her dream. She actually credits her sisters for her wanting to stay in the industry. Elizabeth watched how they dealt with their fame from a young age into their adulthood, so they taught her how to stay grounded.

To them, acting was a tough job, but it allowed for creativity and was very rewarding. It was never about the glitz and glamour or the money.

Acting Was Nothing More Than A Job

Acting Was Nothing More Than A Job
David M. Benett/WireImage
David M. Benett/WireImage

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Elizabeth said, “I didn’t know anything outside being famous, so it was never weird to me – that’s just what it was. It was always very clear that acting was a job; I never had this twinkly fantasy of people taking photographs of me.”

It’s a good thing, too, because Elizabeth was about to get the full-blown Hollywood treatment in 2011 with her indie film debut.

Her Big Break Came In A 2011 Indie Film

Her Big Break Came In A 2011 Indie Film
Anthony Harvey/FilmMagic
Anthony Harvey/FilmMagic

As some millennial actors before her, Elizabeth’s big break came when she landed the lead role in a critically acclaimed indie film. Ironically, the director of Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, Sean Durkin, was an unknown person in Hollywood, too. But it didn’t matter; they made an instant hit about a cult and PTSD.

Interestingly, Durkin decided that the role of Martha was the only one he was going to hold auditions for. He wanted an unknown actor.

She Was Unknown, But The Rest Of The Cast Wasn’t

She Was Unknown But The Rest Of The Cast Wasn't
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Even though Elizabeth was still considered to be unknown, regardless of her familial ties, there were some names in the cast that had been working in Hollywood for years. Elizabeth starred alongside the likes of Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, and John Hawkes, all of whom had lots of experience.

It was good for Elizabeth, though. She could use all of the pointers she could get! And with these seasoned veterans, she learned how to be a leading lady.

She Nailed Being A Leading Lady

She Nailed Being A Leading Lady
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Even though it was her first major lead role, critics were amazed by the newcomer. They thought her performance in Martha Marcy Mae Marlene was the perfect breakthrough role for Elizabeth. And with that, the award nominations rolled in.

Elizabeth received a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award as well as a Critics’ Choice Movie Award for her leading role. She was also honored with breakthrough actress awards and was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award.

She Was Getting Recognized By Other Stars

She Was Getting Recognized By Other Stars
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

With the awards came recognition from other celebrities. Elizabeth even became a joke in award ceremony opening monologues. One of the more recognizable mentions being from comedian Seth Rogen during the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards.

Rogen said, “I learned there’s a whole other Olsen… Where were they hiding her? She’s the best one, come on! I can’t believe she was the mistake!” She handled the jab perfectly, laughing along with the rest of the crowd.

She Was Still Known As “The Olsen Twins’ Sister”

She Was Still Known As
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Before her breakout role in Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, Elizabeth was most commonly known as The Olsen Twins’ sister. People weren’t recognizing that she was her own person who was making her own career without piggybacking off her already-famous sisters.

All of that changed in 2011. Besides Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, Elizabeth starred in two more movies that year and she also worked alongside other Hollywood veterans — something, it seemed, she was growing accustomed to!

2011 Was A Big Year

2011 Was A Big Year
Gareth Cattermole/Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

After the success of Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, Elizabeth was seen starring in the horror film Silent House. The genre made sense, considering she was just coming off a movie about a girl running from a cult! The other film she made that year was a musical comedy called Love & Misunderstanding.

Not only was Elizabeth showing her diverse acting skill-set, but she was also doing it alongside some well-known names in the industry, including Catherine Keener, Jane Fonda, and Kyle MacLachlan.

She Was A True New Yorker

She Was A True New Yorker
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for TWC
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for TWC

Living in New York as a new actor is not easy. And while Elizabeth could always ask Mary-Kate and Ashley for financial help, she opted to do everything by herself. With the money she was making off of the small indie films, Elizabeth had just enough to rent a small one-bedroom in the city.

But living in the Big Apple certainly has upsides. Aside from how expensive the place is, she was enjoying her incognito lifestyle.

Indie Stardom

Indie Stardome
Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Christian Dior
Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Christian Dior

Even though she looks quite similar to her famous twin sisters, Elizabeth could still go out on the streets without being fully recognized. It could be because she kept a low profile, but most likely, it was due to the projects she chose to participate in.

