Born Alison Brie Schermerhorn in Hollywood, California on December 29, 1983; Alison grew up in the suburb of South Pasadena with older sister Lauren and their parents (described by Alison as “ex-hippies”) – Joanne Brenner, a non-profit worker; and Charles Terry Schermerhorn, a freelance entertainment reporter, and musician. Her parents divorced when she was in her teens and she would spend time in two separate homes. Alison and her sister remain in contact with both parents but they make their parents visit them at their homes for family gatherings; the sisters will serve alcohol and pot brownies to help “eliminate tension.”
Despite being completely secular, her mother has a strong Jewish identity and wanted to ensure her two daughters knew their heritage as Alison recalls, “my mother, God love her, is a very proud Jew and would always make sure we knew we were Jewish. I remember being 6 years old and her saying, ‘you know you guys are Jewish. If Hitler came today he would take you’.” Her father is of Dutch heritage and follows the Christian religion. So, on weekends when visiting her dad, Alison would go to Sunday school at his Christian-Hindu hybrid church. They would practice a lot of meditating and chanting about a “cloud-colored Christ.”
The Acting Bug Strikes
Alison was smitten with acting as early as age 5, when she and her sister, Lauren, performed for neighbors. Alison recalls to Nylon magazine in 2009 about her childhood productions, “In my personal life I’ve always been a jokester. We used to do these shows at our family barbecues where I would take my sister and we’d make up sketches, à la SNL, but we were like, eight years old. [For] my most memorable one, I’d come out in a trench coat and do an advertisement for edible wieners-I would use a hot dog and pretend it was a penis. I was a little kid doing all these dirt, funny sketches, and our parents all thought they were hilarious, so I had that encouragement early on.” Around the ages of 17-18, Alison worked as a clown at birthday parties. She would show up dressed in character and make balloon animals for children. Her clown name was Sunny and she would perform in a full clown suit with a yellow wig. She would also dress in characters for parties, such as a Powerpuff Girl or a princess. Despite being bit by the acting bug early on, Alison tried to avoid it until her final years at South Pasadena High School; she even rejected her parents’ suggestion she attend a performing arts high school. By senior year of high school, Alison was president of the Drama Club. Her parents were supportive of whatever route Alison wanted to take, “as long as I went to college” and that “my parents didn’t push me down the commercial route of acting. They wanted me to fall in love with the process and the work involved in creating a character. Before I got serious about acting, I was a ham. As a kid, I loved getting attention.”
She began her career outside the backyard shows performing in community theater shows at the Jewish Community Center in Los Feliz. Her very first acting role was playing Toto (the dog) in a production of The Wizard of Oz. After graduating from South Pasadena High School in 2001; Alison attended California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where she graduated in 2005 and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting. As a student at CalArts, Alison studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow, Scotland. Alison has extensive vocal training from her courses at college. She recalls, “we had very extensive vocal training, it’s an hour and a half per class of sticking out your tongue, exploring your soft palate, all that. It’s proven to come in handy all the time. You learn all the tools you have, your body (as an actress) is your greatest asset.” While a student, she was one of the original cast members in the world premiere of The Peach Blossom Fan, where she “played in a chorus of Chinese prostitutes wearing miniskirts and 4-inch stilettos and had to learn stick fighting and hand-to-hand combat and traditional Chinese fan dancing and singing.” She performed in the inaugural theater production at Disney’s REDCAT Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. She has performed in the Blank Theater Company’s Young Playwright’s festival and in shows at the Odyssey, Write-Act, and Rubicon Theaters, receiving an Indy Award for her haunting performance as Ophelia in the Rubicon’s production of Hamlet.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
After her time in the theater, Alison began to branch out to other forms of media – including television, films, web series, and podcasts. Each of these mediums allowed Alison to further display her range as an actress in both comedy and drama. She went on to star in the web series My Alibi and Hot Sluts. During her time on the set of My Alibi, Alison become fast friends with co-stars Cyrina Fiallo and Julianna Guill. The trio would go on to create a band, THE GIRLS, performing live shows in Los Angeles and across the country. The group is described as a “Los Angeles based trio performing folky-rock-style covers of some of their favorite songs. From classic rock hits to more contemporary fare, and even some originals.” The latest performance by THE GIRLS was in done in late 2015. The girls are still friends today; celebrating career accomplishments as well as personal accomplishments such as Alison’s wedding and Julianna’s baby.
