Where You've Seen Olivia Cooke Before
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Oh, that's where we know Olivia Cooke from! For this essay, we'll be exploring this English actress' career thus far, highlighting her most recognizable (and unrecognizable) roles. Our video includes "Sound of Metal," "Ready Player One," "House of the Dragon," and more!
Where You Know Olivia Cooke From
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re looking over where you know Olivia Cooke from.
For this list, we’ll be exploring this English actress’ career thus far, highlighting her most recognizable (and unrecognizable) roles.
Which role introduced you to Olivia Cooke? Let us know in the comments.
Although Olivia Cooke has been popping up in TV and film for nearly a decade, you might initially struggle to identify where you’ve seen her before. Part of that’s because she’s been hidden behind a nasal cannula, a CGI avatar, and an American accent. This might’ve stalled her from becoming an overnight household name, but it’s also a testament to her range as an actress. More audiences are taking notice of Cooke’s seamless ability to transform between roles, solidifying her as one of this generation’s most promising and versatile young stars.
Born in Oldham, Greater Manchester, Cooke caught the acting bug at age eight when she started performing at her hometown’s Oldham Theatre Workshop. Year after year, Cooke was part of the ensemble. Although she had a blast with every production, Cooke couldn’t help but be disappointed that she was never the lead. Cooke confessed that maybe she “enjoyed the ensemble too much,” often messing around in the background. At school, a 17-year-old Cooke finally got her big break as Maria in “West Side Story.” Recognizing her potential, Oldham cast Cooke as the lead in “Prom: The Musical,” a fresh spin on “Cinderella.” As much as Cooke loved the theater, she felt better suited for TV, which is where her career took her.
Welcome to the Bates Motel
Following parts in “Blackout,” “The Secret of Crickley Hall,” and what she described as “cringey commercials,” Cooke got her big break as Emma on “Bates Motel.” In this modern reimagining of “Psycho,” Cooke played Emma Decody, a girl with cystic fibrosis. Believing her time is limited, Emma is mature beyond her years, but also lonely, which draws her to fellow outsider Norman Bates. Cooke was surprised to book the role, not feeling confident about her audience tape and first crack at an American accent. The creators decided to make Emma a Manchester native, which could’ve allowed Cooke to fall back on her natural accent. Like co-star Freddie Highmore, Cooke put on such a convincing American accent that most audiences didn’t realize her UK roots.
From One Dying Girl to Another
Cooke started to develop a scream queen reputation, hitting the big screen in “The Quiet Ones,” the sci-fi thriller “The Signal,” and the box office hit “Ouija.” Cooke branched out like never before as the titular dying girl in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” At first, this might not seem like a stretch, as Cooke already played one girl with a serious medical condition. Although there were risks of being typecast, Rachel Kushner is much different than Emma. Protagonist Greg is also a far cry from Norman. Dying from leukemia, Rachel’s rekindled friendship with Greg stems from pity and awkward obligation. As they spend more time together, their relationship develops into something heartwarming, profound, and quite funny despite the dire circumstances.
Although she had several credits already, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” convinced Cooke that she might be cut out for this acting thing. She’d continue to shine as a leading figure in “The Limehouse Golem,” “Katie Says Goodbye,” and “Thoroughbreds.” In the later black comedy, Cooke played Amanda, an emotionally disturbed teen who brings out the dark side fighting to get out of Anya Taylor-Joy’s Lily. Cooke keeps the audience guessing as a character who claims not to possess any emotions. If that’s the case, though, what do you call Amanda’s dynamic with Lily? A sick game or a beautifully twisted friendship?
Ready for the Big Time
On the heels of several small-budget films, Cooke rose to another level of mainstream recognition in Steven Spielberg’s effects-heavy adaptation of “Ready Player One.” Cooke beat out the likes of Elle Fanning and Lola Kirke for the part of Art3mis, a gamer and pop culture junkie who teams up with fellow Gunter Parzival. While much of the film takes place in the digital world of the OASIS, Art3mis wasn’t merely a voiceover role. Cooke performed her own motion capture, an experience she described as “liberating.” Most of the production required Cooke to use her imagination with the environment around her being added later. The effects artists also deserve credit, but every expression Cooke brings to Art3mis couldn’t feel more genuine.
Although Art3mis beams with confidence in the OASIS, her real-life alter ego of Samantha Cooke is insecure about a facial birthmark. Between Emma, Rachel, and Samantha, it’s been said that Cooke has “de-glammed” for several roles. Honestly, though, we wouldn’t describe any of these characters as “below average” or even “average.” We guess that’s just Hollywood for ya. Regardless, Cooke gives a layered performance as the spunky action heroine, the shy nerd behind the Avatar, and the person where these two personas intersect. Rather than jump straight into another blockbuster, Cooke continued to pursue indie roles like Dylan in the drama “Life Itself” and the eponymous badass in “Pixie.” Cooke earned some of her best reviews in the Best Picture-nominated “Sound of Metal.”
Metal & Iron
In a supporting role, Cooke played Lou Berger, the bleach-eyebrowed girlfriend of Riz Ahmed’s Ruben. Considering that Cooke comes from a musical theatre background and even popped up in a video for One Direction’s “Autumn Term,” it’s surprising that she hasn’t taken on more music-centric roles. As Ruben clings to what he’s lost, Lou starts a new chapter. Her evolution is not only reflected through a physical transformation in the third act, but also through a change in musical styles. Going from heavy metal to “Cet Amour Me Tue,” Lou matures as a person and an artist. Having lost his hearing, Ruben might not be able to appreciate Lou’s angelic voice, but it finally dawns on him that what they had is over.
Cooke has returned to the small screen as well in “Vanity Fair,” the Apple TV+ thriller “Slow Horses” and what might be her most substantial role to date, Alicent Hightower in “House of the Dragon.” Cooke’s appearance in the fantasy epic has brought a few surprises. For starters, more people realized that she’s English after several American roles! Most notably, Cooke replaced Emily Carey mid-season, playing Alicent as an adult. This wasn’t the only change, as Milly Alcock matured into Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. To pull something like this halfway through Season One was a bold move, as audiences had grown accustomed to Carey and Alcock. From the moment she arrives on screen, though, the audience has little trouble accepting Cooke as a grown-up Alicent.
During her youth, Alicent’s father treats her like a pawn in his political aspirations. By the time Cooke enters, Alicent has developed into a craftier, more cynical, and more ambitious player in the Game of Thrones. Her friendship with Rhaenyra also morphs into a rivalry as the Princess starts to unravel while the Queen stays composed. Although the showrunners described Alicent as “a woman for Trump,” Cooke sought to flesh out the character and unearth her humanity. This nuanced approach has made Alicent one of the show’s most complex and compelling characters. We can only hope that Cooke remains on “House of the Dragon” for a while. As far as her career is concerned, though, Cooke is acting royalty and the world is her Iron Throne.