Actress and singer-songwriter Allison Strong gets real about family, wanting a Latino superhero and her brand new film
What started as a standard appointment for an audition translated into 'The Week Of'. This life-changing call happened when she was in the ladies room, out of all places.
Singer, songwriter, poet, actress and almost a pastry chef, 27-year-old Allison Strong is doing things we all wish we could at some point. For starters, she's starring alongside Chris Rock and Adam Sandler in 'The Week Of', Netflix's fresh off-the-oven release.
The 'Jersey girl with a sweet tooth' as she describes herself is playing Sandler's daughter Sarah in the comedy. The film centers around a big fat wedding and the shenanigans that go down as the big day gets closer. Sandler plays a humble Long Island father named Kenny, as he tries to pay for the wedding of his oldest daughter, Sarah. All is good until he decides to pay for the entire wedding himself without asking Kirby, the groom's fathers help. The hilarious Chris Rock plays Kirby, the richer patriarch who is in the middle of it all.
This is Allison's biggest silver screen role so far and she's super excited about the film. What started as a standard appointment for an audition translated into 'The Week Of'. This life-changing call happened when she was in the ladies room, out of all places - speak of comic timing on point! "I was on a bathroom break from a show I was workshopping in the city. I went straight into rehearsal with my co-stars Roland Buck III, Katie Hartman, Robert Smigel (the director) and our producer Allen Covert the afternoon that workshop ended. Everyone was so warm, welcoming, and the whole thing felt surreal."
The experience of filming was just as awesome, she says. "We were shooting pretty late one night and Adam started belting out 'A Boy Like That' from West Side Story. I kept on getting the words wrong and he kept teasing me for it! We also sang some Everly Brothers on set. Every time I’d try to harmonize with him on 'Let It Be Me,' he'd lose his note and try to join me on mine. It was very sweet."
In fact, Adam and Allison actually go all the way back. She's a Broadway star, who's been a part of big productions like 'Mamma Mia' and 'Bye Bye Birdie' - something that Adam is also very fond of. "I started my career on Broadway and Adam loves musical theatre too, clearly.
Chris Rock, on the other hand, she says was quite unexpected for her. "I was especially starstruck by Chris because we’re both from NJ and a couple of years ago, I was behind him in the popcorn line at the movie theatre. When he walked away, I kept kicking myself for not having the guts to ask for a picture. When I met him this summer, he was so gracious and I got the picture I had always wanted."
Growing up, Allison describes herself as shy - so how did someone who was an introvert become an all-around performer? Thanks to her mom, she says, who had to bribe her to get moving! "My mom would bribe me with Spice Girl dolls to get on the playground and go down the slide with other kids. She had heard about musical theatre classes at a local performing arts center and signed me up to get me out of my shell."
While the rest of the world didn't believe in little Allison, her mum never gave up. "I never got a solo because my teacher didn’t think I could handle it, but my mom would hear me sing to class recordings in the car and begged the teacher to give me my own song. At our end-of-class presentation for parents, I performed 'Much More' from The Fantasticks and shocked everyone. All the parents came up to my mom asking me who my voice teacher was, telling her I would be on Broadway one day. I made my Broadway debut a few years later in Bye Bye Birdie at the Roundabout."
Allison's character Sarah is an extra loving and peaceful daughter who without judgment accepts her family's crazy antics. "Sarah is definitely one of the most grounded members of the family. Funnily enough, I decided to not act, " says the brunette, who reveals, she didn't even coach for the part - she actually just went in as herself. "After I read the script, I realized Sarah is very much like me—we love our families to a fault, and would rather go with the flow then rock the boat if at all possible. In family dynamics, I think that's important."
Allison, who is of Hispanic descent, grew up in a tight-knit family and feels like she can relate to it even on this level. "You have to be willing to bend and be flexible because it’s really about love and maintaining balance at the end of the day. Sarah is the "straight man" of the film; so much chaos is revolving around her wedding, and while there may be nerves bubbling under the surface she does her best to stay calm and collected. Or at least look like it!"
Her character in the film is the most stable one in the plot, not far from the kind of person Allison is. "I come from a Colombian immigrant family. The choices my grandparents made to give our family the best opportunity were based on love for their kids, not love for what they were doing." Her gratitude is absolutely endearing.
As more and more colored actors come on to the screen today, playing meaty roles. Films are meant to be a reflection of reality and we live in a bubbling cauldron of diverse cultures - so why not, she says. "I love it and hope we continue to see more work by women and people of color, featuring more women and people of color. Hoping that one day Marvel will even get behind a Latina Superhero. In the meanwhile, Wakanda forever!"
But as English isn't often their first language, things do get difficult. As Allison narrates her tale, one can feel the barriers even as the world boasts of acceptance."In Colombia, Mamita was a nurse and Papito owned a café. Here they worked at hotels, factories, and hospitals, but never had good enough English to reach the same level of success they had back home. My mom arrived here as a child and was the first to get a college degree."
With such a huge film releasing, her family couldn't be happier, says Allison, clearly feeling lifted. "My family’s dream was bigger than dreams just for themselves, and that dream includes me. It was very emotional for me at the Week Of premiere a few nights ago, because my family was sitting all in one row, right behind Steve Buscemi and his family, only a few rows behind Adam and his. I cried because even though my grandparents are now gone, I felt their smiles radiating in that big theatre. Their sacrifice made all of this possible."
The rising star has a couple of balls in the air at the moment in terms of work, and she says she's trying her best to enjoy the rollercoaster ride she is presently on. "Crossing my fingers that everyone tunes into Netflix on Friday for The Week Of, and enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it this summer. We all fell in love with each other on set and became a real family. I think it shows. Though she doesn't reveal any names, here's hoping we see a lot more of Allison, soon.