See '90s Child Star Larisa Oleynik Now at 41
Catch up with the Alex Mack and 10 Things I Hate About You star.
For a few years in the 1990s, it felt like Larisa Oleynik was everywhere. Best known as the titular character on the Nickelodeon show The Secret World of Alex Mack, in which she played a teenage girl who acquires strange powers after a chemical incident, she also starred in the movies 10 Things I Hate About You and The Baby-Sitters Club and took on recurring roles in era TV staples like Boy Meets World and 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Since she was such a familiar presence in that decade, you may be surprised to learn that Oleynik has stayed nearly as busy in the years that followed. Keep reading to find out what The Secret World of Alex Mack star is up to now at age 41.
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She stepped away from acting to go to college.
Just as her career was peaking, Oleynik decided to take a break from acting and walked away from a deal for a fifth season and an Alex Mack feature film to focus on her education. The daughter of an anesthesiologist and a nurse, she graduated from New York's Sarah Lawrence College with a liberal arts degree in 2004.
"After four years of going to work everyday on that show, I was ready for another kind of challenge," Oleynik said in an interview with Footlights. "I wanted to know if I could do something else so I went to college to figure it out."
But she later returned to performing.
Fortunately for fans, Oleynik found that time away renewed her zest for acting. Since returning to the profession, she has played a number of roles in smaller films and TV series, including Mad Men and Pretty Little Liars. In 2020, she co-starred with That Thing You Do's Tom Everett Scott in the Netflix family series The Healing Powers of Dude.
Oleynik, who began her acting career on the stage in 1989 playing Cosette alongside a young Rider Strong's Gavroche in a production of Les Misérables, has also continued to act in theater productions, including the Off-Off-Broadway musical Who's Your Baghdaddy? and playwright and former This is Us supervising producer Bekah Brunstetter's plays Be A Good Little Widow and Miss Lily Gets Boned.
"I realized that acting suits me best. It seems crazy to think that you've found what you want to do with your life at age seven. But I think I did," Oleynik told Footlights of choosing her career.
She had a disturbing brush with a stalker.
In 2013, TMZ reported that Oleynik was granted a three-year restraining order against a man who had repeatedly called her mother and left unwanted gifts for the star. He also told her that he had changed his last name to hers.
While she has no kids, she says she's "in the mom zone."
Other than a public romance with 10 Things co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 1998 to 2002 and an Instagram-fueled report that she's married to Who's Your Baghdaddy? co-star Olli Haaskivi, Oleynik has kept her private life out of the headlines and has no children. However, while playing the mother of the socially anxious protagonist of The Healing Powers of Dude, the actor said she had nonetheless welcomed the chance to enter the "mom zone" of acting roles.
"Being in the mom zone is the best!" she told E! News. "That's…what I'm going out for right now, not exclusively, but that's just where I'm at. And it's actually a huge relief."
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She's not up for a Secret Life of Alex Mack revival.
While Oleynik made it out for the opening of a 2019 parody of 10 Things I Hate About You, she was less enthusiastic when asked about the possibility of bringing back Alex Mack.
"You know, I don't know that I'd want to tamper with it," she told MovieWeb. "I think as it is, it's pretty special, but…I would be curious to revisit the character to see where she's at in her life. [Series creator Tommy Lynch] and I have talked about it from time to time…but I don't know. Most of me is saying let's just leave it be. Everything is rosy-colored in hindsight, let's leave it be what it is. Let's think of it fondly."
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