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These days, it’s hard to pin down actress-singer-producer Olivia Holt, because, like a true multi-hyphenate, the 25-year-old Tennessee native is kind of everywhere. It’s no wonder; she got her start performing in gymnastics, cheer, and in theater — the perfect foundation for someone who can do a little bit of everything. Right now, you’ll find her on Hulu, which streams both Marvel’s story-driven Cloak & Dagger (in which she stars as a super-powered anti-hero) and Cruel Summer, Freeform’s highly addictive thriller series, in which she plays a teen who’s been abducted and experiences abuse.
“We really wanted to execute the subject matters in the show as real and as raw as possible,” Holt told ELLE in an interview when the show first aired in 2021. “As creatives, we were given this brilliant opportunity to help educate our viewers about the issues we discuss in the show, and it’s really great to see the reaction and impact we’ve made just by the narrative we showcased on television.”
On a lighter note, you also can hear her pop bangers on Spotify. And come April, you can even see her on Broadway in the musical Chicago. In fact, music has been a huge part of Holt’s career taking off these past few years. In 2021, she released her second EP, In My Feelings, which included the earworm bop “Next” (not to be confused with Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” of course). As far as dance songs go, it’s definitely one for the playlist: Come on, there’s a line in it that says, “shake your cake” — what else are you supposed to do?
Holt, who is dating “Tell Your Dog” musician Tony Ferrari, told Entertainment Tonight that “Next” marked a new era of music for her. She added that, in recent years, she’d spent some time “soul searching” (a rite of passage for 20-somethings). As a result, she said, her new music felt confident and grown up. “I was in such a special place in my life, where I felt like I was the best version of myself, the most confident I’d ever been in every category of my life, and this song, I felt like, screamed that to the fullest extent.”
All of these big entertainment-industry milestones are completely lost on her trusted bestie, Roger, a Shiba Inu / Terrier / Beagle mix who was rescued from the meat trade. He just loves hanging out with Holt. She adopted him in early 2020, just before the pandemic, at which time he quickly went from cute companion to quarantine buddy and supportive roommate. Today, he can be spotted pretty much wherever Holt goes. (Thankfully, the exposure hasn’t gone to his head: On sets, he’s far more concerned with getting some pets than becoming an influencer.)
The Wildest caught up with Holt to chat about Roger’s favorite actress (aside from his mom, of course), how she participates when he gets the zoomies…and why she almost never actually calls him “Roger.”
How did Roger come into your life?
Oh my gosh, where do I begin? I have always been an animal lover in general, but I grew up with dogs. I started living on my own and just really wanted a little creature in my house. I walked into this amazing rescue and saw Roger. He also did, like, one singular bark. Everyone was like, “Whoa, he is never vocal. That’s so weird that he did that.” We went on a walk around the block and had this immediate connection. They gave me the rundown on how he was rescued from the meat-market trade and had also broken his leg from a car hitting him. It just really shows you how resilient dogs are.
It’s so fascinating because you’re learning about each other, and then all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a pandemic.
I was at home with him for a few months. Because of quarantine, there was no socialization there. And I was in this really tricky mental space, because I was fully prepared to go and work on [Cruel Summer], then it got pushed. I think we were all feeling 100 different emotions during this time because we didn’t know what was happening. He just brought so much joy into my life. There were no answers. But he really did feel like the right answer.
What’s it like taking a dog on location to work?
We ended up shooting Cruel Summer in the fall after quarantine. And he came with me — we did a little road trip from LA to Dallas. He was on set with me every single day, in my trailer. There were days where I’d be sitting in my trailer with the door open, and he’d be leashed on the outside, so he could come in and out easily. And he’d just be, like, sitting on the ground outside my trailer. I would hear crew members walk by, and they’d be like, “Hey, Roger!” He loved it.
Did any of your co-stars become friends with him?
Sometimes, I would go into my trailer and other cast members would be in there playing with him. I have a whole folder on my phone, like, an album of him with probably everyone that he’s met. I’m his number one. But he really clicked with [actress] Harley Quinn Smith. She’s such an animal lover. She was just so amazing with him and showed him love every single day. All the PAs took really good care of him in the trailer. Whenever I was on set, they’d text me photos of him. Everyone fell in love with him. Sometimes, the PAs would walk him by [on set]. He would get so confused. He’d be like, “Wait, why is my mom over there, doing that?”
