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Alumni Spotlight: Alli Willow – Student for Life

“[Willow] still consults the many notes taken in Robert Ellermann’s [Method Acting] class.”

Show business was always in Alli Willow’s blood. Daughter of a director and an artistic director, this Strasberg alumna grew up on sets and performing after every dinner. When this natural performer decided she wanted to pursue acting as a career, her father had this to say, “Ok, then you’ll have to study for the rest of your life.” And she did.

A movie poster showing a group of people holding weapons. The title reads "BACURAU" and has the title and logo of the Festival de Cannes.

The first teacher to impact Willow was the late, great Irma Sandrey. Willow says her career started when Sandrey told her “You have a good body to be an actor, you respond well with your body”. Responding well is an understatement for Willow, who would dive deep into her work thanks to the many different tools provided by her instructors: Irma Sandrey gave her the confidence that there was an actress within, George Loros showed Willow how to take charge and take risks in a scene, Michael Ryan’s movement classes provided a foundation for Willow’s character work and she still consults the many notes taken in Robert Ellermann’s class. Strasberg encouraged Willow to develop her own tools, to pick and choose what works for her by reminding her that there’s no right answer to acting. It’s all in the actor’s hands.

Willow has been very busy recently with two big projects. First is the latest film from co-directors/writers Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Bacurau. This Brazillian film recently debuted at The Cannes Film Festival where it tied for the Jury Prize. Bacurau follows the small titular city in Brazil and how it reacts to invaders.  For Willow, this has been a milestone of a project that brought an opportunity to work with two of her favorite directors as well as bring a project to Cannes made by so many great Brazillian artists.

Additionally, Willow has a role in the Netflix series O Escolhido (The Chosen One). Inspired by the Mexican series Niño Santo, the Netflix adaptation follows three doctors who visit a small city in Brazil to vaccinate the people. Upon arrival, the doctors discover a community with a leader who claims to have supernatural abilities that will cure the followers. Willow plays Angelina, the leader’s right hand. In comparing the differences in working on a film versus a series, Willow points out that the extended time with the character allows for more evolution in the work. 

For Willow, a great actor knows how to fully live life. To be emotionally naked, the actor must be aware of their own tools, “Your traumas, your joys and your triggers.” Once you can deconstruct yourself, you can take the pieces and create a brand new human. “Be an actor that understands its body and what it needs to tell the truth.” 

Bacurau will release in Brazil on August 29th.

O Escolhido can currently be streamed on Netflix.

Alli Willow can be followed on Instagram at @allicwillow.

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