Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
Hello!! Thanks for having me! My name is Allison Chin and I’m a Chinese-American actress theatrically repped by Kreativ Media Partners and commercially repped by Aqua Talent.
I had a pretty late start to the acting world. I didn’t even take Drama as an elective in school (I was a ceramics girl). I graduated in three years with a B.A. in Sociology with a plan on focusing on international human trafficking. Shortly after I graduated college, I went to Thailand to volunteer with a non-profit and it was there where I felt pretty lost and unsure with what I wanted to do with my life.
At one point, my mom asked me, “Allison, you don’t have to answer this now but, if you could do anything [with your life] and not fail, what would you do?” I thought about it for a while and despite having zero background in acting, I really wanted to act. It had been a thing I’d kept a secret thinking “other people can pursue it but not me.”
And now look at me! Fast forward seven years later and there’s absolutely no turning back. As cliché as it may sound, I act because it’s the time I get to feel free and be an explorer of sorts. I’m usually a pretty controlled person (I was always the “mom” of the friend group), as well as an introvert. But when I act, I get to explore so much of the human condition and externalize so many things I was taught to internalize.
I think what’s beautiful about being an actress is being able to touch and affect the audience in a way that can bring them comfort or a sense of hope that they’re not alone or just a basic level of relatability and connection.
My acting coach, Howard Fine, says, “if you wish to touch the hearts of others, you must first open your own.” As a result, acting has allowed me to better understand myself too.
When I first started acting, I was in a very broken place (which is not a place I’d recommend starting anything at). I’ve had to work really hard on myself to be the person and the actress that I am today and I want people to know that (1) therapy is great! 10/10 recommend and (2) while we may have our eyes focused on our long-term goals and reaching a “there,” the self discovery along the way is so, so worth it even with the highs and lows that come with it.
So don’t let your overarching goals distract you from being present, otherwise you might skip some much needed growth or healing. (<– that was my Type B side talking to my Type A side).
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I think I have a handful of qualities that may deem me as different and unique; some may even consider my ethnic background “unique” due to the fact that Asian representation has been growing, which is amazing and so powerful for the asian audience to see on screen, but still albeit only recently.
But the one quality that I carry on and off set that I think sets me apart is: gratitude. As humbly as I can say, I’ve booked 8 commercials (Pepsi, AMEX, State Farm, and Comcast to name a few) and 4 roles on network television this year alone (Grey’s Anatomy, American Crime Story: Impeachment, New Amsterdam, The Endgame).
This year has been incredibly kind to me and I don’t take that for granted. It has taken so much – time, faith, patience, money, sacrifice, encouragement, training, failing, hard work, and luck – to get here. And this is only the start of my career!
And I most definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, and representatives. The struggle bus is not unfamiliar to me; but, all of those bookings have allowed me the privilege to leave my survival job as a restaurant industry worker, and if you’ve ever had a restaurant job, you’ll know how grueling and demanding that industry can be.
And I walked away from that industry the same way I walk onto set: grateful.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
It was my second commercial ever and day two on the set of “Pepsi: The Mess We Miss” and I had no idea I was opening the commercial. All of the other actors and actresses on set were also kind of in the dark.
The only clue we had to go on was our character names that we were hired to play. Mine was “Brownstone Vaccinated Commuter.” Everyone’s dream right? (That was a joke, as stated above, I am grateful!!!).
For the first shot, I’m walking out of my apartment. Behind the scenes, I’m literally watching the hallway being built before my eyes as the cinematographer is asking me to stand on my mark to get the framing just right. We move outside, for the exterior shot, and I’m walking down the stairs of my brownstone, you know, of the brownstone-vaccinated-commuter brownstone, and I’m looking down at allllll of the moving pieces that it takes to get this commercial made.
Did I mention we’re on the same lot where they shot Wandavision?! It’s at the very top of this man-made stoop where I get to watch everyone – the art department, props, landscapers, the director, the 1st AD, PAs, gaffers and grips, background, the agency – be experts in their division.
It feels chaotic all around me and yet I feel overwhelmingly calm and at peace. My dad called me the next day asking me how work was (I signed an NDA so I couldn’t tell him anything about it) but I did tell him that despite working over 12 hours that day with a location change, it was the best experience and that I learned so much about “movie magic” and how disappointed I was that I wasn’t going back to that same set again.
It was such an addictive feeling and I cannot state enough how grateful I am that I’ve been able to return to set again and again. Since that Pepsi commercial, I’ve grown immensely.
I continue to learn something new on every set that I’m on. I told another actor friend of mine that it sucks that the stuff you learn on set isn’t something you can recreate in a class setting and how I wish it could be.
Every audition, callback, “on avail,” pinned job, and booking is such a gift because this job is haaaarrrrd. We’re being digitally ghosted every time we don’t book something or get a callback. It’s not for the faint of heart but the magic is indescribable.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, and as sad as it is to say, the biggest challenges I’ve had to face are my own insecurities with my body and the disconnect I’ve had to my Chinese heritage.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been curvy and brown.
Growing up in a community that is predominately white (and coincidentally thin) really shaped this idea that I was the “other.” It didn’t necessarily help either that I grew up watching movies and TV shows, reading books, etc. that didn’t showcase or have curvy or brown characters in them and if they did, they were more often than not stereotypically written characters where their culture or size was their personality. With the latter, I’m a third-generation Chinese-American.
I grew up fairly removed from my ethnic background in a suburb and, with regret now, I wanted to be as far removed from my heritage as I could get. It took a lot of self-realization to understand the internalized racism I had learned somewhere along my youth. It took joining a book club that focused on minorities’ voices and having discussions with my friends of color in order to have a better understanding of my link to shame and my cultural identity.
I actually turned to Clubhouse at one point during the pandemic to “confess” the struggles I had been having and thank goodness that Room was a safe place. The moderators were incredibly understanding, some even having the same experience as me. I think sharing rather than hiding has been very healing.
And with the former, it’s a work in progress for sure. I talk to my therapist about how my body image insecurities seem to fluctuate every hour. I will say that I used to fear the film industry “because of my size.” Because I felt that I was neither thin enough nor thick enough to be cast-able. I was placed somewhere in the middle and no one was going to know what to do with my body (which is a lie I told myself).
Every. Single. Job. I’ve booked, no one has said or implied “your body is a problem and I can’t dress you.”
In fact, costume designers and stylists have put me in outfits that I would’ve never chosen for myself and it’s given me more confidence when shopping.
I’m learning to trust the fit of the garment rather than the size number that’s attached to it. It’s helped a great deal with my mental health.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
1. Phoebe Waller-Bridge for a peek into her genius of a brain and to thank her for “hot priest.” IYKYK.
2. Jameela Jamil to talk about toxic diet culture and her iweigh movement.
3. Lucy Liu to hear about her experience on paving the way for Asian actors when she first started out.