Cruel Summer is a heavy show! At the end of the day, was it hard for you to let go of that?
[Roger is] a huge part of my decompressing. I did this project last summer [the upcoming Totally Killer] with Amazon and Blumhouse, and it’s a slasher movie. So, it’s fun, but there was also, you know, some heavy scenes in there, where there’s a lot of screaming and running. There were so many days where I would come home and just sit in the hot shower because that takes a lot of energy out of you.
Roger is so in tune with whatever emotion I’m feeling. Sometimes, I would come back to my trailer with, like, fake blood all over me. He definitely would sniff a ton. I don’t think he registered that it was real. But he does do a lot of sniffing to make sure all is kosher in the world.
Do you rehearse lines with him?
I’ve never done that before. Well, since the pandemic, most of my auditions are over Zoom. So, he actually watches pretty much all my auditions. I have to kick him out of the room. Whenever there’s any sort of screaming involved or yelling, he’s like, “Whoa! What’s going on?”
Now, we know Cruel Summer is returning for a second season, but your character, Kate Wallis, is not. What’s next for you?
I know a lot of people wanted more of this storyline, but I personally loved the way that it ended, and it almost left doors open — but I loved it. I am going into some cool, exciting things this year. So, I put my producing hat on. I’ve optioned a book that I’m really into. I’m going into that world a bit, and that’s been fun and exciting just stepping my toes into waters I haven’t before.
I’m waiting for you to take him on the red carpet with you.
He is so photogenic, so handsome. I think he would crush it. But it would probably need to be when he’s tired. He’s a lot easier to be around when he’s just chill. When there’s a lot of commotion happening, he won’t be able to even sit.
Does Roger inspire you creatively?
He absolutely does. I’ve honestly discovered this new layer of myself since having him. He brings me so much joy when walking onto a set or into a studio. I just love the energy that he puts into a room. Roger has been in two music videos. One of mine, one of my boyfriend’s. He made a little cameo at the end of it. I’ll be excited to put him into another music video or maybe even into TV and film. I don’t think he’ll be, like, a real working actor. I think he’ll just want to make some cameos and stuff.
Do you ever sing to him?
You know something I realized recently about him? When I’m singing a certain note, he wants to sing along. He’ll start off barking and then kind of try to find the note. I mean, I sing around the house all the time, and he couldn’t care less. But there are certain times where he’ll chime in, and it’s so cool.
What else do you two like to do together?
A lot of people say dogs are like their owners. I genuinely believe that. All my friends and family say we have such similar vibes. Whenever I’m chill and ready to sit down and watch TV, he’s chill and ready to sit down and watch TV. Except for the rare occasions where he gets the zoomies. There’s some nights where I’m like, “Bro, just go to bed.” But most of the time it’s such a trip to watch…it’s so entertaining. Whenever he gets the zoomies during the day, I participate. We’ll run from one end of the house to the other and slide across the floor. He’s just so fun to be around.
He just seems like the happiest dog. He really does smile. I’m sure your family loves him, too.
My parents are obsessed with him. They don’t have any grandchildren yet. So they’re like, “Roger is our grandchild. He’s our granddog.” And sometimes, they’re more excited to come visit him than they are me.
Do they spoil him when they visit?
Oh, constantly. I’m like, “He has enough toys!” And my mom is like, “No, he needs more.” He destroys a lot of his toys. But he doesn’t destroy anything else in the house. He knows that it’s his toy, and he’s gonna tear it to shreds.
It sounds like your parents have a special relationship with him, but you’re his mom, and all dog parents seem to have about a dozen special names for their dogs. Do you have any nicknames for Roger?
I mean, it is so funny…I really rarely call him Roger. I think he has an identity crisis, because I also call him Chicken. And he answers to both: Roger and Chicken.
Where did “Chicken” come from?
I have no idea. You randomly start calling your dogs different things. One day, I was like, “You’re my little chicken.” And it just stuck. Everyone in my life calls him Chicken. His name is Chicken.
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Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.