Making Her Mark on the Small Screen
Alison’s first role on a television show happened in 2006, as Nina, a novice hairdresser on Hannah Montana. In 2007, during pilot season, she auditioned and was chosen for the role of Trudy Campbell in the hit AMC series Mad Men. Alison shared with The Sunday Morning Herald in 2018 that her sister Lauren was the inspiration for her portrayal of the character on the show. To be her second television role ever, Alison struck gold, appearing in thirty-six episodes across seven seasons and winning a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) in 2009 for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Of her seven seasons on the show, Alison states the series “was dramatic acting boot camp for me,” and “It taught me how to act on television.” She was given the option to become a series regular on the series, but decided to remain as a recurring guest star to keep her options open for other roles, “I think I felt like the character would always be someone’s wife. It’s such a large ensemble on that show that I just – I think I sort of felt like, I don’t know how much more they would even be able to do with me.”
The decision to keep options was a smart one. As Alison was soon to score her biggest gig to date, Community. In 2009, Alison landed the role of Annie Edison, a young Type-A co-ed known as “Annie Adderall” after losing her college scholarship (and her virginity) and dropping out of high school due to an addiction to Adderall. Of the show and its creator, Dan Harmon, Alison told The Independent in 2017, “Community was so unique for a network show because Dan had such a singular voice and really fought to keep the show weird against the network trying to tone the show down.” The series ran for 110 episodes, of which Alison appeared in all, and six tumultuous seasons. Each year, the show-runners, cast, and fans never knew if it would be renewed by NBC or not. After the fifth season ended, a strong social media campaign began, #sixseasonsandamovie, but the series was canceled by NBC. Luckily for fans, Yahoo! picked up the series for season 6, issuing a 13 episode order. There were many cast exits and additions, show-runner shuffles, and writer changes during the show’s run. These changes influenced the show and its flow, and audience numbers (sadly) dwindled. The series ended after season 6 and fans are still waiting for #andamovie.
Juggling both dramatic plot turns on Mad Men and comedic scenes in Community was no problem for Alison. She told the Guardian in 2018, “oh, it was just fun and awesome,” she says. On Mad Men she was “silent and professional.” On Community she was “jumping around making fart jokes.” She told AV Club in 2010, “I enjoy doing drama, and I enjoy doing comedy equally. They’re both amazing to me, and it’s such an honor to be recognized for both genres, and to have the opportunity to work on shows of such great caliber in both genres. So, you know, it’s easy to do both.”
Moving to the Big Screen
Her roles on such a popular shows and her ability to play a multitude of characters opened up opportunity to work in film starting with the 2007 release Born (which was her first feature film). Small roles in other films such as Parasomnia, The Deadliest Lesson, Us One Night, and Raspberry Magic soon followed.
In 2011, Alison was a part of the very popular Scream franchise, being a cast in the film Scream 4. Her character, Rebecca Walters, is the publicist to original survivor Sidney and she shared scenes with original cast members Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette which she described as “exciting.” Her role in this film was important because Alison discussed being a big fan of the original series, claiming to have watched it about 100 times, she tells sheknows.com in 2011 “it’s a great start for me, my first big-budget movie and also have me come full circle back to this franchise that I was such a fan of when I was younger.”
More work in film began to happen for Alison, including many independent features. It seemed as though when each January rolled around, Alison could be seen in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival with one of her latest movies. She attended the festival for the films Save the Date in 2012, The Kings of Summer in 2013, Sleeping with Other People in 2015, Joshy in 2016, and The Little Hours in 2017. On working on independent features, she tells IndieWire, “I think most of the time with independent films, you don’t know where it’s gonna end up. I’ve done a number of films that may never see the light of day, so it ends up being exclusively about the content, material, characters, and the story. Things that you maybe wouldn’t get an opportunity to do otherwise. So, as an actor, obviously, it’s so different.” This rang true notably for The Misadventures of the Dunderheads, also known as Montana Amazon, which was filmed in 2009 but not released until 2013; and for Get a Job, which was filmed in 2012 and not released until 2016.
