We had the chance to chat it up with actor Alison Thornton who is currently starring in the BBC America TV show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective.
As a young actor, Alison Thornton has captured audiences with her angelic innocence and intricate complexity. She has proven her range and depth by tackling various dramatic roles. From Vancouver BC, Alison has been performing since the age of five in dance, singing, piano and theatre. She started working in television at the age of thirteen and has never looked back.
Check out our interview with Alison below and catch Dirk Gently Saturday’s on BBC America.
DFAT: Hi Alison thank you for sitting down with us today. You’ve been into the performing arts for a very long time. What got you interested when you were younger with music and theater? When did you decide to take it to the next level and get into television acting?
Alison: My mom actually put me in piano lessons to start. It takes such discipline and it really shaped who I am today. I would have to do exams and competitions, which were stressful but also taught me that hard work pays off. I’m lucky to have learned that at a young age. Then I started dance, and that is where I really developed a passion for the performing arts. I was a competitive dancer for years. Dance led to musical theater, which led to some roles in theater productions. I had a friend who was auditioning for TV and film roles and I thought, why not? I love movies and TV, so I wanted to give it a try and see what would happen. I completely fell in love with it.
DFAT: Looks like you made a great, successful choice! Tell us a little bit about your first few roles (The 100, Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, etc).
Alison: My first job was actually a Hallmark movie called ‘Let it Snow’. I played a girl named Angeline Bennett who loves Christmas. I was so nervous! My first day, they wanted me to skate! I can’t skate at all, but of course I agreed and told them I could. You can see me struggling to skate in the movie, but thankfully they kept the cameras mostly off of me! It is pretty hilarious. I also had a huge sunburn on my face while filming because I went skiing the weekend before the shoot and I didn’t realize how badly you could sunburn while skiing. The makeup artists covered most of it up, but you can still see it a bit on film. Right after that, I worked on a different Hallmark movie called ‘Color of Rain’. Those movies were amazing to start out in and to get a sense of what it is like to be an actor. It wasn’t until ‘Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce’ that I really got an appreciation for the craft of acting. Working with ‘Alanna Ubach’ (who plays Jo) taught me more about acting than anything or anyone. I started that show when I was fourteen and decided I was going to act for the rest of my life. That show is inspiring to work on and all of the people are so lovely to work with.
DFAT: Sounds like you had a lot of great experiences on those projects. Which actor/actress has had the biggest influence/impact on your career? Have you had any “star-struck’ experiences while working on any of your projects?
Alison: I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence. I really admire the roles she plays because she is so natural but also brings so much depth to her characters. I also really admire Natalie Portman and Emma Watson, because they both seem like very intelligent women and are great influences for young girls. There are so many actors that I look up to, I can’t possibly name them all. I’ve been star-struck working with Lacey Chabert (I’m a huge ‘Mean Girls’ fan), Megan Hilty (also a huge ‘Wicked’ fan) and of course Elijah Wood (the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films are my favorite movies of all time). They are all such wonderful people. When I am star-struck, I try to hide it. I’ll be star-struck at home and in my trailer but when I am working with them I try to play it cool. I usually am only star-struck on the first day working with them and then I calm down.
DFAT: I’ve watched the first couple episodes of Dirk Gently and let me tell you it is a VERY interesting and confusing show, I’m really enjoying it! How is working on that set and being an intricate part of the narrative? Have you met Max Landis? If you have, what is it like working with him?
Alison: That set is crazy, just like the show. It is pretty confusing sometimes. We didn’t shoot it in order so there was a lot of jumping back and forth between episodes. It was really exciting and fun because every day we were doing something totally different from the day before. Max Landis is also crazy, in the best way possible. He is so passionate about what he does, which really helps to inspire everyone on set. He is also just a really nice guy and was adored by the cast and crew. He let me read one of his other scripts, which was very cool because I want to be a screenwriter one day.
DFAT: Speaking of writing, we are big fans of Douglas Adams, as you can tell from the name of our website, are you? Had you experienced any of his works prior to your role on Dirk Gently? Speaking of books, who is your favorite author of all time, why, and what is your favorite book by him/her.
Alison: I was a big fan of ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. I hadn’t heard of Dirk Gently though. When I got the job I listened to some Dirk Gently audiobooks, which were awesome. It really made me excited to work on the show. My favorite author is Stephen King because of how straightforward his writing is. He does such an incredible job of creating a creepy mood while leaving a lot to the imagination. My favorite book is ‘Pet Sematary’. The ending haunts me to this day.
DFAT: When you aren’t acting what do you enjoy doing with your freetime?
Alison: I’ve been riding horses since I was two years old and it’s still my favorite thing to do. Other than that,I love dance and playing laser tag with my friends. I go to the movies and I spend a lot of time on Netflix. I’m re-watching all of ‘Doctor Who’ right now. I’ve been practicing for my driver’s test, which is scary. I’m not a great driver, I get honked at a lot and not in a good way. I’m also finishing up high school, which takes up my time.
DFAT: If you could pick one comic book character that best represents you or you’d most like to portray in TV or film, who would it be and why?
Alison: Garfield, because I love lasagna and annoying my family members.
DFAT: Haha, that’s a good one! Love that you went that direction with the question. Looking ahead, what are you your future goals and aspirations? Do they go beyond acting or would you like to do something else within the entertainment industry?
Alison: I would love to write and produce films and TV. I love writing scripts, and the ones I’ve been working on recently all involve sci-fi and horror themes. It would also be really cool to direct. Having that kind of responsibility for a project would be incredible.
DFAT: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in acting?
Alison: I would say to try to learn everything you can about the industry and do other things that have nothing to do with acting. Anything you do, whether it’s soccer, ballet or violin, it will help you at some point as an actor. Everything you do in life is research for your craft. You never know what characters you’ll end up playing.