Despite arriving in cinemas nearly 20 years ago, Love Actually remains one of the biggest Christmas films (both in popularity and box office numbers) to date.


From Hugh Grant's No. 10 dance number that he secretly hated filming to Emma Thompson wiping away tears over Alan Rickman's infidelity to the stirring sound of Joni Mitchell, it was the Richard Curtis comedy's star-studded cast that initially drew in audiences and the same big names have kept them talking for two decades.

However, as much as Love Actually is all about Keira "I Look Quite Pretty" Knightley, turtleneck king Colin Firth and a consistently semi-naked Billy Nighy, a lot of it actually revolves around children. Whether they're the crustaceans in the school nativity, singing in the concert crashed by the prime minister, or Liam Neeson's stepson who learns the drums to impress his American crush, the Christmas flick features a number of young actors.

Three of Love Actually's child stars sat down with to chat about the BAFTA-winning festive film 20 years on.

"When people find out that I was in [Love Actually], the first thing they say is, 'Are you the octopus?' and I go, 'No.' And then they say, 'Are you the lobster?' And I go, 'No,'" says Will Wadham, who played Bernie – the son of Harry (Rickman) and Karen (Thompson).

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"They just can't quite work out what my part was and then at that stage, I have to explain, 'Well, a lot of it was deleted – but you can see me for a split second under the Christmas tree, or dressed as an angel, I think.'"

While the role of Harry and Karen's youngest son Bernie is fairly minor in the film, Wadham, who is now 31-years-old and pursuing a career in film composition, was originally meant to be the focus of a wider narrative linked to his parents' strained relationship.

"I had to be a grumpy teenager which is basically what I was – I guess I didn't struggle too much with that," he says. "There was a whole character to Bernie. He has this moment with his mum where he's written these stupid essays about seeing people's farts because I think he's trying to get the attention of his parents.

"He gets in trouble with the headmistress at the school and [Thompson's character] is summoned to the office and sits with him and there's the scene where they read out his essay and instead of scolding him afterwards she says, 'I think it's absolutely brilliant.'"

Although the scenes were left on the cutting room floor ("I can completely see why"), Curtis did send Wadham a letter to say sorry. "They were just incredibly apologetic and sweet. They didn't have to do that."

Wadham landed the part of Bernie after the casting director for P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan visited his school. While he was originally cast as one of the Lost Boys, he was unable to travel to Australia, where the shooting for the film would take place. "I was 11 and doing my common entrance exams and obviously, I was desperate to go but my parents were having none of it. But then the casting director sweetly said, 'Well, there's a final call for a Richard Curtis film and they're looking for the part of Bernie. Do you want to go up for that instead?' I did an audition with Richard and he gave me the job."

William Wadham, aged 31, who played Bernie in Love Actually.
William Wadham, aged 31, who played Bernie in Love Actually. William Wadham

It was a similar process for Olivia Olson, who played Joanna – the American girl in a crochet beanie who gives Mariah Carey a run for her money towards the end of the film. "Love Actually actually was the first role I ever went out for," she tells "I had just signed with my first agent and this was my first big audition. You hardly ever get lucky like that! My parents weren't sure about the whole showbiz thing, so landing a movie on my first try definitely changed their minds."

The audition process went on for several months for Olson, who is now a successful voice actor at 30 years old with roles on Adventure Time and Phineas and Ferb. She decided to sing Alicia Keys' 'Fallen' at the audition; unfortunately, so did the three other girls in front of her. "You could hear the other girls singing through the wall [at the open casting] and the three girls in front of me all sang the same song!" The final five girls in the running were flown out to New York, where they read for Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy, however, Olson's mum received the good news as they boarded the plane back to LA. "She had to keep quiet as some of the other girls were sitting next to us on the flight. She told me I landed the role in baggage claim. I like to think that's a sweet parallel to the movie plot."

While the climactic musical scene, in which Joanna performs, 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' at a school concert, took two days to shoot, filming in London was "like a dream".

