Amazon's high school drama flick Selah and the Spades premiered to rave reviews on April 17, but instead of celebrating the film at a Los Angeles screening, actress Celeste O'Connor spent the big day quarantined in her Charles Village apartment, where she cooked penne alla vodka from a care package sent by the film's distributor. In place of a launch event, O'Connor tweeted her way through dinner, joining the cast in sharing behind-the-scenes stories, and then hosted a 300-person Zoom Q&A with fans.
"We couldn't see each other and do the traditional premiere event activities, but it was fun to see who was posting their gift baskets and watching from home," says O'Connor, a rising senior pre-med student majoring in public health. The highlight of her night came when actress Gabrielle Union gave the film a shoutout on Instagram Stories, a week after she had retweeted the film's trailer with, "O-M-GGGGG!!! I need this NOW!!!"
O'Connor, a Baltimore native, is one of Hollywood's brightest young stars, with credits in three major films and plans to shoot another this summer. In Selah, she plays Paloma, the new girl at an elite prep school who becomes a protégée of the campus drug dealer. "At the time, I was a freshman at Hopkins, so I was in a similar boat in the way that I was trying to find my footing."
Though she'd worked on low-budget independent films, Selah marked her first major role. "I had to really sit down with the character and think about all of her emotions and her backstory and do a lot of work," she says.
After Selah premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, O'Connor won a role in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, alongside Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, and Bill Murray. All she could say about it: "My character befriends Finn's character when he moves to this small town, and then trouble ensues." Every stage of the film's production was top-secret. "It was secretive even for me at the beginning," she says. "When I first auditioned, I didn't even know it was Ghostbusters. It said 'Teen Girl Part in a Sony Untitled Movie.'"
Soon after wrapping Ghostbusters during a semester off last fall, she shot an as-yet-untitled thriller for Universal Studios. This summer, she plans to shoot another blockbuster, if it doesn't get postponed by COVID-19. But despite her busy schedule, she has no plans to drop out of Hopkins (or even the pre-med track). Instead, she hopes to use her public health education to become a force for good. "I'm really interested in the social determinants of health, like having access to fresh food, good housing, and education," she explains. "A large reason why I am so invested in acting now is because I think that it gives a person a bigger platform, and I want to be able to use that platform to work on public health issues on a larger scale."
On campus, you can probably find her in the C level tech room in Brody
Albums on heavy rotation: The Slow Rush by Tame Impala, 1000 gecs by 100 gecs, and Mirrorland by EarthGang
Right now, she's reading Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen
During quarantine, she's binge-watching Bong Joon Ho films and Money Heist on Netflix
She would love to work with Barry Jenkins, Boots Riley, or Ava DuVernay