Wareham actress stars in short film

Oct 26, 2020

At just 21, Naomi Oliver has a mind boggling resume: She graduated college at 19, enrolled in a master’s program at Harvard, had a recurring role in a Netflix original series, and starred in a short film.

Not to mention her gold medals for figure skating, her modeling work, and volunteer work at the National Marine Life Center. 

She took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her recent acting roles with Wareham Week.

In “Alone Together,” a short film debuting at the LA Shorts International Film Festival, Oliver plays a high school student who joins the boys wrestling team as a way to process sexual trauma and regain control.

Oliver said that the film’s director and writer, Katie Sponseller, wanted the film to start discussions and spread awareness about sexual coercion, which one in nine girls will experience by the time they turn 18.

“I did a lot of research to educate myself on what survivors feel, what survivors go through, what their experiences are,” Oliver said. “And even that process of talking with others and explaining it to my family created some very important dialogues in my personal life, which I think was kind of the point of the film. One of the reasons why Katie created this project was to create a platform to support those important discussions.”

The short film clocks in at just under 20 minutes, and, thanks to the pandemic, is available to watch on Youtube.

If it weren’t for the pandemic, Oliver said that the film would have been shown twice to a theater that could seat maybe 400 people. Online, its audience has already far outpaced what would have been possible in person.

“So many of our girls have this story, and maybe they don’t feel like they can talk about it, and so, having this project, hopefully, we wanted to give them the opportunity to have that dialogue, and bring awareness to what they go through,” Oliver said.

Instead of a red-carpet premiere, Oliver tuned in to the film’s Zoom debut with her family from their living room in Wareham. She said she was especially nervous about her brother’s reaction: He’s a wrestler, and she was worried he would spot inaccuracies in the film’s wrestling scenes. Luckily, she said, he said it looked like actual high school wrestling. 

“Alone Together” was Oliver’s second major project.

In 2018, Oliver had been dabbling in acting and modeling through a Boston agency, mostly as a way to earn some extra money, but planned to put that work mostly to the side while she pursued her master’s degree at Harvard.

She was busy moving into a Boston apartment and preparing to begin her studies when she got a call that flipped her plans upside down: She had been asked to audition for a Netflix show.

“How many times are you going to be able to audition for a Netflix show?” Oliver asked, before taking the audition. 

She got called back, and was cast in a recurring role in “The Society” — a dystopian show that Oliver called “very angsty, very gritty, very very fun.” The show follows a group of high schoolers who return from a field trip to find their New England hometown (dubbed West Ham, in a funny coincidence) totally deserted and surrounded by a quickly encroaching forest. 

Oliver was homeschooled, and said that playing a traditional high school student in both “The Society” and  “Alone Together” gave her a better understanding of what that experience was like.

“Especially the prom scene… That was such a blessing that I was able to experience some form of prom through that episode. The costume designer was amazing, and she let my mom sit in while I was picking out a dress for the prom,” Oliver said. “Instead of prom being one night, we were shooting that scene for two days.”

Oliver filmed the show while taking classes at Harvard online — writing papers in between scenes and pulling a few all-nighters during finals. 

Unfortunately, Netflix cancelled the series’ second season, citing the pandemic.

“It was definitely a shock, but at the end of the day, if the only thing I lost from this pandemic was work opportunities, I’m one of the lucky ones,” Oliver said.

Now, Oliver is continuing her studies at home. She is working on a master’s degree in international relations, with a certificate in social justice.

She said she hopes to continue acting in projects that have “real humanity” to them, but in the meantime, she’ll be studying and taking some well-earned time to relax.

To watch “Alone Together,” click here.