After seeing OLSKY and getting a chance to talk to writer and director Steph Greegor, I was excited to have a chance to ask a few questions to Aaron Massey, the film's main actor. An Ohio native, he has appeared in several films and TV shows, but had several challenges in taking on the role of Mike Olsky.
So the obvious first question - how intimidating was it to have to not only bulk up for the role, but also learn how to play hockey at the same time?
I didn't really see it as intimidation, but more so of a challenge. I like to face things head on, and simply put my head down and do whatever needs to be done to fulfill the task at hand, and in this case it was becoming Mike Olsky. We did not have the benefit of months and months of prep or training. I had to utilize the time I had which was just a few weeks to simply learn how to skate. I had never been on the ice before. I come from an athletic background having played college baseball, and football and basketball through high school so I was up for the challenge. But it was tough, as you can imagine. I have a whole new respect for hockey players. Fortunately I had a fantastic body double in Jeremy Browning. That guy can fly on the ice. The only problem was Jeremy was left handed, so I had to learn how to play 'backwards' since it would be easier for me to match Jeremy than vice versa. So not only did I have to learn how to skate, but I also needed to erase everything I had learned my entire life and flip it around the other way. Simply another challenge.
You had to carry a big part of the film where the audience gets to "live in your head" for several scenes. How challenging was that, especially when you didn't have anyone else to work off of?
I felt I always had someone to work off of, whether it was Ryan Smith who played Dr. Rosten, or myself. Even when Mike is in his own head there is a battle going on with the character and his past. So there is something to pull from by doing research and prep on the character's history before we start filming. Mike was never alone.
How did the character of Mike Olsky connect to you, personally?
I am an ex-athlete, and I have had situations in my own personal life in sports where I was facing tremendous adversity. Not necessarily in the same manner as Olsky, but there were definitely personal moments I could pull from my own experience. Beyond sports however, Mike is simply a man with a desire to renew himself, and become a better person, a better father, and a better husband. He is a human being with flaws like everyone else. So connecting to those desires and wants is how I approached Mike. He is a person first, and a hockey player second.
What was the experience of filming here in Columbus like?
This was my second film in Columbus since moving back to my home state last year. It is one of the reasons I wanted to come back after living in Los Angeles for 11 years. Bringing film and art into this community is essential and critical for the overall growth of the city. I truly believe that. Name one city that is expanding in this country that doesn't have great artists. I want to help grow that community here. I was thrilled when Steph Greegor approached me to audition for Olsky. I was even more thrilled when I got the opportunity to play Mike Olsky with a female director at the helm. Steph's knowledge of the hockey world was extremely beneficial to this film, and the community really embraced her and what her vision was for this project. The city of Columbus was very gracious with us, and having an opportunity to shoot at the Chiller rinks definitely helped our production value. The hockey scenes mean so much to this film. I love this place.
Since OLSKY was based off a larger project that Steph Greegor hopes to take forward in the future, would you like the opportunity to return to the role, and explore more of the character?
I would absolutely cherish that opportunity. I have read the full script for the feature and it is excellent. Steph has a great piece of work on her hands. This is a nice taste test for what can be done on a smaller scale, but I'd love to see the full course. It could really be a powerful film if given the chance.
Thanks again to Aaron and Steph for a chance to see OLSKY and for taking the time to answer our questions. You can learn more about the project at the film's official website.