Daily Show correspondent and I Don’t Know How She Does It star Olivia Munn reflects on her remarkable road to success.It takes just seconds into a conversation with Olivia Munn to realize she’s not your typical celebrity. A simple question about how moving a lot as a child affected the half-Chinese, part-German, part-Irish actress leads to a series of surprisingly frank personal revelations.
“I had pretty bad social anxiety,” she confesses of her military-family upbringing and bullying from schoolmates for being different. “It made me more reclusive, but I learned how to pretend like I didn’t care. Eventually, I got to a place of complete and utter honesty. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve learned tact.”
Some might say it’s Munn’s relative lack of tact that has made her a fan-boy favorite ever since she became co-host of the G4 network’s Attack of the Show! in 2006. But it’s her sharp comedic timing that earned the attention of Jon Stewart, who hired her as a Daily Show correspondent without an audition right after she was cast on the NBC sitcom Perfect Couples. For Munn, those successes provided an amazing sense of personal validation.
“I was on my way to do my first field piece [for The Daily Show] and after that to do my first fitting for NBC,” she recalls. “I was sitting on the plane, and I put my sunglasses on and cried — out of happiness.”
Clearly, the 31-year-old is just getting started. Though Perfect Couples didn’t survive, Munn recently scored a role in More as This Story Develops, an HBO pilot penned by West Wing and The Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin. And this month, she appears with an all-star cast in I Don’t Know How She Does It, based on the best-selling book of the same title.
“Sarah Jessica Parker plays a woman who is really smart and hardworking but also has this family life,” says Munn, who plays Parker’s colleague. “The film is about finding a way to balance it all.”
When asked about her own professional goals, Munn keeps her cards close to her vest for the first time in our conversation. “I have a goal, but I’m still programmed not to say it out loud,” she admits. “I’ll just say that where I’m at is pretty awesome.”