10 Fast Facts About Olivia Cooke From House Of The Dragon

"House of the Dragon" has definitely put Olivia Cooke in front of a massive audience, but the actor has been around for quite a few years. You might recognize her from "Bates Motel," "Ouija," and "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." Born in Manchester, Cooke's life wasn't designed for her to be an actor, but her desire to follow this dream took her very far. "Do I come from a family of actors? No, I don't," she told Interview Magazine. "My dad's an ex-policeman and my mum is a sales representative and they haven't got the acting bug. Bless them."

Despite leading a successful career, she shared in an interview with The Guardian that her parents — particularly her mother — weren't very supportive of her dreams. As they watched her grow as a performer, they came to enjoy her work and even cracked a few jokes about her co-stars and her dating life. "Just anyone who came up on the TV that she found remotely attractive: 'What about 'im?'"

With or without support, Cooke made it, and her career took off. Now everyone is wondering who she is, where she comes from, and what's so special about her. Here are a few facts you should know about Olivia Cooke.

She started acting when she was 8

When you see a young actor land so many successful roles, you wonder where they started and how they prepared for such a wonderful career. In Olivia Cooke's case, it started when she was 8 years old. She began as a theater actor, not knowing that one day, it would lead to TV and the big screen.

"I started acting when I was eight — just doing amateur theater at a place called Oldham Theatre Workshop in my hometown," she told Interview Magazine. "Every single year I was in the ensemble, and it was the best time ever, but every year when they'd call out who'd been cast as the lead, I was so disappointed." As fans have witnessed her career grow, it might be hard to believe she was always in the ensemble cast. But even then, she was able to shine through and catch the eye of many.

After a few years, Olivia Cooke finally got a lead in the Oldham Theater Workshop when she was 17 years old. The show? "Prom: The Musical," which apparently was a remake of "Cinderella." But that wouldn't be the last time Cooke would be in the lead.

Olivia Cooke dropped out of school before her A-levels

It's a known fact that most young actors are homeschooled or take classes between scenes. But Olivia Cooke seems to have broken the mold. Just like Independent described it, her rise to fame was unlike your typical young actor story. She didn't have parents who pushed her to perform or dragged her to auditions. On the contrary, she was the kid who dropped out of school right before her A-levels to chase her big break.

If this fact surprises you, trust you're not the only one. "My mum was a bit worried ... but I knew what I wanted, even then," she told The Guardian. But who can blame her? She got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jumpstart her career by being on TV.

Her background in theater definitely helped. However, it probably helped even more to have an agent. Like her profile on Oldham Theater Workshop states, she secured an agent as a young teen, which put her on the path to appearing in commercials.

Her first professional role

"Blackout" follows the story of a councilman who ends up as front-runner to become mayor of Manchester. The show aired on BBC for one season, and it was Olivia Cooke's first professional role. She played the daughter of Christopher Eccleston.

She portrayed Meg Demoys for three episodes and never expected it to change her life the way it did. In the same year, she played Nancy Linnet — also for three episodes — on the mini series "The Secret of Crickley Hall." Every year since 2012 (when her career took off), Cooke has been part of different projects.

In 2018, Cooke shared with Radio Times, "My trajectory has been a quick one. It has been an adrenaline rush for the past six years." If her start in the acting world wasn't conventional, neither was the rest of her career. She became different characters and gave the best of herself to all of them — none like the other.

The actor got a piggyback ride from Harry Styles

Thousands of teenage girls around the world are obsessed with Harry Styles and would give anything to be able to say, "Harry Styles gave me a piggyback ride." But the truth is not many will get to say it. Olivia Cooke is the exception to the norm as she was carried around a set on Harry Styles' back.

The now broken-up boy band One Direction filmed their video "Autumn Term" in 2012, and, soon after landing her first professional role, Olivia Cooke was a part of it. In the video, you can see the band and several girls around a college campus with the idea to transmit different energies: going up to college, making new friends, seeing girls and boys, listening to music, hanging around, snogging in the corridor, laughing, and watching leaves falling in the park.

Years later when asked by MTV about this experience and how excited she had been, she said, "They'd only released their first song, 'That's What Makes You Beautiful,' and I didn't really like it ... I didn't care," she joked. "I was super cool walking into it." Apparently, for her the experience was marked by a bellyache and the need to go home to use her own bathroom.

She was rejected by Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Although she had dropped out of school, Olivia Cooke hadn't wanted her academic career to end there. "I didn't enjoy academia at all. So I thought, 'Might as well give it a crack.' And then I got really serious about going to drama school, having the three years of training, and then that didn't happen, and this took over, thank god," she told i-D in an interview.

Cooke wanted to try her luck at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), but after auditioning in 2014, she didn't make the cut. However, she points out in the aforementioned interview, "If I had gotten in that year, I'd still be there now, and I wouldn't have done any of the work that I have."

Lucky for her and for everyone who admires her work, she didn't get in. As sad as she may have felt at the moment, soon she received better news. NME reported, later that year she was cast in the movie "The Quiet Ones," an indie movie that made over $17 million worldwide.

