Things have a way of happening quickly for Odeya Rush. The 20-year-old, Israeli-born actor booked her first professional television job a mere four years after moving to the states with her family at the age of nine—a move that also prompted her to learn English. Flash-forward to today, and the raven-haired stunner appears in four feature films that released in 2017 alone—including the critically acclaimed Lady Bird, which currently has the all-time highest-ever rating on Rotten Tomatoes—with another three films already shot and set to release next year. With a poise and talent beyond her years, she’s been named to more ones-to-watch and next-big-thing lists than we have room to mention here. We recently caught up with Rush to talk about her recent roles, what’s up next for her, and why you might see her sporting pearl earrings with basketball shorts. Read on to get to know our December Influencer, then head to Barneys to shop her picks of the season’s must-have items.
The Window: You were scouted as a model when you were much younger. What led to the transition from that into acting?
Odeya Rush: Modeling wasn’t something I’d looked to do, but it was something that I could do during summers while I was still in school—it was easy and fun. My modeling agency had a connection with an acting agency, and sent me to read a few commercial auditions for them. Growing up, I always loved performing, writing, directing, and all of it. I used to write plays and make my brothers perform in them, until they got to be too old and didn’t want to play girls’ parts anymore! The agency’s response was that I didn’t have an American accent, I worked on that, came back after a few months, and they started sending me out on real auditions. The first thing I booked was Curb Your Enthusiasm—all of it happened really fast.
It certainly seems fast—from that first acting job to now, where you have four movies out just this year alone.
It’s crazy—they all came out at the same time. In this business, you can go through months of nothing happening, going on auditions, hungry for a job. Then, when it rains, it pours. Earlier this year, I was literally thinking, ‘Well, I might never work again. Who knows?’ With indie movies, you make them, and some of them, you never see again. I don’t know how, but all of these projects came out and are doing well.
“Doing well” might be an understatement! Lady Bird in particular has even been getting Oscar buzz—can you tell us a bit about your character in the film?
I play Jenna, who is so different from who I am in real life. She’s grown up very wealthy and has a lot of confidence, along with a very simple mindset. She grew up always getting what she wants, so she doesn’t really have a go-getter mentality. But it’s an empty life, not striving for anything. She’s still in high school, though, so you can’t judge her too much for it. It’s the way she grew up.
Lady Bird was Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. Is there anything you can share about the experience of working with her?
It was amazing. She was so prepared and the set ran so smoothly—I can’t think of a single day that wasn’t perfect. She would play music between set-ups, to get everybody in a similar mood. If there was as an intense scene, she’d play Eminem or something to get you motivated. It was a lot of hard work, but the music kept the energy up and kept things really fun. I don’t want to say that the movie is light, because there are a lot of heavy scenes, but she gave the actors freedom and made us feel so comfortable.
You mentioned your directing ambitions and recently wrote and directed your first short film. Were there any tips you picked up from Greta?
Something that I took away was to make sure the crew feels good and that you’re really prepared, so that you don’t have to stress out on anyone. It’s going to be stressful no matter what, but she always kept her cool. That’s what made everyone want to do their best work and resulted in such a phenomenal final product.
You said that there are times you shoot a film then never see it. Other than Lady Bird, are there other upcoming projects you’re looking forward to seeing?
I’m really excited for a film I shot with Michael Caine and Katie Holmes called Dear Dictator, which comes out next year. It’s a comedy, and the movie itself is just ballsy. I just went to the Napa Film Festival, and people seemed to really love it because it’s fresh and daring. That’s the kind of comedy I love, where you think, “Whoa, they just went there.”
Is that the type of film you want to direct someday?
I do naturally gravitate toward comedy, but my favorite movies are ones like Lady Bird or anything that Wes Anderson or Alexander Payne has directed, where it’s a mixed genre, like a dramedy. That’s what real life is. That makes it really fun to write and film.
As busy as you are, what do you like to do if you have a moment to unwind?
I like to meditate every day if I can. Also, I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the drums, and since I just got my own place for the first time, I got a new electric drum set. I really love drumming because I’m not getting paid for it; no one’s testing me on it. It’s something where it’s OK if I’m terrible. That in itself is meditative.
You grew up with six brothers—did that affect your sense of style? Did you borrow their clothes, or go in the opposite direction and veer super girly?
I love boyish things, but am a mix of that and the fact that my mom has a really classic style. I went through a phase of not caring about fashion at all, but now that I’ve become more independent, I love trying different things. I live in an area of L.A. that’s a little more artsy, and I can go to the flea market and see people wearing things I like. But when I go back home, my brothers do tease me. I like to wear men’s shoes and big jackets, so they make fun of me. Now that I’ve moved out and live on my own, it’s a lot easier to dress the way I want to dress.
And how do you want to dress? How would you describe your style?
It fluctuates a lot. I’ll go through phases of loving one thing, then doing it so hardcore, that I can can’t do it any more. I love a sporty style, like a tracksuit with vintage adidas. I love sneakers—I have so many vintage sneakers. I love feeling like a basketball player with a chunky sneaker and basketball shorts. At the same time, I love feeling like a classy lady. Very pretty lace or dresses with high necklines, big pearl earrings, loafers—my style is a mix of all of that.
Within that eclecticism, are there any hard fashion rules you live by?
Confidence is everything. If you think you look good in something, everyone else will too. It’s all internal. If you naturally gravitate toward something but worry that people will judge you or make fun of you, I promise you that if you stick to that original voice, the one that says that this is what you feel beautiful and confident in, you’ll be good.
What are you looking forward to wearing as the weather gets colder?
I love winter style and layering. I’m into really oversized sweaters or big men’s shirts worn like a dress. I layer them with patterned tights and Doc Martens or boots.
In that same wintery vein, are there any holiday traditions you’re looking forward to?
I’m Jewish, but I love Christmas! I love the decorations, the songs, the sweaters, the lights—it’s so festive! I’ll be spending Christmas with some friends who also aren’t from L.A. and am looking forward to all of us getting together to decorate my friends’ apartment.