Olivia Munn Knows Her X-Men Costume Is Overly Sexy, Thanks

Let’s get the elephant in the virtual room out of the way first. This week, Olivia Munn found the actual best possible way to shut down engagement rumors. So apologies, all other internet hyperbole about doing things in “the best possible way,” when it comes to a celebrity denying that she’s engaged. Olivia Munn won this one forever with this text message exchange from her mom. So no, she’s not engaged to her boyfriend, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can talk about the real subject at hand: Olivia Munn’s career. She’s been steadily ascending through basically every showbiz arena since she first made her mark on G4’s gone-but-not-forgotten Attack of the Show. From there, she became a correspondent on The Daily Show. After that, Munn proved she’s got dramatic chops, too, when she played financial reporter Sloan Sabbith on The Newsroom. She also appeared opposite Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.

Munn is currently poised to have her best year ever. She’s starring opposite Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in Ride Along 2. While she demurs when asked if the film will finally topple another behemoth from its long reign at the top of the box office, many Hollywood prognosticators are saying that Star Wars: The Force Awakens might just be in for a rude awakening when Ride Along 2 opens this Friday.

After Ride Along 2, Munn has a cameo in Zoolander 2 and then she’ll hit the screen in X-Men: Apocalypse. Yesterday, she stopped by Refinery29 to discuss her dynamite 2016, how Jon Stewart was actually the deciding factor in her signing on to play Detective Maya Cruz in Ride Along 2, and more.

What drew you to playing a no-nonsense Miami detective?

“I was excited to be able to work with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. I was finishing the last season of The Newsroom and it didn’t look like it would fit in my schedule, but after I hung out with Kevin Hart backstage at an awards show, we just instantly connected, laughing and everything.”

Was it a weird transition to go from serious drama on The Newsroom to Ride Along 2?

“It was strange, specifically [to go from] The Newsroom, which is, like, word-perfect, to improv-ing and stuff on Ride Along. I actually wasn't sure if it was something I should be doing next, and then I asked Jon Stewart, who I go to for advice. The first thing he said was, ‘Kevin Hart is an amazing human being. You don’t always have to do Sorkin and Soderbergh. Go have fun with these guys.’ I was like, ‘Okay!’ That was a big catalyst for me to do the movie.”

Was the training for Ride Along 2 anything like X-Men: Apocalypse training?

“[F]or Ride Along 2, I did gun training so I could learn how to use a gun and feel confident and safe with it, but then when I started X-Men like a year later, that was completely different. Doing X-Men, I started at one weight, and then by the end, I was 12 pounds lighter than when I started. I was doing six or seven hours a day of tae kwon do.”

You’ve talked about how your Psylocke costume is sexy, but it also makes you feel like a badass. Can you elaborate?

“It’s not so much that the costume is sexy, it’s that the character of Psylocke in all the comic books was drawn in a way that her costume is more revealing. But the thing that I always loved about Psylocke is that even though she was drawn a certain way, she always had substantive plotlines, so it didn’t really matter what she was wearing.

"She was always one of the most lethal characters in all of the X-Men universe, and she has what I’ve always thought to be the most coveted power. She’s telekinetic and telepathic. She has the ability to create anything with her mind and she can also read everyone’s mind. I’ve always loved that about the character. Her costume was given to her by somebody else — somebody else created that for her. So it’s not her choice and it didn’t matter to her, like it doesn’t matter how you see me or what I have to wear. What’s always mattered for Psylocke, I think, is how strong she is, how smart she is, how lethal she is...what she looked like had no bearing on how strong she was.”

What was it like working with man of the moment Oscar Isaac, who plays Apocalypse?

“Oh my gosh, Oscar. I’m so happy for him. With the Golden Globe, I was so excited. He’s the nicest and the best. He’s a real-deal actor, but was also so fun to hang out with when we were shooting. I brought a bunch of [board] games to Montreal [where the movie filmed], so we do game night. His family and his brother and his dad would come up and visit us in Montreal, and we’d all do game night. His girlfriend is so sweet.”

