By Stacy Jenel Smith
It's hard to believe all that Olivia Wilde has managed to pack into her life, especially considering the actress won't even turn 23 years old until March 10.
Born in New York, she grew up in an intellectually stimulating, privileged world in Maryland - the daughter of Irish journalist Andrew Cockburn and journalist/producer Leslie Redlich Cockburn, and granddaughter of socialist author/journalist Claud Cockburn. She attended the private prep school where Thurgood Marshall, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Walter Mondale sent their kids, Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.
As a teen, she went off to Philadelphia to live "on the streets with some musicians for a few weeks," as she has put it, and wound up being packed off to boarding school at Phillips Andover Academy "to straighten out."
Later, she lived in Dublin and studied at the famed Gaiety School of Acting.
She married Tao Ruspoli, a documentary filmmaker, photographer, flamenco guitar player - and prince. The pope bestowed the title on his family, and that means technically, Olivia is a princess, for real.
And that's not even getting into her claims to fame.
Olivia, of course, became the object of fantasies for countless "The O.C." watchers as bisexual bartending beauty Alex Kelly, love interest of both Seth (Adam Brody) and Marissa (Mischa Barton). That landed her in Maxim Magazine's Hot 100.
She's made several features - including "Running With Scissors" with Gwyneth Paltrow, "Turistas" with Josh Duhamel, and "Alpha Dog" with Justin Timberlake -- and is soon to land back on the tube in "The Black Donnellys," an NBC series masterminded by Oscar-winning industry powerhouses Bobby Moresco and Paul Haggis ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby").
"I'm a total workaholic. I'm really lucky to be working on such different projects, too," acknowledges Olivia, who has the ability to change her look dramatically when she changes her hair color. As we speak, she's looking naturally sultry with long dark hair.
Wilde has been working at such a pace, some of her projects have overlapped. In January, "Alpha Dog" in which she plays babe-gone-wild California girl Angela, premiered less than a week before she was at the NBC portion of the television critics winter press tour to talk about taking on the role of Hell's Kitchen lass Jenny Reilly in "The Black Donnellys." The show centers on a New York Irish-American family involved in organized crime.
Olivia admits the role is her biggest challenge yet as an actress. Once she realized she had a chance at it, "I did a lot of research. I read every book about the 'Westies,'" she tells us. "Unfortunately, there aren't very many books about the women growing up in these neighborhoods. So I talked to Bobby Moresco's wife, Barbara Moresco, who was a tremendous help to me. She grew up in the neighborhood and she could tell me exactly what the woman's role really was. That helped me so much."
Wilde also went to visit the New York neighborhood "this was loosely based on -- really trying to find out what drives these people. Luckily we did have time to do that before we started shooting," she adds.
All 13 episodes in NBC's initial order were completed before the end of last year.
"We wrapped in December and premiere March 5," she says. "It's really exciting to think about people seeing our work at last. The great thing about doing all 13 episodes before premiere is you can concentrate completely on your actual work. You're not distracted by doing loads of press or by the reviews. You can really concentrate on what you're doing. I think it made the show ten times better. And that is such a blessing, I can't believe how lucky we got."
She also calls it a blessing that she enjoys working with the actors portraying the Donnelly brothers -- Billy Lush, Jonathan Tucker, Tom Guiry and Michael Stahl-David - in addition to Moresco and Haggis. Tucker is already working on a feature project Haggis is making, and you'd better believe Olivia is happy to have become part of the writer-producers' stable of actors as well: "We all love working together so much I think we'll work on different things together in the future."
Waiting to find out how the show fares has been nerve-wracking, she admits.
The premiere of "Alpha Dog" and attendant hoopla "was great and got my mind of everything involved with the series for awhile. Now I'm trying to figure out if I want to do a movie before we start production again, if we do."
Strike while the iron is hot, she figures.
"I really hope that when people see me as this character, they'll see a completely different side of me," she adds. "I hope people get a chance to see the whole 13, the arc of each character is so beautiful and so complete."
And it's another rung up the professional ladder for rising star Olivia Wilde.