"Most of my memories from around that age all circle around Love Actually. First time out of the country, first time on a set, in a recording studio, etc," she says. "We recorded the song at Abbey Road Studios, which my Dad was flipping out over."

Olivia Olson during Love Actually New York Premiere in 2003.
Olivia Olson during Love Actually New York Premiere in 2003. Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage

The actor even recorded an extra song for the film, a rendition of The Pointer Sisters' Jump, but it didn't feature in the end. "I think they weren't sure if they'd get clearance of Jump – the infamous Hugh dancing scene – so there's a version I recorded floating somewhere out there in the ether."

While her experience on Love Actually was overall positive, Olson remembers a few "awkward" moments as well, particularly the scene in which the adorably precocious Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) catches up with Joanna at Heathrow Airport. "What sticks out is having Billy Mack's guitar strip tease scene blasted across 10 screens in the background while I'm anxiously anticipating my first kiss."

As for one of the youngest actors in the film, there's not a huge amount 26-year-old Tiffany Boisselle can remember from filming her scene as the little girl in a feather boa on Harris Street. Although she can recall meeting her scene partner Hugh Grant – and having no clue how famous he was.

"My nan always says obviously I had no idea who Hugh Grant was, it just completely went over me. All the adults when we filmed the scene with Hugh Grant were starstruck, like, 'Oh, wow – there he is!' And all of us kids were like, 'It's just a normal person.'"

Boisselle, who is still a performer and recently worked as a singer on a cruise ship, auditioned for Love Actually when she was six and while she played an unnamed character, fans will remember her as one-third of the tiny tot trio who convince Grant to sing on their doorstep.

"We had to come back another day to record the sound in a studio and I remember I was wearing a really trendy outfit that day because you had to look amazing," she says. "We all got to watch a little preview of our scene, which is really cool, but obviously in the scene straight after, Martine McCutcheon says a swear. They had to warn our parents and be like, 'She's going to swear after this scene – are you all ok with that?'"

Tiffany Boiselle (left) on the Love Actually set with Hugh Grant.
Tiffany Boiselle (left) on the Love Actually set with Hugh Grant. Tiffany Boiselle

Although many of Wadham's scenes were cut, he filmed a lot with his on-screen parents, Thompson and Rickman, and "couldn't have asked to spend time with nicer, warmer, more lovely people". Unsurprisingly, Thompson was "really sweet" on set – "it was so nice to have someone effectively hold my hand through it" – although, she wasn't the biggest fan of his mum's cooking.

"We were sat in the corridor outside the headmaster's office that we'd done the scene in and she started asking me about myself, what life was like at home.

"I told her, 'My mum's quite a good cook,' and she asked, 'What's your favourite thing that she cooks for you.' I proceeded to describe this vegetarian lasagne that's made with grated carrot rather than mince. She said, 'That sounds rather disgusting.'"

Outside of filming, Wadham would join Brodie-Sangster in Liam Neeson's trailer ("he was very kind of father-like and fun") to play cards – something the two child actors remembered when reuniting in South London three years ago.

"By the most incredible coincidence, just after I moved (to Camberwell), I was leaving my front door and suddenly saw Tom Brodie-Sangster. He was in the middle of my road. Eventually, I realised he lived two doors down."

Thomas Brodie-Sanger and Olivia Olson as Sam and Joanna in Love Actually.
Thomas Brodie-Sanger and Olivia Olson as Sam and Joanna in Love Actually. Universal Pictures

While the composer didn't initially say anything to Brodie-Sangster, who went on to star in The Queen's Gambit and The Maze Runner, he did eventually get in touch. "I said, 'You probably don't remember me but how are you? Do you remember all those years ago?' And he said, 'Oh my God, I do because there was one stage where we became friends on set.'"

