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Alison Sudol – A Fine Frenzy DIGS Into a New Art Form

Updated: Apr 14, 2020


Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series "DIG."

Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series “DIG.”


Alison Sudol

A Fine Frenzy DIGS Into a New Art Form

by Jay S. Jacobs


Does young actress Alison Sudol – who is playing one of the central pieces in the globe-trotting puzzle box known as the eagerly-awaited USA Network series DIG – look familiar, but you can’t quite place in which show you have previously seen her?


Perhaps you may know Alison Sudol better by her musical stage name.  The striking 30-year-old redhead has been performing as a singer/songwriter under the ethereal moniker A Fine Frenzy for almost a decade now.  Under this pseudonym she has released the acclaimed CDs One Cell in the Sea, Bomb in the Birdcage and Pines, which spawned the alternative hits “Electric Twist,” “Now is the Start” and “Happier.”


Now Alison Sudol is about to change how she is known.  Not that she is giving up her musical career, she loves it and is still fully committed to it.  However, in recent years she has dipped her toe into the waters of acting and has found a whole new world opening up for her.


Actually, it’s not even totally a new thing for her.  Even before she became known as a singer, she had small roles on a few TV shows under yet another stage name, as Alison Munro.  She also did a few bit parts while touring and recording, the biggest of which was a guest gig on CSI: NY.


However, since she dropped her 2012 album Pines, Sudol has gotten more and more involved.  Suddenly, her acting career is starting to compete with her music.  Last year she appeared in the indie film Other People’s Children and also had a recurring role in the acclaimed new Jeffrey Tambor series Transparent.


Her latest role is her most exciting yet.  She plays a pivotal role in DIG, the new action mystery miniseries made by Homeland creator Gideon Raff and Heroes creator Tim Kring and co-starring Jason Isaacs, Anne Heche and Lauren Ambrose.  A wide-ranging spiritual mystery which takes place in Jerusalem, Norway and New Mexico which takes up such huge questions as faith and the Apocalypse, DIG mixes history, religion and violent action in an intelligent adventure reminiscent of The DaVinci Code.


While Sudol’s character slips from view (temporarily?) fairly early on in the series, a huge part of storyline revolves around her life and her secrets.  Her character of Emma Watson suffuses the central mystery of DIG – which is why it is her fiery locks and a tattoo on her unclad back which adorns the show’s official promotional poster.


A few weeks before DIG had its series premiere, we were one of a few media outlets who had the opportunity to speak with Sudol about her career change and her new series.

Dig

Dig


Hi, Alison, nice to speak with you again.  I met you several years ago when you played at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia with Citizen Cope.


Alison Sudol: (remembering) Oh, hi!  How’s it going?


Hi, good, good.  Have you always sort of known that you wanted to balance acting and your music?  Or how has your career segued from the music into more of acting?  Though I know you are still involved in your music as well.


Alison Sudol: Yes, I am definitely.  It was more of a development.  I’ve always loved the storytelling element of films and of great television.  You are essentially doing what I love most about music.  You are tapping into human emotion and telling a tale.  Making people feel something.  I found that there was a point where I was really interested in telling other people’s stories.  Not just telling my own story.  I needed that creatively.  Needed to grow more as a human being and experience other… lives, essentially… which is what you get to do as an actor.  You get to live somebody else’s life for a little while.  I find that that really enriches me creatively and helps musically.  Just helps in life.  It’s great.  It is about finding that balance.  I think I’ve gotten to a pretty good footing with that as well.


Your character of Emma seems to have a lot of secrets and mysteries in her background.  When you were first reading the script did she change significantly in your mind as you went on or did you sort of have a clear idea of how you wanted to play her from the very beginning?


Alison Sudol: I had an idea of the core that I wanted to play.  Which is just, there’s this incredible life force within her.  That just seemed like something that really mattered in how I portrayed her.  But I think it was when I went to Israel and I walked through it.  We were in just some absolutely spectacular locations and it really sunk in, the story and the greater significance of where we are within it.  The history that I think that she developed as a character quite a bit when I saw her life’s work…


I was reading that eventually you guys had to shift away from Jerusalem because of some military unrest.  Did you guys feel that while you were making the show?  Did that add sort of a sense of danger to the whole filmmaking aspect?


Alison Sudol: To be honest I really didn’t feel it.  It was only towards the end when things started to shift a bit.  But I never felt unsafe and frankly would go back there in a second.  I loved being there so much.  [I] felt like I had a lot more to explore than I got to, but I did not feel unsafe, no.  I felt very protected.

Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series "DIG."

Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series “DIG.”


Emma seems to have a lot of information and knowledge that Peter Connelly doesn’t.  There’s an official 12-part prequel to DIG available online. Were you given more detailed backstory, or overview of your character?  Did it come from the first script that you shot or were you given more besides?


Alison Sudol: That’s a very good question.  (laughs)  The answer is that there is a lot of mystery to this character.  There were a lot of things that I have learned in the process of playing the character.  I had a certain amount of information, but the mystery is key.


