I don’t normally interview 9-year-olds because they are 9 years old, but in the case of Olivia Edward, the extremely youthful star of FX’s “Better Things,” I’ve decided to make an exception.
Three reasons: 1.) She’s talented. 2.) “Better Things” — wrapping its first season Thursday (FX, 10 p.m.) — is one of the best new comedies of the season. 3.) Olivia’s from Huntington, which really seals the deal.
There are very few child actors starring in a major show on a major TV network who currently live on Long Island. Olivia may well be the only one. She is also daughter of Long Island TV personality, author and psychic medium, John Edward.
Before we get to the chat, a quick overview of Thursday’s finale, entitled “Only Women Bleed,” after the Alice Cooper song of the same name (which tracks over the closing credits.) “Better Things” — starring Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, an L.A.-based actress — is a show about motherhood and daughterhood. Her daughters are teens Max (Mikey Madison) and Frankie (Hannah Alligood), and pre-teen Duke (Olivia Edward). Her difficult, slightly dotty mother, Phil — played by esteemed veteran British actress Celia Imrie — lives across the street.
As I said in my review, the idea of the series “is to find the emotional center of Sam, not just the superficial comic one. Who is she? Why is she here? And why is motherhood so maddening and vitally important at the same time, and how are the mistakes made also the mistakes that become a parent’s legacy?” Those questions are addressed — as always — in the finale, when Frankie’s emerging gender identity complicates Sam’s day. Without giving them away, Olivia’s Duke gets two of the best lines from the finale.
Olivia’s a bit of a veteran, even at 9 — with guest spots on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “The Mysteries of Laura” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” She made her theater debut this year as “Minnie” in “Annie Get Your Gun” at the City Center. Then this: She once sang a duet with Kristin Chenoweth at the Tilles; yes, she’s a good singer (and dancer) too.
When she’s not doing all this stuff and going to school, too, I am informed that she also “enjoys simulated skydiving, baking cupcakes, playing the drums, playing with her three adorable dogs and jumping on the trampoline with her best friend and older brother Justin.”
Now, our chat:
You know, I’ve never interviewed a 9-year-old before. Please be kind to me if I ask something stupid.
(Laughing) I’m almost 10.
Do you even watch this show — I mean, there are parts of it that are not exactly appropriate for kids?
Yeah, but my mom won’t let me watch some parts. She’ll watch I can’t. (In her scripts, the show also excises any scenes that contain vulgar material — and there’s certainly some of that in “Better Things.”)
How do you see your character, Duke?
Duke is the youngest in the family. She is sweet in her mother’s eyes, and also very sweet in everyone else’s eyes. Sometimes, to her sisters, she can take the spotlight, and her sisters don’t like that very much. So she sometimes annoys her sisters.
How about your relationship with your TV mom, Sam?
They’re really close. She doesn’t give her mom any problems and sometimes she’ll stand up for her when her sisters give her a hard time.
So you go to school on the Island, while doing the show. How did you get this role?
When I was little, I loved to sing and dance, and close my door and sing random songs. I also pretended to be a make-believe character in a TV show. I told my dad [and] he kind of got the idea.
Do you watch a lot of TV?
“iCarly” or anything on Nickelodeon — “Victorious,” “Big Time Rush.” I like a whole bunch of things on the Disney Channel too.
How did you get a role on the show?
The casting director that booked me in “Better Things” really liked me and got me in another show called “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
How do you like the show?
I’m having so much fun. Every one of the actors are inspiring me.
How the heck do you find time to balance all this stuff with school work?
My school [in Huntington] gave me the work and said, “You should have it all done.” When I was done, I would send it back. I also had a tutor. (The series taped over the spring in L.A.)
You know, there’s another famous child actor from Long Island. Lindsay . . . Ever heard of her?
Yes, I’ve heard of her.
And as you know, she had a little bit of trouble after she got famous. How do you keep your head straight?
That’s a good question. When I’m at home, I make sure that school is the whole point, and I make sure I get good grades. I’m just a regular kid who watches TV.
Does living on Long Island make a difference in your career track as an actor?
I’m closer to New York and that might help with a few plays.
You told me your mom has been really helpful in your job, but how does your dad help?
He always helps me, when I feel uncomfortable . . . and every time before I tell him about a scene that I’m going to be in, he already knows what’s going to happen.”