“It” Star Wyatt Oleff Weighs In On “City On Fire”

Wyatt OlaffPhoto Credit: Leslie Alejandro

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro
Stylist: Jennifer Oleff
Grooming: Grace Phillips 

Wyatt Oleff has had an interesting career trajectory. He starred as a boy battling a killer clown not once but twice in the big screen adaptations of Stephen King’s “It,” (and “IT: Chapter Two”) as as a young Peter Quill’ in “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and “Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2.” His latest efforts include the Tribeca Film Festival release “The Year Between,” selected in the US Narrative Competition category, and AppleTV+’s”City on Fire” from “Gossip Girl” show runners Josh Schwartz and Stehpanie Savage. The show follows Charlie’(played by Oleff), whose friend Samantha (played by Chase Sui Wonders) is shot in Central Park on the fourth of July. Already grieving the death of his father from the 9/11 attacks two years earlier, Charlie stops at nothing to unravel the mystery of what happened to Samantha. As he digs deeper, the mystery reveals Samantha’s crucial connections between a series of mysterious citywide fires, the downtown punk music scene, and a wealthy uptown real estate family fraying under the strain of the many secrets they keep. Wyatt OlaffPhoto Credit: Leslie Alejandro

How did you get your start in acting? What was your first ever job?

I started acting when I was about seven, after continuously begging my mom to let me try it. My first ever job was a Coldwell Banker commercial when I was probably around 8 years old.

Any memorable audition stories that have stuck with you?

There have been plenty but my most memorable one was probably that time I went into an audition and I got so nervous that I messed up my lines 10 times before being able to get through the whole scene. My mouth was so dry that I couldn’t speak properly.

Can you tell us a bit about your role in City on Fire? Walk us through that metamorphosis that your character experiences.

I play Charlie, a lost soul who doesn’t know his place in the world after his father passed away. Through Sam, he’s able to feel like he belongs and finds solace in her. He starts out frail and timid but through the inciting incident of the show, he forces himself to grow and change to find out what happened to Sam.

Wyatt OlaffPhoto Credit: Leslie Alejandro

Did you experience any challenges in tackling this role?

Absolutely. As an actor, any good role should challenge you and push you to your limits. Those are the most satisfying roles to play. There were plenty of scenes where I had to take myself to a dark place and keep myself there the entire day. Honestly that entire summer filming the show I had to stay in a more somber space. When we finished filming the show, I felt this weight come off my shoulders.

Was there anything new you discovered about your own process while becoming this character?

Yes! I’m not going to try to explain it because if I do it’s gonna sound super pretentious but through Charlie I was able to change my process to more fittingly play him, and to express the depth of character that he has.

Is there a particular genre that you gravitate towards more as an actor?

No, not necessarily. I like good stories with creative and inspired people behind them. I like dramas a lot for the deep, emotional scenes. But also it’s always fun to do something with a more comedic tone to just have fun with it.

Wyatt OlaffPhoto Credit: Leslie Alejandro

In your experience, what has been the difference in preparing for a TV role as opposed to a film? Is there one process that you prefer over the other?

City on Fire was the first time I worked on a TV show that was actually structured like a TV show. I think it’s very different. On a movie you have 2-3 months and you’re going all over the place in the script, from the end, to the beginning, to the middle. On a show, you’re shooting the episodes in order, so you have time to evolve alongside your character and experience things as they’re happening, which helped a lot in my process. I don’t prefer one over the other, at least not yet, but I definitely enjoy both for what they bring to the table.

Over the course of your career, is there one character to whom you’ve related a lot? Or do you try to find pieces of yourself in every character that you play?

All the characters I’ve been cast to play I think are similar to me in some way. I felt like my journey last year as an actor and as a person mirrored that of Charlie’s a lot. I kind of grew alongside him. Sometimes I also try to take things from my characters as well, like Stanley Barber’s confidence and sense of style.

Were you afraid of clowns before “It”? If not, are you afraid of them after?

I was moderately afraid of them before but I’d say after I’m less scared. Exposure therapy.

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

All episodes of City on Fire are now streaming on Apple TV+! An independent I worked on called The Year Between came out on Peacock recently. And another independent I worked on should be coming to streaming sooner or later, and it’s called Stay Awake!

Wyatt OlaffPhoto Credit: Leslie Alejandro