“Part of me thinks that maybe I got the part because of my hair being so curly — they kept it the exact same way that it is in my life for the film,” Allison Strong laughed.
Allison is the vibrant talent who plays Sarah in Adam Sandler’s upcoming film The Week Of (releasing on Netflix this Friday, April 27). Sarah is the daughter of Kenny Lustig (played by Sandler), a middle-class dad who is determined to pay for his daughter’s wedding without any help from the groom’s father, Dr. Kirby Cordice (Played by Chris Rock).
Allison may never know if it truly was her curly hair or something entirely different — like her charismatic positivity or the cornucopia of talent bristling within her soul — that landed her the role, but there was one piece of the story that Entertaining Options did uncover. When Robert Smigel brought a handful of his favorite “Sarah” choices to Adam, his longtime friend and collaborator, Sandler mulled over the options and picked Allison to play his daughter.
“Breaks like this don’t come all that often,” Allison expressed, her voice cracking a little from overwhelming gratitude, “And when it comes from somebody saying ‘Yes,’ especially somebody like Adam…” Allison trailed off, unable to continue because of the emotion welling up in her throat.
Allison has been a performer for most of her life. When she was just eight years old, her mother enrolled her in musical theater classes.
“My mom didn’t put me in those classes because I started singing on the table with a plastic mic when I was three years old,” Strong clarified. “It was because she saw that I was the life of the party at home, but when I was at school, I didn’t talk to anybody.”
Since Allison started out in musical theater and began her professional career at nine as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, it only made sense that she would eventually set her sites on Broadway. But after she booked her first Broadway show, there was a push for her to become a more well-rounded actor, so she started auditioning for roles in film and television.
“I had been a musical theater aficionado my entire life,” she explained. “When I was a kid, I was a big live theater goer, but I never really watched much TV or movies. When I started watching TV, it was almost like a second birth. How had I missed all these things for all of these years?! I didn’t see Star Wars until two or three years ago! I was excited and I wanted in! I had been taking TV and film classes all along, but it wasn’t until I started actively watching TV and movies that I realized, this kind of acting was what actually suited me better.”
It didn’t take long for the Colombian-American actress to book her first television role. It was on NBC’s The Blacklist. But to go from getting an episode on a weekly series to landing such a major role in an Adam Sandler film? She had to know someone on the inside to be offered that kind of an opportunity, didn’t she?
“It was just an audition,” she laughed. “Up until that point, I was mostly only auditioning for television. When I got the audition, I was talking to my mentor and since we didn’t have too much time to prepare, he said, ‘Allison, just be yourself and react.’ At that first audition, I think I did two or three scenes that actually ended up being in the final film. It was my first time meeting the casting directors, Douglas Aibel and Henry Russell Bergstein, and it felt like a special moment. But after I walked out of that room, I didn’t hear anything back for almost a month.”
Then she got a callback along with some new sides [the part of the script given to an actor for an audition]. This time, Allison was auditioning for the director, Robert Smigel, but he wanted her to use the old sides — the ones she had been studying for weeks.
“I think it was a lot of me being in the right place at the right time,” Allison reasoned. “I did one of the major, pivotal scenes with Allen Covert, our producer, and I made him cry! Then we improvised… and I got really weird. But two weeks later, I got the part! It was literally one audition and one callback. To be honest, it was easier than most theater auditions that I’ve done.”
A large part of the film takes place in Kenny Lustig’s house. It was a real family home that Happy Madison Productions had rented for the summer, so they could shoot the movie.
“I was scared out of my boots to work with Adam,” Allison admitted. “We were waiting to start our scene and all of a sudden I hear, ‘Hey kid, how’s it going?’ I turned around an it was Adam! he was standing right behind me in his basketball shorts. He was as natural as anything, so all of this nervous energy that I had, it just all went away!
Besides Adam, Allison got to work with a number of other luminaries such as Chris Rock, Rachel Dratch, and Steve Buscemi.
“I adore Steve Buscemi! He is next level for me! A true artist. And he doesn’t have any airs about him. I remember eating lunch with him and there were no pretensions. He is quiet and kind, but also very funny! One day, we were taping in 103° heat. It was really hot and we were out on a baseball field. I was under an umbrella and I was sweating so much and I was not really smiling about it. Then I noticed Steve. He was out in the heat, he had no umbrella… and he was smiling! I want to be that.”
“I’d heard some horror stories about what could happen on a set from the #MeToo movement,” Allison continued, “but this was not that. This was one of the best summers I’ve had in my entire life! It’s such a special team to be working with and such a special set. Adam’s friends and family are all there because they love working with him. It was like going to summer camp. He is what you see, an easy-going, self-deprecating, kind human being. It wasn’t hard to imagine him as my dad. Not at all.”
Allison paused for a moment, then added, “I wasn’t raised with my father. It was such a special summer because I got the father-daughter dance that I thought I was never going to get.”
Allison continued, recalling fond memories of the two of them singing show tunes together. Then she shared something that got her a little choked up.
“In the film, Roland [Buck III] plays my fiancé, Tyler. Adam had both of our moms there for the wedding scene. He made a point of going up to my mom to say ‘Hi.’ It was so emotional for me because my mom doesn’t come from this world… But she’s the entire reason I do what I do. She made it possible. And for Adam to want to go up to her? He’s always asking me how she’s doing. There are real people in this world. And there are good people. You want those people to succeed because you know how good they truly are.”
“Allison Strong is a phenomenal talent and just a great human being. Could never say enough nice things about her,” the famed actor/writer/producer told Entertaining Options.
You can see Allison and Adam in The Week Of, which premieres on Netflix this Friday, April 27.