Olivia Cooke's first American role was in Bates Motel

"Bates Motel" is one of the best dramas on TV, managing to captivate audiences as a prequel to the "Psycho." The show was a hit; Rotten Tomatoes' tomatometer sits at 93%, making it a nearly perfect series. Among the stars were Olivia Cooke, who found working with Vera Farmiga one of the highlights of her career. In an interview with The Guardian, she remarked, "She had the role in her bones." Farmiga wasn't the only one; Cooke surprised the fans with an amazing performance on her first show in America.

However, this experience was full of firsts for the actor. For the filming of the series, she had to move to Vancouver, away from her family, friends, country, and everything she knew. "It was a big old lovely cocktail: being homesick and not knowing it, having not stopped since I was 18, being on my own for large swathes of time," she told The Hollywood Reporter. Sadly, Cooke had what she called a "full mental breakdown," but she kept it a secret from everyone around her.

On a more positive note, the star acknowledges her career definitely benefited from taking that plane across the world. "I'm only guessing, and with the benefit of hindsight, but I wonder, if I'd stayed here as a working class northern actress, whether I would have had this career path. In America, my accent's not a thing, I'm just British," she said, per Radio Times.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

She was part of Ouija, a box office success

Whether it was "Bates Motel" that catapulted her into the horror genre or not, Olivia Cooke's next success was "Ouija." In an interview with Collider, the actor mentioned one of the things that attracted her to the project was the lack of any existing movies dedicated solely to the Ouija board. "I like to play as strong a character as possible, so it really spoke to me," she said about her role. "She's a little more serious and she's got a lot more to deal with than I do, but I've got a 15-year-old sister, as well, so I definitely feel that sisterly tough love, and that maternal and protective instinct."

The strength of her character is something Cooke prides herself on, as she recalled on Today. Taking a look at her filmography, that is true and it repeats itself on "House of the Dragon." But she also enjoys portraying characters who are unlike her and bring out different sides of her. In the Collider interview, she pointed this out about her character in "Bates Motel," saying, "She's the most positive character that I've ever played. I'm just not like that. I'm very English and very real and very realistic and pessimistic, almost all the time."

After horror, she took on the challenge of comedy in "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." Although people may not think so, Cooke recalls how funny the movie actually is.

Olivia Cooke shaved her head for a role

In "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," Cooke played the role of the dying girl, and she decided to shave her head in order to bring the character to life. Her director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, told The Argus, "She really led that charge ... It was fascinating to see what shaving her head and then shooting a scene the next day did. She was in the zone. She became Rachel."

As fascinating as it may have been to see it happening, there was a part of Cooke that struggled with her own decision. Yes, it was the right thing to do for the movie, but it would inevitably have emotional repercussions for the star. "I let out this little weird scream because I'd clogged it up so much, and then the tears just flowed. It was so unexpected because I had just been laughing, two minutes before. It was just electric," she told Collider. "It was the most amazing experience, but I don't want to repeat it."

"We all sort of did it in character, in costume. We were improvising ... just took turns shaving different little sections," her co-star Thomas Mann said on "Popcorn with Peter Travers." That shows how important this moment was not only for Cooke but also for the rest of the cast and the movie itself. 

She learned to play the guitar for another role

Moving across the world and shaving her head prove how invested and dedicated Olivia Cooke is to her career. She jumps headfirst into every role and does whatever it takes to make sure her portrayal is accurate and the audience can connect with it. "I feel like I'm always trying to escape the last thing I've done, and go for its antithesis. I get bored quite easily, and bored of myself ... It's just me trying to learn and be curious, but also pique my interest as much as anyone else's," she told The Guardian.

According to Vanity Fair, it took Cooke six weeks to learn to play the guitar for her role in "Sound of Metal." When it came to performing, the actor said, "I think we all in the shower imagine that we're performing to 3,000 people, rocking out with a guitar onstage. But the reality of doing that is so much more traumatic."

Cooke wasn't the only one who had to learn something new for the movie. "With the American Sign Language, he [the director] thought it's right, and so did I, that I should be fluent and able to improvise with all our Deaf actors," her co-star Riz Ahmed said on "Live Kelly and Ryan." "We went on this seven-month process of learning the drums everyday and learning American Sign Language everyday."

Her unique House of the Dragon audition

If you think everyone in the world has seen "Game of Thrones," think again, because Olivia Cooke hasn't. Earlier this year, she told The Guardian, "I resist things that are popular, but to my own detriment, because it's really f***ing good." As much as she resisted, she ended up being part of the franchise's other successful show: "House of the Dragon."

After living abroad for many years due to her line of work, Cooke returned home after a breakup. This feels like the most common thing the actor could have done — who doesn't seek the refuge of home in times of need? In the same conversation with The Guardian, she said, "What was really healing was moving back to London." And in this time of healing, she decided to self-tape her audition for "House of The Dragon."

"The pros of doing self-tapes is that you can have as many goes as you want. The cons are that you can get too bogged down in your own neuroses. You're trying to give yourself notes and focusing on something that no one else is going to see," she told Interview Magazine. It seems like the pros were definitely in her advantage as she ended up getting the role.