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Pretending To Like Shakespeare In College Helped Kaitlin Olson On The Set Of Champions - Exclusive

The new comedy "Champions" follows Marcus (Woody Harrelson), a coach with a major attitude problem who gets kicked into court-ordered community service. He's assigned to coach the Friends, a team of disabled young basketball players with Special Olympics dreams. One of the team's key members is Johnny (Keven Iannucci), whose sister, Alex (Kaitlin Olson), comes to be in a relationship with Marcus. In addition to dealing with Marcus' eccentricities and being a great and devoted sister to Johnny, Alex is a traveling Shakespearian actor, helping both the team and Marcus be their best selves while growing in her own right.

In an exclusive interview, we spoke with star Kaitlin Olson about Alex's Shakespearean attributes and her own Shakespearean history. As it turns out, Olson's Shakespearean history involved a little of the kind of subterfuge that Billy Shakes himself would love. The actress reveals she took on the character of Someone Who Likes Shakespeare in college, and that background came in handy on the "Champions" set.

To fake liking the Bard or not to fake liking the Bard

"Champions" has a key scene where we see Alex performing Shakespeare on stage in full costume with Marcus in the audience. In our interview, Kaitlin Olson discussed her college experience at the University of Oregon. "I wanted to go to college before I moved to LA," she said, "I didn't care what college it was." As it turns out, the focus of their theater program "is Shakespeare, so the head of my department really only liked you if you were interested in Shakespeare."

Of course, the Bard is a foundational dramatist in the Western canon, and Shakespearean theater is the background of so many actors, directors, works of literature, and film that one could do worse. For Olson, there was one problem: "I personally was not interested in Shakespeare but had to pretend that I was so that [the department head] would like me." On this basis, she "did a lot of Shakespeare," and come the key Shakespeare scene in "Champions," the actress remembered thinking "that I was really glad that I had done so much Shakespeare in college."

The reason for the turnaround is that "in the script, there were only two or three lines of dialogue," but director Bobby Farrelly "came up and was like, 'Can you just keep going for a few more minutes?'" Comedy or not, you can't just riff on Shakespeare. "I was like, 'You don't "just keep going" in Shakespeare like I can "keep going" in a regular conversation, I don't know how to do that,'" Olsen said.

She had an hour to dig in and "memorize four or five more lines" to make the scene work. At the end, she pulled off a memorable scene, and in that moment, she was "very grateful to Randall Barton at the University of Oregon for my Shakespeare training."

"Champions" debuts in theaters March 10, 2023.