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Olivia Keville

West U teen in new sitcom

Jennifer Oakley
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Olivia Keville

HOUSTON TO HOLLYWOOD West U actress Olivia Keville has been cast as “Mae” in a new sitcom Splitting Up Together, which premieres March 27. (Photo: Chris Evan Photography)

At 5, Olivia Keville put on plays with stuffed animals for her Mom, Dad and two older brothers in their two-story traditional home in West U. By age 8, she was asking for acting lessons. Now, at 15, Olivia has been cast as “Mae” in the new prime-time sitcom Splitting Up Together, which premieres on ABC this month.

With long, brown hair and expressive eyes, Olivia looks like the teen she is but sounds older, speaking thoughtfully.

“I did a lot of local theater with Main Street Theater,” says Olivia, who went to West University Elementary School for kindergarten and first grade before attending St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. She wanted to practice acting like her brother Max, now 21, practiced baseball. She worked with coach Mari Ferguson and eventually took a workshop with John D’Aquino, a California acting coach, who said she had talent and encouraged her to attend his camp in LA.

Brother Jake, now 19, had a film internship in LA at the same time, so the family decided to visit and let Olivia attend the camp, where she was noticed by an agent. The family learned there are two main episodic seasons for casting every year. Olivia asked if she could spend time in LA for both.

“She said, ‘Mom, I am going into my eighth-grade year and I don't want to do regular high school. I want to give this acting one year of my full attention,’” says Sandra. “Olivia has really good instincts, and we are all in this together. I am married to an attorney engineer, and I am the free spirit and I thought: If you don't listen to your kid and don't give them the opportunity you are doing them a disservice.” Olivia and Sandra went to auditions for three weeks that October and then returned in February. Olivia kept getting called back for Splitting Up Together.

“There was me and one girl who looked like Nancy in Stranger Things and one who looked like a supermodel. I did get nervous because I had HITS and Main Street Theater and ‘school play’ on my resume.” Despite momentary nerves, Olivia nailed the callback. The directors and producers (Ellen DeGeneres is one) booked Olivia for the pilot.

Splitting Up Together is about a couple with three children who divorce but remain living together and then realize they maybe should have stayed married. Olivia’s Mae is daughter to onscreen parents Jenna Fischer (“Pam” on The Office) and Oliver Hudson (Scream Queens, “Jeff Fordham” on Nashville, whose mother is Goldie Hawn). Actors Van Crosby and Sander Thomas play Olivia’s brothers.

Sandra and husband John Keville, an attorney and managing partner with Winston & Strawn, realized letting Olivia follow her dream would mean major adjustments. “It’s a family decision because traveling back and forth is a logistics issue,” Sandra says. “I travel with Olivia, and John stays in Houston to work and be with the boys here at home. We all FaceTime to stay in touch.”

After filming the pilot, Olivia came back to West U to graduate from middle school. At her final school dance she found out that the pilot was picked up. She and her mom drove back to LA this past fall to begin filming. They rented an apartment, and Sandra drove Olivia to work every day at the Warner Brothers lot. Because Olivia is a minor, Sandra stayed while Olivia was filming and studying with an on-set teacher. “They gave me headphones and a TV in front of me so I can see what she is doing,” says Sandra. (When Olivia is in Houston, she attends the flexible Xavier Academy.)

“A TV show takes so many people,” Olivia says. “It can take three to five hours for one scene. And, I also learned to be really adaptive with the script. It will always change at some point so I had to memorize a lot of changes. Jenna Fischer plays my mom, and Mae is very close with her mom in the show. She was very funny, and our scenes were heartfelt and sweet. Between takes one time I had a hard time keeping a straight face because my character is very stoic. She is a big feminist. She is very blunt but in a good way. She’s 15, and so am I. She has a quick wit. I really love Mae.”

The Keville family plans to watch the show’s premier, at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 on ABC, at home with friends and family. “We are absolutely excited for Olivia,” says Sandra. “I think it is a really great show, and we hope that people will enjoy watching it week after week.”

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