“Growing up, I did not distinguish acting from my other hobbies,” Alyson said.
Along with acting, she was also extremely fond of sports, math team, pottery and painting, among other interests.
“I now see I was so engaged, challenged, and comforted by the process of role-playing and regulating my emotions in auditions that it was an integral life instructor, which is why I believe my passion never faded, only heightened,” she said.
Her first major-onscreen role was for the 2003 film Cheaper by the Dozen. When she first auditioned for the film, director Shawn Levy called her in to read for the role of one of the twin girls.
“After having too much sass, he gave me sides for the other twin,” Alyson said. “Still unsatisfied, he had me read for Sarah Baker. She was supposed to be 13 but my petite frame proved to be a challenge. But eventually he believed my tomboyish spunk fit the bill.”
Alyson nabbed the role, but the call confirming that she got the part couldn’t have come at a worse time!
“I was actually in the process of evacuating my house because of a nearby forest fire,” Alyson said. “I was ecstatic, and also really terrified! I screamed with glee, and then basically went back to packing up memorabilia.”
Alyson was just 3 years old when she started studying ballet, tap and jazz at a local dance studio in Toledo, Ohio. When she moved to L.A. at the age of 7, she took up hip-hop dancing as well.
“Now I study hip-hop, house, breaking and some specialty styles,” she said.
Though her dancing abilities eventually opened up the part for her, Alyson said that her role in Step Up almost didn’t happen.
“I was actually not supposed to be in Step Up,” Alyson explained. “The director of Cheaper By The Dozen 2 was producing Step Up, and he remembered Channing Tatum’s character having a foster sibling. Originally the script called for a little African American boy, but the director took a chance on me and switched the role completely.”
Alyson’s success in Step Up also nabbed her roles in Step Up 3D, as well as the latest installment, Step Up All In.
“I couldn’t have ever perceived the franchise would be so successful and enduring!” she said. “With each film, you do your personal training plus rehearsals, and you embrace all of it knowing the production team could demand anything of you at any second.”
Alyson had always been a singer as well, and she trained vocally even before her time with Disney. She was interested in songwriting from a young age.
“My mom collected hundreds of pages of lyrics I wrote beginning at age five,” Alyson said. “But after Camp Rock, I really honed in on developing a sound and being an artist.”
In the beginning, Alyson’s perfectionism made the process somewhat difficult and emotional for her.
“Because the microphone heard every flaw and nuance, I cried several sessions in a row before acknowledging not every take would be perfect,” she said. “When I learned to let go and face my own voice, I unlocked a wider range, stronger tone, better pitch, and of course, creativity.”
Alyson’s original tracks include the hit single, “Dragon (That’s What You Wanted).”
“‘Dragon (That’s What You Wanted)’ is about that first moment in a relationship where you begin to consider moving on,” she said. “You know deep down that you’ve explored all your options: been patient, adaptable, and holding on would now be counterproductive to both people’s growth and well-being. You’re not even giving or receiving fair support and love anymore, and when the person threatens to break up, you kindly say, ‘…if you want space, I will not only give you space, but gladly be on my way for good.’”
She added that the song’s hook, “that’s what you wanted, that’s what you’re going to get” sums up the emotion nicely.
For the song’s music video, Alyson wanted to go more abstract. Rather than telling the story directly, she used the video as a venue to introduce herself to her audience as a singer, songwriter and performer.
“I added elements of dance and freestyle, used wardrobe and choreography inspired by Janet and J. Lo to bring back the 90s/early 2000s dance era, and made sure the audience knew I could handle whatever beat was thrown my way,” she said.
In January, Alyson also collaborated with Max Schneider and Kurt Schneider on a cover of “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood.
“‘Sweater Weather’ was such a last minute, spontaneous effort,” Alyson said. “Thankfully, immediately we all clicked. Kurt’s gut told him to slow down the original tune for a piano ballad; Max gave me chills with his effortless vocals; and I just shared what my instincts guided me to give.”
The version of the song was extremely popular, and has now been viewed more than 6 million times!
“I had no idea it’d be so well received,” Alyson said. “It’s nice when people appreciate music that’s honest and true to those who made it.”
But Alyson does a lot more with her voice than just singing. She has also lent her voice talents to animated series including The Legend of Korra, Phineas and Ferb, and Young Justice.
“Voice acting is just as broad as on-screen work,” she explained. “Sometimes I voice characters on animated television series. Other times I’m the singer in the jingle for a local company, or – a fan favorite – the background voices of girls screaming at the concert in the Justin Bieber movies. Yes. That’s a job.”
She said that doing such distinctive work with her voice is not easy, but very fulfilling.
“I enjoy the challenge it provides of studying intonation and inflections of the human voice as well as sound placement and vocal distortion for creatures and action grunts,” she said.
Alyson is extremely passionate about each of her professional endeavors, but she’s the most passionate about what she called “the field of humanity.”
“I do what I do to learn about humans, including the inner and outer workings of my own brain, as well as family, friends, the local community, and entire world population,” she said. “Acting, singing and dancing are my avenues to discover and share information.”
On July 14, Alyson appeared in a guest starring role on TNT’s Major Crimes, before playing Mary on Lifetime’s Expecting Amish on July 19. In that role, she starred alongside AJ Michalka, Jesse McCartney and Jean-Luc Bilodeau.
Alyson’s work in Step Up All In releases in theaters across the country on August 8, so be sure not to miss it!
She’s also slated to appear in a family drama called Hoovey, a teen comedy called A-List and the thriller Selling Isobel, as well as a short film, which she wasn’t allowed to name.
“I have several songs recorded and ready for release, so now it’s about timing and vision,” she added.