What’s your favorite board game?

"My favorite board game is Taboo, the game of unspeakable fun, but I’ve been playing this game called Aggravation with my boyfriend. It’s kind of like the game of Sorry, but a little bit different. I make [Aaron] play it with me all the time. He just beats me every time. That’s my new favorite, Aggravation, because he’s so good at it. Like one night, eight out of 10 times, he beat me.”

What goes through your head when you meet someone like Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, or Oscar Isaac?

“I’m one of those people that, whenever I meet somebody that I see all the time, I go, ‘Oh my gosh, hi!,’ and then I quickly realize that, wait, I know who you are, but we’ve never had this interaction before. So that happens to me quite often. Thankfully, most people are very nice and they don’t make you feel uncomfortable. But the first time I ever met Oprah, I was definitely starstruck.”

What does one talk about with Oprah?

“I don’t even know. I was with my boyfriend and he was much cooler. I was like, ‘Be cool, it’s Oprah!’ And he’s like, so cool and easygoing all the time, so they kind of talked. I just sat in the back and watched. Like, I just have to watch Oprah talk.”

You’ve transitioned from a “sexy geek” and host/correspondent to a full-time actress. Are you at all conscious of how the public’s perception of you has changed?

“You do the best with the opportunities that are given to you. Sometimes, that means you do get stuck in that image, in that world, in that box, and that’s something that you just have to go, ‘Okay, I hope I don’t.’ But you need the audience to allow you to get out of that. You have to go do it, but the audience has to respond to you.

"That’s what as actors, as artists, as entertainers, we do need the audience to want to see or hear you. I’m aware of maybe things that people have thought of, I guess, but what people think of me now, I don’t know. You only think back on it in retrospect. Anybody who cares too much or actively seeks out what other people think, they’re going to be living half a life, because you can never truly just be yourself.”

In the pressroom at the Golden Globes, Oscar Isaac also mentioned that it’s not just the audience, but also casting directors who have trouble seeing certain actors for some roles. Has this been your experience as well?

“100%. There was a time when I’d go out for stuff and they’d say, ‘You’re too Asian for this role.’ And then it’d be like, ‘You’re too white for this role.’ I remember somebody saying, ‘Well, maybe if you just keep working hard, one day, it won’t matter what your ethnicity is.’ White people get to play minorities all the time, but minorities can’t just play the character. It has to be like, ‘Oh, we’re looking for...’ or “We already have this minority.’ Almost like they’ve already kind of logged up, like they have two people [of color] already.

"The door doesn’t swing both ways. I think that if you treat the audience like they’re smart enough, you’ll see that people want smart movies. They want interesting films; they want diversity. The people who are more scared of it are the people who are making the decisions, not the people that are watching it.”

Is that why you’re getting involved behind the camera? How is the pilot you’re producing about a 1970s female sportscaster going?

“It’s my production company’s first show that we sold. I won’t be starring in it — we have to find the cast — but I’m really excited about that. I sold that show and I just sold a comedy. One of the first things I did when I got the production company with CBS Studios was go to back to my friends from G4, producers and writers who I know are so talented and creative, but just have never had that opportunity and that door open for them in that way. I know how genius and brilliant they are because they helped give me my entire career.

"For me, it’s going back to the people who I know are the same as [I was]. Jon Stewart’s the one who gave me an opportunity. I was on G4, but to make another transition, I didn’t know where that would come from, and Jon Stewart [came] out of nowhere. When those opportunities come, you’re so grateful. And so when I got this, I just knew I had to go back and open the door for them, and say, ‘Whatever you have, I 100% back you,’ because those people, they’re so smart.”

Between your behind-the-scenes projects, Ride Along 2, and X-Men, do you think your life is going to change drastically this year?

“No, it won’t. You never know until after the fact and you look back on it, but no. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

But your mom had to text you about false engagement rumors! That’s big time.

“My mom has always been in everybody’s business in our family. She’d text you right now if she knew your number and ask things about your life. She’s very invested in everyone’s lives.”
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