For actress Alisha Mullally, acting is all about working on projects that can make a change.
I recently had the chance to speak with Mullally about her roles on 13 Reasons Why and Amazon’s Back Stabber, as well as how she got her start as an actress.
Mullally said she always had the desire to perform. “I grew up a professional dancer. I started dancing when I was about three, so I always had a bug for performing, and then I got into TV and film. I went on my first audition for a Toyota commercial when I was about eleven years old, and I booked it.”
“Previously to that, I had done a pageant. It’s called Miss Jr. America,” Mullally continued. “My sister was in it. She’s five years older than me, so she was in the serious college scholarship division, and then they had a younger division that just did talent and a couple of questions.”
It was then that an agent sought out Mullally to tell her how talented she was. “She came in and gave me a long spiel about how you have to have a certain type of star quality, and she felt that I had that even over the older girls. That’s when my mom was like, ‘Okay we can start you in San Francisco, and I just kind of took off from San Francisco, and it brought my career over to LA.”
Mullally also recalled one of her most memorable audition stories. She was twelve years old, screen-testing for a part on Hannah Montana.
“It was five or six hours on the Disney lot, and it was so much fun,” she said. “If I’m screen-testing now, I’m a nervous Betty. I’m sweating, and I’m trying to get there about three hours early. But I just remember my mom saying, ‘We can go get fro-yo before. Do you want to run your lines a little bit?'”
“It was such a good experience, because Disney carted us around, showed us all of the lot, and then they had us go in and audition. I think that was their way to make us less nervous too,” Mullally noted.
“I remember I saw Raven-Symone. She was shooting That’s So Raven, and I saw her walking around. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
Years later came the chance to play the role of Sadie on the Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why.
Mullally had read the book even before the audition, and said she fell in love with it. The series was also being filmed near her home town in San Francisco.
Filming 13 Reasons Why turned out to be an incredible experience for Mullally.
“The cast and I are really, really close. So that was great — being part of a cast that’s so welcoming and warm, and also really involved in speaking out besides just being in the project. They’ve all done separate things to give back, which I really like,” Mullally said.
“They let you breathe as an actor. You could make whatever choices. You could play around as much as you want, which I really liked as well. It was a very warm set, and that’s rare.”
Being a part of the series was also pretty powerful.
“It was really intense at first. I honestly didn’t realize how big it was going to be,” Mullally admitted. “I tried to watch it all the first night it came out, and it was too intense for me. I was such an emotional mess that I couldn’t even finish the whole series.”
“I remember driving around LA, seeing all of the billboards and the posters. People from random parts of my life started to reach out to me. And I was like, ‘Wow, this is something that I’ll probably talk [about] for the rest of my life.'” Mullally continued by saying it is “amazing to be part of something like that so young.”
“That’s why I got into acting. I’m very much an activist in that sense, and I want to make projects that I feel passionate about and that make a change. That’s the point,” she said.
“I know when they went to Brazil, their suicide hotline went up by 100% of people actually reaching out,” she went on. “That’s all we wanted from the show, was just to bring awareness and have people be talking about hard subjects with their kids, especially at a young age.”
Though her part on Amazon’s Back Stabber will be quite different from 13 Reasons Why, Mullally noted some important similarities.
“It’s similar in the sense that it’s about social change as well. It’s more focused on the LGBTQ community, and just about being accepted and being trans in high school,” Mullally began.
“It comes out in November, and I can’t give a whole lot about it, but I’m very much the comedic relief,” she stated. “I play this outrageous character named Aurora, and she writes for the school newspaper, so she’s in everybody’s business. She’s kind of like me, where she talks really fast, but she’s got insane energy. So it was really fun to get off 13 Reasons Why and then get to Back Stabber, because Back Stabber was completely different.”
As for the kinds of things Mullally watches on TV when she’s not busy with acting, she mentioned both The Handmaid’s Tale and Orange is the New Black as current favorites. She also recalled an all time favorite series that comes with a bit of nostalgia.
“I used to love the old 90210,” she admitted. “I would watch [it] with my mom every day. She’d come home from work, and I’d be done with dance, even if it was late at night. She’d put on an episode while I was eating dinner, and we’d watch 90210 together.”
Be sure to catch Alisha Mullally on 13 Reasons Why, currently available for streaming on Netflix, and be on the lookout for her this November on Amazon’s Back Stabber.
Featured image credit: Dana Patrick
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