Pop-Culturalist Chats with Allison King
2017 has been a breakout year for Allison King. The gifted actress is starring in not one, but two blockbuster films. The first, Baby Driver (out in theaters now), is an adrenaline-pumping action flick that’s been called “one of the most entertaining thrill rides of this year, this decade, this century” by Chicago Sun-Times. And Thank You for Your Service is the highly anticipated film looking at the struggles soldiers face when integrating back into society. Pop-Culturalist got to chat with Allison about both films, how she got started in acting, and what her dream role is.
Thank You for Your Service Questions
P-C: Tell us about the film and your character.
Allison: The film Thank You for Your Service, is based on a follow up book to The Good Soldiers, both by David Finkel. It’s a beautiful, heart wrenching couple of books that talk about the realities of present-day warfare, how it differs from what most of us see in the media, how our soldiers are taken care of when they get back home, and the struggle of reintegrating back into society after a tour. TYFYS was specifically about how the wounds of war have changed—they’re not always on the surface and easily treated with drug or pain therapies. They’re deeper and more complicated. It takes on the issues of mental health and the difficulty of treating such wounds as PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. It also beautifully explores how war affects communities—including the wives and loved ones of our soldiers.
I play a VA (Veterans Affair) counselor who’s overworked and overwhelmed by the demand placed in front of her every day.
P-C: Thank You for Your Service is based on David Finkel’s nonfiction account of soldiers who return home and their “after-war” lives. It raises awareness for soldiers who suffer from PTSD, which is a meaty subject matter. What was the biggest thing you learned about these soldiers and their experiences?
Allison: What I found most interesting was how drastically warfare has changed and the lag time of our health services to keep up with it. We’re able to deal with new issues on the battlefield very quickly, but dealing with the aftermath is still a somewhat unknown struggle. I mean, let’s be real: even the NFL is dealing (or not) with our new understanding of TBI. We can’t keep telling these men and women to “shake it off.” We now know that these issues run deep and need to be treated with the same attention that we give to lost limbs.
I was also really moved by the profound effect on the families of these men and women. I really cannot imagine sending my husband away to some far-off place to possibly get hurt or killed. The bravery and steadfastness is incredible in these families. Then, to have them return in this changed state must be a personal kind of hell. They’re there but they’re not really there.
P-C: Jason Hall made his directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service. How would you compare working with him to other projects you’ve done?
Allison: Jason started as an actor and I felt that right away in the audition room. He was working with me in a very hands-on way that only an actor would understand. It was the same thing on set. He really gives you license to find your way, but then is able to see where you can go further and nudge you…and suddenly the scene is changed. It was wonderful to work with someone with such a profound understanding of not only the script, but also of each actor’s intimate and unique process.
P-C: What do you hope fans take away after seeing this film?
Allison: This film is unique in that it’s not just the usual war film about battles lost and won, and soldiers being soldiers. It’s the unseen, other side of war. It’s about the profound cost, to not only their bodies and minds, but to their families as well. The battle doesn’t end for these soldiers when they get home. Shaking off what they’ve seen and returning to “normal life” is a tall order, and the healing process can be harrowing, and physically dangerous, for the people around them. This is all a long way to say, I hope we can understand that mental health IS physical health—there is no separation. I hope people walk away with a deeper empathy for PTSD and TBI, and conversely, a deeper compassion for our own mental health struggles and the people we love who struggle with it as well.
Baby Driver Questions
P-C: How did you get involved with Baby Driver?
Allison: Just the usual actor way—I auditioned! Then, I got the call back and met Edgar. I was pretty intimidated, being a fan of his work already, but he was lovely and we worked on the scene a bit. I left the audition room and kind of told myself, well at least I got to work with Edgar for 15 minutes…little did I know that a few months later I’d be on set.
P-C: It’s received amazing reviews from The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, The Boston Global, and dozens more. Did you get the sense while filming that it was going to be the breakout hit of the summer? And how important are these reviews to actors?
Allison: You can never really tell how a film will be received or even the world it will be received into…I mean, a foreign country can hack into a studio and steal it before it’s even released! We live in strange days. But I will say, the talent pool was astounding. Edgar, Bill Pope, and then the stunning cast and crew. All I can say is: It’s my belief that if you put a lot of delicious ingredients together, you should end up with something delicious.
Reviews are obviously lovely. Validation is a lovely drug, but you can’t live on it. Loving the work and the messy and uncomfortable process of creation is the real sustenance. (Why do I keep talking about food all of a sudden?)
P-C: When did you realize you wanted to pursue acting as a career?
Allison: I wanted to be an actor at my earliest memories, but my very smart parents pushed me into doing something practical. I ended up studying International Relations and French in college. I don’t regret it, but I do regret not coming to acting sooner. I decided in my 20s that a life only half lived is not really living. I quit my job, did the Camino de Santiago, and ended up broke in New York, but ready to study acting full time. I’ve never looked back.
P-C: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from either a co-star or director?
Allison: There’s not a lot of advice given on a set—it’s really too late for that. We’re all just trying to make the day. But, I heard someone say recently, I think it was Norman Buckley (the hardest working director on TV), that acting for film and TV is about moments and that the most important thing is to breathe and let the moment happen. Beautifully said, because that simple action requires talent, hard work, and then a release into the moment. It’s the perfect combination of effort and effortlessness.
P-C: What is your dream role?
Allison: Probably something for the stage and probably something by Tennessee Williams.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Allison: I don’t believe in feeling guilty for pleasure, but I will re-watch a Friends episode if it’s ever on…and it’s always on.
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Allison: Romancing the Stone. I just love Joan Wilder. Plus, I love a story about a woman breaking out of a shell, whether self-encased or encased by society.
P-C: Favorite book?
Allison: I could never answer this, there are way too many, but I do re-read Harry Potter almost every year.
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
Allison: Singin’ in the Rain. And I love a farce. Any farce, just makes me laugh!
P-C: A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Allison: I’m kind of obsessed with Ludovico Einaudi. He does these amazing compositions that sound like movie soundtracks that can be really helpful in my work. I can drop into my imagination and with his music as a soundtrack it’s magical.
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
Allison: Instagram. I mean, it’s all lovely pictures…mostly of puppies and babies.
P-C: Hidden talent?
Allison: I can fake a sneeze like no one else.
Photo Credit: Dana Patrick