In her early career, Elizabeth chose to act in indie films that weren’t seen by large audiences. These titles included Red Lights, Liberal Arts, Kill Your Darlings, and Oldboy. The latter also starred Josh Brolin and Samuel L. Jackson, her future Avenger co-stars.

2014 Was The Year That Changed Everything

2014 Was The Year That Changed Everything
Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

In 2014, Elizabeth decided to switch it up, turning to Hollywood instead of sticking to her typical indie roles. Her first movie was in a supporting role for the hit blockbuster film Godzilla. Again, she starred alongside some big names, including Brian Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Elizabeth was going to work alongside Taylor-Johnson again, and sooner than either realized. They both appeared in the Captain America: Winter Soldier post-credit scene, giving MCU fans their first peek at Quicksilver and Elizabeth’s Wanda!

Wanda Was Originally Written With Another Actress In Mind

Wanda Was Originally Written With Another Actress In Mind
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Weirdly enough, the role of Wanda Maximoff wasn’t written with Elizabeth in mind; rather, it was supposed to be Saoirse Ronan portraying the Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth wound up landing the role! And she’s said that she had a lot of fun preparing for her part.

To get ready for her MCU debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Elizabeth read all of the comics. She went on to reprise the role in the next three installments: Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.

She Had Time For Some Other Films

She Had time For Some Other Films
Francois Durand/Getty Images
Francois Durand/Getty Images

Although the MCU kept Elizabeth plenty busy, she had a few spare moments to participate in other films. In 2017 Elizabeth starred alongside Parks & Rec alum Aubrey Plaza in the critically acclaimed film Ingrid Goes West. The role of a narcissistic social media influence Taylor Slone was nothing like Wanda!

To prepare for this role, there were no comic books to read. Rather, Elizabeth created a fake Instagram account so she could learn how to take good pictures and filter them correctly.

Unlike Her Character, Elizabeth Doesn’t Like Social Media

Unlike Her Character, Elizabeth Doesn't Like Social Media
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Unlike her character and a lot of celebrities, Elizabeth isn’t the biggest fan of social media. Instead of using Instagram to document her day-to-day activities, she uses it as self-promotion for her movies.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Elizabeth said, “I’m trying to treat that aspect of my life as part of my job. There are ways I can benefit by having it, but I will delete it relatively soon because I’ll stop having promotional stuff. It’s a distraction more than anything.”

She’s Learned A Lot From Her Characters, Especially Wanda

She's Learned A Lot From Her Characters, Especially Wanda
Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic
Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

Elizabeth has said that she learned a lot from her character over the years, especially from Wanda, because she’s played her for a few years at this point!

She told Harper’s Bazaar, “[t]here was so much emotional depth to her, and then there’s the fact that she is her own villain because of her inability to understand what her powers are and how to control them. I’d like to be more like her, where I am always emotional.”

Switch To TV

Switch To TV
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Elizabeth was swiftly making a name for herself in the film industry, the MCU keeping her busy. But she found time to star and produce a Facebook Watch show called Sorry for your Loss. Elizabeth says that Leigh Shaw is the character she feels most in-sync with because of the relationship she has with her sister, Jules.

It’s because of her strong bond with her real-life sisters. And even though tabloids portray her as a stubborn sister who wouldn’t ask for help, it’s just the opposite; she’s a team player.

She’s A Team Player

She's A Team Player
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Tom Ford
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Tom Ford

Although she is known for being independent, Elizabeth also sees herself as a huge team player. In an interview with Dazed and Confused, Elizabeth explained her infatuation with teamwork, and how it all started when she was very young.

“I’m obsessed with teams. When I was in sixth grade, I realized that mine and my siblings’ first initials spelled the word TEAM. T-rent, E-lizabeth, A-shley, and M-ary Kate. So I bought us all little trinkets that said TEAM, so we could always remember that.”

What’s Next For Elizabeth

What's Next for Elizabeth
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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The next project for Elizabeth is the highly-anticipated Disney+ series WandaVision, which revolves around her and Paul Bettany’s MCU characters. Elizabeth has said that the series is almost like a character deep-dive and that it is going to be really exciting for fans of the two side characters.

From the previews, it looks as though the series is going to be stylized after famous sit-coms, with Wanda and Vision at the forefront. The show is scheduled to be released in 2020!