Olivia Scott Welch on ‘Fear Street,’ ‘Panic,’ and Her Favorite Horror Films

Olivia Scott Welch always dreamed of being chased down the halls of a dark hospital by a masked killer out for blood. As a lover of horror movies and books ever since she was a kid, Welch hoped one day she’d get to live out her own scream queen fantasy. And with her upcoming projects including Amazon’s YA-adaptation Panic and the Netflix interconnected-horror trilogy Fear Street, Welch manifested what most people would consider a nightmare—but to her, it’s a dream come true.

Premiering on May 28, Panic might not seem like an overt horror series, but it’ll have your heart beating out of your chest nonetheless. Based on the Lauren Oliver book of the same name, the 10-episode teen drama takes place in the tiny Texas town of Carp, where a group of just-graduated seniors play a game that requires them to engage in boundary-pushing activities including jumping off cliffs and walking across a highway while blindfolded. The winner of this game takes home a life-changing cash prize. Welch plays Heather Nill, a reserved young woman who finds herself competing for the money in order to get herself out of her humble beginnings.

“It’s such a universal feeling: ‘I need to get out of here and change my life.’ You just have such cabin fever, being an adolescent,” Welch explains over a Zoom call. “You want to break through to that other side of officially being a young adult, when people give you the respect you feel like you’ve earned from your 18 years on this planet.”

Similar to her character in Panic, Welch grew up in a small suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth called Hurst (it was, she notes, larger than Carp). A self-described movie nerd, the performer started acting classes at 11, a much-needed creative outlet in the sports-dominated world of Texas. During high school, she’d fly out to Los Angeles for a gig here and there, including small roles on Marvel’s Agent Carter and Modern Family, but largely remained mum about her acting ambitions while on campus. During her junior year, Welch booked a pilot for Nickelodeon that required her to leave school for two months—only then did her peers realize she was a rising actor. She finished her senior year through a homeschool program and moved to Los Angeles soon after graduating to pursue her acting career.

“I wanted to keep it close to me and not have any outside voices telling me that I couldn’t or could,” Welch explains when asked about keeping a lower profile about her acting life at school. “It was just for me and my family and I wanted to keep it preserved and precious for as long as it could be, while I was learning about it and learning about myself in the business of acting.”

Welch’s parents and grandparents are all movie buffs—as a result, she grew up with hardly any restrictions on what she could watch and had a deep appreciation for the classics early on. Some of the films off the long list that sparked her love for the arts include Jaws, Tim Burton’s Batman, Big Fish, and Moulin Rouge.

“As a five-year-old, the best thing in the world was movies. I was like, ‘I wish the world looked like this,’” she says. “The genre-specific things I watched as a kid got me so excited because movies could be anything.”

Considering Welch’s enduring love for genre pieces, it makes perfect sense she would find herself starring in the Fear Street trilogy, which kicks off on July 2 with Fear Street Part 1: 1994. Adapted from the books written by horror royalty R.L. Stine, the first-look trailer for the movies promises all the fixings from the genre: ominous phone calls, witch curses, possessed killers, revenge, and more. Welch loves the suspense and aesthetic of classic horrors, but more specifically, she enjoys knowing as a viewer that everything in the film is fake. Getting a behind-the-scenes look at how the horror sausage is made was particularly exciting for the actress.

“I would watch A Nightmare on Elm Street or Scream and I would have this feeling of jealousy,” she says. “I wanted so desperately to know what it was to make one of those movies and then get to live in that world.”

Although the Fear Street movies are the first starring roles, Welch says they might already be her favorite projects ever. She credits, of course, getting to finally bring to life the genre she has been enamored with for so long, on top of her love for the cast, which she says grew close with one another during filming.

Welch can’t reveal too much about the movies yet, so when posed the question of how she would like to be killed off in a horror movie, she perks up. She remembers a scene from another iconic slasher: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, when Freddy Kruger grabs hopeful actress Jennifer and shoves her head into a TV mounted on a wall, leaving her body dangling. It’s also the scene in which Kruger says his famous line, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”

“I always remember being like, ‘This is an insane visual,’” she says. “But the Nightmare on Elm Street 3 deaths, I would do any of them. They’re all fantastic deaths.”

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