writer / Anne Walls
photographer / Katie Mccurdy
stylist / Tiff Horn
hair / Amber Durate @One Represents
makeup / Beatrice Sandoval
It’s been over five years since Alison Sudol graced the cover of the inaugural issue of LADYGUNN, in October of 2010. Five years since the fire-haired beauty, known then mainly by her musical stage name of A Fine Frenzy, sat down to dim sum with me and talked love, loss, and heartache. That was the theme of our first issue – Heartbreak. Fittingly, we did Ali’s photo shoot at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, our cover girl dressed like a siren from a lost 1940 noir film.
When I remind her about the theme of that first issue, Sudol laughs and says, “Well that was pretty appropriate. I was in a bit of a black hole at that time – just really struggling. The mid-20s for a girl is a really tumultuous time. That’s when you’re finding out who you are and trying to figure out if you’re on the path that will fulfill you.” She takes a thoughtful beat.
“I was not very present then and also carried a lot of sadness.”
Now, five years, multiple heart-searingly beautiful songs, and one major career pivot later, Sudol is still as graceful, soft-spoken, and introspective as ever. There’s just one little thing different: she’s now an actor. And not just a “giving it a go” or “putting a toe in the water” actor. A fully immersed, successful actor. The first role she landed was on a landmark Amazon project called TRANSPARENT. You know, the TV show that won two Golden Globes and is currently spearheading a massive cultural movement in the LGBT community? That one.
How did she get here? “A few years ago I put A Fine Frenzy to bed,” she says. “Which was a pretty big step for me. I needed to grow and the only way I knew how was to step away from it and the world that went with it. Maybe that was my own cage that I created, but I needed to let myself out of it.”
But ending A Fine Frenzy left Sudol with even more questions. “I had this big gaping hole and I was trying to figure out how to fill it. Making your vulnerability your career was really wearing… that was a big part of ending AFF… but of course then I chose acting.” She laughs at the irony. So she came back to Los Angeles from England, where she had been spending time, and went straight to acting class. After quite a few months of work, Sudol endured every actor’s trial by fire: a traumatizing first audition.
“I was sitting in a room with a bunch of other girls who looked just like me but better and taller and more confident…and my knees were knocking. I was so frustrated with myself because I’ve performed in front of thousands of people and now I’m in front of two people and I’m just…yellow. I cried a lot. It was humbling, and I was already pretty raw.” So when did it get better for her? She makes a sort of sigh of disbelief and says, “Well my third audition, I got TRANSPARENT.”
“I don’t think I fully understood the depth of the project when I went to the audition,” Sudol says. “Luckily, otherwise I probably would have been too freaked out to even walk in the door. I read it and it just felt special.” She battled her nerves as she joined a top-notch cast that includes Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffman, and more in a show helmed by SIX FEET UNDER writer/goddess Jill Soloway. Sudol plays Kaya, the love interest of writer/director Jay Duplass, who made his own acting debut in the barrier-breaking show.
“Learning about the whole transgender community, their issues and what people go through in order to transition, how brave they have to be,” Sudol says, “I mean, the whole show was this huge, incredible experience and it happened to be my first job.”
What did Sudol think when she saw the pilot? Long pause. “I got really hot.” Temperature wise? “Yeah…[laughs] Total hot flash. It catapulted me into menopause.” She laughs again. “It was surreal because Kaya is such a different person than I am. And when I watched myself in that role, I saw her, not me.”
A few more slightly-less-traumatic auditions later, Sudol landed the role of
archeology student Emma Wilson in a high budget, high-stakes dramatic thriller DIG. Sudol’s first major network role was a completely different world than the LA-based, small family-feel of TRANSPARENT. She filmed across the globe in Jerusalem and Croatia, working in what she called “a huge learning experience.” This meant being part of a much bigger machine of special effects, stunts, and security issues (the shoot moved from Israel to New Mexico after tensions in the country heated up).
But don’t worry music-lovers. You haven’t lost Sudol to the glitz of Hollywood. She’s still writing songs and yes, you will get to hear them and they will touch the tingly parts of your inside heart and you will wonder how she can put into lyrics things you’ve only fleetingly felt in wordless bursts. “I’m having so much fun in the studio,” Sudol says. “Because I have two creative outlets now, there’s a lightness to it – which I’m savoring.”
But until her next record comes out, you’ll have to settle for Sudol on the small (and hopefully big?) screen. Because now that she’s out of her cage, she’s flying quite free.
top, Miu Miu. choker, Cast and Combed. pants, Vintage. socks, Topshop.
shoes, The Palatines.
bracelet, Cast And Combed. circle skirt, GVGV x Dickies. bralette Phoebe English. (available at H. Lorenzo)
To see more of Alison pick up the new issue of LADYGUNN or download your digital copy here.