Wadham wasn't the only Love Actually star to catch up with Brodie-Sangster, with Olson co-starring with the 32-year-old on the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb. "It was such a weird coincidence to both be cast on P&F. We only ever got a chance to speak over the studio intercom about it, seeing as he recorded in London and I in Los Angeles.

"The writers had their fun with that parallel and I think it's really sweet that in the end, Sam/Ferb got the girl!"

On 16th November 2003, Martine McCutcheon, Colin Firth, Laura Linney and a host of the film's stars descended on the red carpet at The Odeon Leicester Square and while Wadham got to attend, Boisselle missed out.

"My family went but I couldn't because I was too young to watch it," she says. "I never got to go and see the premiere but my family went and apparently when it came on my scene and I said my line, everyone was like, 'Aww' in the theatre so that's cute."

Unfortunately, as the credits rolled, they realised that the six-year-old was listed as 'Tiffany Boysell' instead of 'Tiffany Boiselle' in the credits. "I don't know if you noticed this but they actually spelt my surname wrong in the movie, which is so bizarre."

Tiffany Boiselle in 2022 working for Live Business.
Tiffany Boiselle in 2022 working for Live Business. Live Business

Meanwhile, Wadham showed up on the red carpet in a leather jacket borrowed from his mum's godson. "I got out of the car and I suddenly heard people screaming, 'Will!' and I thought, 'What on Earth? Who knows who I am?' I didn't even have a signature at the time. I just sort of went over and scribbled on some paper, I can't even remember."

As for life afterwards, the young actor was surprised to learn that he'd picked up some international fans. "I got a letter from a boy in Japan at one stage. It's so crazy how high-profile these things are and how widely shown they are. It's very hard to get used to and I just had a very little taste of it really."

Returning to school was "strange and surreal" for Olson, who attended the film's New York premiere. "I suddenly had a lot of attention on me I wasn't prepared for. Mostly positive, like in my career, but definitely some negative from classmates making me an easy target for a laugh."

Despite the major role, she's rarely recognised for playing Joanna – a.k.a 'the coolest girl in school and everyone worships her because she's heaven' – however the experience gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

"My power has always been my voice so falling into voice-over and being a part of iconic cartoons where I get to use not only my singing voice but written as well has been extremely rewarding," she says. "I'm still releasing my own music and am developing an original animated series I can't wait to share more about soon!"

Olivia Olson in 2019.
Olivia Olson pictured at an ITV event in 2019. Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage

However, for Boiselle – who'd previously filmed 2002's Crime and Punishment in Russia and went to Jackie Palmer stage school – her classmates weren't too bothered about the festive rom-com. "I think it was just like a cool little fact. All my classmates were just used to me leaving school and doing shows and then coming back a week later because I was always out of school auditioning," she adds. "I think the teachers were probably more impressed than my classmates, to be honest."

After Love Actually, the Oxfordshire-based performer continued down the entertainment route and went on to study musical theatre. "I've going to film a short film in January 2023, which I know is going to be pitched to BBC and ITV and all of that, so that's cool. I think [Love Actually] just sort of pushed me in the direction that I'm in now."

The only person not to pursue acting was Wadham, who says his heart ultimately wasn't in it. "I had a few auditions, none of which I got and I felt that the writing was on the wall there. I think one of the roles I went up for was Master and Commander. There's the blonde kid who has his arm blown up."

The 31-year-old is now studying a Master's Degree in Electronic and Computer Music at Guildhall and wants to be a film composer. "I've written for documentary and short film and a lot of advertising but my attachment to film is still strong in the sense that I want to write for film."

With Wadham finishing off his Master's portfolio and his album, Fragments of Memory, has he thought about offering to score Curtis's next film? "Sure, I mean why not? I hadn't even thought of that, stupidly."

As for Olson and Boiselle, they'd both be up for returning to the world of Love Actually for a long-awaited sequel (if you don't count the one-off Red Nose Day special) – however, Olson has one request. "Richard if you’re reading this. NO MORE SILLY HATS!"

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