Emma spends a lot of time, specifically with Jason’s character Peter.  How did you find the experience of working with Jason?


Alison Sudol: It was a gift really.  It’s been an incredible experience working with Jason.  He’s a very gracious person.  Just as a human being, he’s lovely to be around.  He has wonderful energy.  He’s incredibly positive.  He really thinks about every aspect of the character and of the story line.  I have been learning a lot from him.  He has always done everything in his power to make me feel welcome and comfortable.  He’s been incredible.


What was it about the show’s premise in general and about your character in particular that made you want to be part of this?


Alison Sudol: That’s a wonderful question.  The adventure of it on so many levels.  The adventure of the story, the storyline; the adventure of actually going to Israel and filming this show was incredibly exciting to me.  Emma is such a layered character.  I found her really intriguing.  Also, her love for history, for Jerusalem, for archeology, and for life was really powerful.  I wanted to play somebody like that.  I wanted to explore that.


When you go halfway across the world to film a show is it almost like a cool working vacation or is it a pain in the ass commute to work?


Alison Sudol: (laughs) You have jetlag and things like that obviously.  We’re all human.  But I think to go somewhere like Israel, or now Croatia…. [To] be able to work with the caliber of people that are involved in the series.  On your days off, to be able to experience life in a place where generally you’ve gotten to spend like a decent amount of time, so you’ve gotten to sort of get really embedded in it.  I mean what an amazing thing to do in life.  It’s incredible.  I’m constantly just pinching myself.  Even when I’m tired and it’s cold, or it’s hot, or whatever it is, it’s amazing.

Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series "DIG."

Alison Sudol stars in the USA Network series “DIG.”


Your character says that every rock, every piece of territory means something there.  You have probably have found yourself saying that in real life, not just as a character.


Alison Sudol: (laughs) I did.  I did.  It’s beautiful to meet people that live in these places with such a rich, deep, layered history.  [People] that are so aware of their history.  So proud and invested in keeping their history alive.  It’s been such a great learning experience for me.  Really inspiring.  It’s not hard to be fascinated by that.  It’s not hard to say those things truthfully.  I did say that exact thing (laughs again) actually walking through the markets in Jerusalem.  I mean everything means something.


I wanted to ask a little bit more about Emma’s relationship with Professor Margrove.  How was it to work with Richard E. Grant?


Alison Sudol: I just saw Richard, in fact.  The relationship that plays out through the series is something that you sort of see.  (laughs)  I could say as a person, I’m a massive fan of his.  Massive.  To the point where I still can’t believe it.  I made an idiot out of myself the first few times that I saw him.  (laughs again)  I was trying to be cool and I just kept blurting out how much I loved him.  But, yes, the relationship is complex for sure.  There’s a lot of admiration there coming from Emma.  I mean he’s a very renowned archeologist, a pioneer.


It does seem like this is a dream job for Emma…


Alison Sudol: Yes, it is.


I just love that she’s so excited about the job, and excited to be on this dig in Jerusalem. Can you talk a little bit, or even tease a little bit, about what we’re going to see in that first episode?


Alison Sudol: Yes, of course, yes.  One of the most interesting things, to me at least, about reading the script and seeing the pilot is you have these different, seemingly very disconnected, storylines.  They take place in completely different countries.  It starts in Norway, and there’s a whole storyline in New Mexico, and there’s Jerusalem.  You have all of these very different, very strong, interesting characters.  These different situations. They’re all weaving their way through and yet there seems to be something that draws them all together.  You don’t know what that is.  You see very different climates, very different people.  Yet there’s this shared heightened sense of….  What’s the word?  I don’t know….  It’s anticipation.  There’s something happening, something’s afoot, with everybody.  Within the show, there’s very different color palettes for the different places and the different storylines.  It’s really intriguing.  You just don’t get all of the answers, which I love.  I love mystery.  I love questions.  I love trying to figure things out.  I think that’s what the show has.  It’s very intelligent and it’s very deep, but it’s also fun to watch.

sudol04

Without giving away any of the big spoilers what was the most fun scene that you got to play as Emma and what was the hardest scene for you as an actress to play?


Alison Sudol: Fun was (laughs)… we filmed in these tunnels.  These 3,000 year old tunnels, under Jerusalem.  I’ve always considered myself slightly just not always so great on my feet.  I trip a lot and not always the most surefooted person.  (laughs again)  We had to run down these tunnels at full speed.  We couldn’t do anything to make them any less slippery or anything.  I mean the fact that we got to film in there alone was amazing.  We were running and there came a point where I just clocked it in my head that even though I wasn’t surefooted that Emma was surefooted.  I was running like Emma and I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t fall once.  It was really quite liberating to experience that.  I don’t know it was just a tiny moment, but personally brilliant.  We were in these caves.  They were so beautiful and just walking through them was so jaw dropping.  (laughs again)  There were so many moments that were so fun.