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ICYMI Allison Lanier Interview

Unlike her savvy, ambitious alter ego, Summer, portrayer Allison Lanier lacked focus as a high school student. “I have to say, I just wasn’t someone who was driven,” she admits. “In fact, I was a little lost because I hadn’t figured out what my passions were yet. So, while I had dreams in my subconscious, I didn’t have the confidence to pursue them.”

One fantasy was to become an actress. “I always loved movies and TV shows, and was just easily drawn to the drama of it all,” Lanier explains. “In the back of my mind, I always felt like I was born to be an entertainer in some capacity. But where and how I grew up, I never really thought of it as a possibility.”

That changed when, just after graduation, an unexpected opportunity fell into Lanier’s lap. “I really lucked out because I was scouted in a mall to be a model,” she smiles. “I moved to South Miami straight away and signed with the Wilhelmina agency, but Miami was a total culture shock for me. I was placed in an apartment with two Dutch models who were a little older than me, and at first, they really wanted nothing to do with me. But they slowly got to know me and we really bonded. They took me under their wing and I learned so much from them. They taught me how to dress so it was like, ‘That’s a no on that outfit.’ I remember they cooked broccoli soup for dinner and I had never thought about eating that in my life. I was totally a chicken nuggets and French fries girl. They helped me to be more healthy and stylish.”

After only a few months of working as a model, Lanier became emboldened enough to made a big change. “I decided to move to New York City,” she relays. “I think that Miami was a really good stepping stone because it got me initiated into a faster pace of life and that set me up for success in New York. And yeah, it was definitely overwhelming, but I found my footing. I didn’t have a ton of friends at first but I had a pretty decent living situation and was comfortable at being on my own while living this life as a working model. I would spend my days off biking around everywhere and getting to really know the city. And while New York is a hard town, I slowly built connections and friendships, which usually takes a year or two.”

As a self-confessed “extroverted introvert”, Lanier embraced the frenetic pace of The Big Apple. “I’m kind of a homebody, so I get my energy from spending time alone,” she explains. “What’s great about New York is you can walk out your door and still be by yourself, but be surrounded by beautiful people and feel like you’re in community with them without having to make plans. It was a really good environment for me. I felt like I was socializing even if I wasn’t.”

Still, she knew there was more she wanted to do. “I was about two years into living in New York when I sort of got the bug and started taking acting classes,” Lanier shares. “That was such a wake-up call for me. I just absolutely adored the work. It was so fun and I felt like I finally found my place, but I didn’t go on any auditions until after I had finished with the two-year program. When I did get a little commercial spot, my manager actually found me and I’ve been with him ever since. From there, I started auditioning for things. There was still a big learning curve from acting school to auditioning because it’s such a different muscle to flex, but I loved the challenge.”

In between landing a few roles, including the series RED OAKS, Lanier fell in love with musician JD Samson. “I never really was a relationship person because I’m so independent and I love my alone time,” she details. “But I also sort of always knew that when I met my person, I was just going to know. We were introduced to each other through mutual friends and it just felt very much organic. We have so much in common: We love nature, going on hikes, bird watching, swimming and cooking together. We just really like the simple stuff. And we’re both big animal lovers.”

Though she was quite content in New York, Lanier felt the pull to Los Angeles, where more opportunities existed, like at Y&R. “I flew out to audition for Summer, after the audition I got a callback, and after the callback I booked the job,” she recalls. “It was quite the whirlwind.” Still, Lanier thought hard about uprooting her quiet life to move to L.A. “I’m a pretty pragmatic person, so I definitely was weighing the pros and cons of everything and for me, the pros outweighed the cons,” she reflects. “I found a sublet in L.A. and shipped my car out here because there wasn’t enough time to drive across the country.”

Lanier’s first day on the Y&R set was a relatively easy one because the focus was on Mariah and Tessa’s nuptials. “I was really excited about that because I identify as queer, so it was really cool to be there for Y&R’s first lesbian wedding,” she enthuses. “Since it was about them, I didn’t really have that much dialogue, so I got to meet a lot of the cast and see how it all works and how people interacted with each other. Everyone is so sweet and helpful, so there’s a really positive energy there. My second or third day, I had about 40 pages to learn, plus a sex scene with Michael [Mealor, Kyle], who I had just met. It was definitely a sink-or-swim situation, and I’m loving every moment.”

Though she is aware of the legacy Hunter King (ex-Summer) left behind, Lanier is determined to stand apart from her predecessor. “I knew when I stepped into this role I had really big shoes to fill,” she affirms. “Hunter King is an amazing actress and she was very loved on the show, so it’s honestly just an honor to try to do this justice. That said, I’ve tried to make the character my own by not replicating what Hunter brought to Summer. So I have to bring my own energy and evolve from there. And they’ve definitely been super-supportive and collaborative here. I’m excited to see where Summer goes.”

Lanier shares her feelings about her new co-stars.

Peter Bergman (Jack): “What a lovely man. He’s very warm and welcoming, and he gave me all kinds of advice about acting and technical stuff. I really appreciate him.”

Michelle Stafford (Phyllis): “I’ve learned the most from Michelle just by watching her and how much she really brings life to the character, making it super-real and emotional. I’ve definitely been watching and learning from her.”

Joshua Morrow (Nick): “He’s definitely a jokester for sure and he’s so funny. Shockingly, we’ve had very few scenes together since I started because Nick has been embroiled in all of the Victor drama.”

Michael Mealor (Kyle): “He has honestly made me super-comfortable from day one. We have a great working relationship and we always want to run lines together. He’s from a town right next to where I’m from in Georgia.”

Susan Walters (Diane): “I love working with Susan and learning about her and her career. She’s just a really cool woman and I love hanging out with her.”

Camryn Grimes (Mariah) and Cait Fairbanks (Tessa): “I love them. They’re so awesome. We bonded over a reality TV show called LOVE ISLAND.”

Kellen Enriquez (Harrison): “Even though I’m not a mom in real life, I like to think that I have maternal instincts because I really like kids, so working with Kellen came relatively easy to me. He’s a great kid, so that’s been really fun. Everything moves really fast on set, so there’s never been that much time to just sit down and chat with Kellen, but I definitely have tried to build a rapport with him in between takes, so we’ve played and talked about things.”

Just The Facts:

Birthday: August 4

Born In: Vidalia, GA. “It’s a small town in southern Georgia, but maybe you’ve heard of it because of Vidalia onions. So when you say you were born in Vidalia, you’ll hear, ‘Oh, you’re a Vidalia onion sprout.’ We moved to Snellville when I was 2, and Raleigh, North Carolina, when I was 14.”

Team Effort: Lanier has one older brother by two years, Andrew. “I was definitely the annoying little sister. We butted heads when we were younger, but we’ve come around to being close in our adulthood. His wife just gave birth to my second niece!”

Taken: Lanier has been in a five-year relationship with JD Samson, who was a member of the electronic punk band Le Tigre. “We share the same birthday,” she reports.

The Best Things About Living In New York City? “The food and the culture.”

The Worst? “Garbage day during the hot summer. The smell smacks you in the face.”

Oh, Rats: “You have to get desensitized to rats in New York. I remember the first time one ran by me, I screamed and threw my cell phone. Now a rat can scurry across my feet and I won’t even react.”

Second Act: “One of my great joys in life is going to flea markets and estate sales.”

Home Body: “I love interior design, so I could watch HGTV 24/7. Becoming an HGTV star is on my bucket list.”