After her tenures on Mad Men and Community ended, Alison began to focus on landing more substantial movie roles. She lent her voice to the popular character Unikitty in the The Lego Movie in 2014, following it up with the video game Lego Dimensions in 2015 and a sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Next Part to be released in 2019. She worked with comedy legends Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, and Craig T. Nelson in the 2015 release Get Hard. She was nervous to play over-the-top sexy for a laugh, which is a stark contrast to the Type A character she had been routinely typecast. She was also excited to share scenes with Will Ferrell, whom she considers her comedy idol, telling Refinery 29 that “I can’t think of anyone that I’m a bigger fan of in the comedy world.” In 2016, How to Be Single was released. The film, top-lined by Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, and Leslie Mann, follows a group of young adults navigating love and relationships in New York City. To promote the release of the movie, Alison was seen doing press junkets and interviews across New York City and London, England. It signified “big-budget film” and allowed Alison to reach a larger audience than the previous independent releases she was a part of.
The year 2017 marked many milestones for Alison’s movie career. She starred in two films with her husband, Dave Franco: The Little Hours and The Disaster Artist. At first apprehensive about whether their acting styles would mesh or not, Alison quickly came to love working with her partner, telling Hello Giggles “It’s so nice to work with your person, to be on set with someone who is the person you feel the most comfortable with in the world.” It’s a good thing their styles meshed while working, as Alison has shared that the filming for The Little Hours happened outside a remote town in Italy. In The Disaster Artist, the film recreates the making of the real film The Room following Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau’s friendship. Alison plays Amber, the girlfriend to Dave’s character, Greg. When it came to filming, Alison notes that their style of rehearsing for their roles was very different, “it was fun to be working on the same thing, but he is not as talkative as I am, so it was a challenge to get him to rehearse our scenes together. We’d be getting ready for bed, brushing our teeth and I’m like, ‘Let’s run lines! Just the ones for tomorrow!’ He would finally be like, ‘Fine.'”
In 2017, while on vacation in New York, Alison’s agent invited her to a reading with Steven Spielberg’s casting director for his new film, The Post. The drama is about the Washington Post at the time of Nixon’s administration. She plays Lally Graham, the daughter of the paper’s first female publisher, Katharine Graham, portrayed by film icon Meryl Streep. Alison accepted only because she believed it would be a good contact for the future. The week after her audition she received a callback asking her to meet with the famed director himself, to which she responded “Come again?” Two days after her meeting with Steven Spielberg, she was informed that she won the part, and received a personal call from him congratulating her, “the craziest half an hour of my life” is how Alison describes it. Filming for the movie started on the day that GLOW premiered on Netflix, leaving Alison no time to prepare for her role due to the press tour she had just finished for the show, but she was not worried as she told The Hollywood Reporter, “it’s Meryl Streep so everything was OK.” Alison jokes that after being a part of a film like The Post, she can never do another movie again, “I’m frozen in this weird fear. The bar has been set so unbelievably high that I’ll never work again.”
In 2016, Alison was cast and began filming a Netflix original series, GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). A comedy-drama series based on the real-life 1980s wrestling show of the same name. In the show, Alison portrays the lead character Ruth Wilder in a role that she says is a “role of a lifetime” allowing her to “show some different side of myself.” Alison tells Collider in 2017, “I had been reading a lot of pilots. It was pilot season and I had decided, in my mind, that I wanted to do another show, but the bar had already been set so high, having to work on Mad Men and Community, that I was really particular. I was looking for something really specific, but I didn’t even know exactly what that was. When I read ‘Glow‘, it just checked every box.” This series marks the first time that Alison is the number one on the call sheet as the lead actor, being the “face” of the show, but she likes to think of herself as the “team captain.”
It was not easy for Alison to land the role of Ruth, as the showrunners had a hard time seeing her as an unconventional woman and wanted an unknown to play the character. She continued to audition for the role, crying in her car after each audition, scared that she might not land the role. She tells IndieWire, “I’ve never felt more like Ruth than when I was auditioning for this show.” In a life-imitating-art scenario, Alison’s desperation to play Ruth – who on the show was desperate to land a significant acting role – was, in turn, blowing show co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch away. In total, Alison went on four auditions for GLOW — two individually and then two with co-star Betty Gilpin to test their chemistry; Alison even flew to Toronto to test with Betty.
Alison credits working on GLOW for changing her perspective on what it means to be successful. She told The Daily Beast in 2018, “When I was starting out as an actress, I really wanted to be in movies. To me, being a movie star was the height of success as an actress.” Adding that it’s not the format you’re working on, but the character you’re portraying “getting this job [GLOW] is where I had the realization that it’s the character that matters.” Playing an actress turned wrestler on GLOW hasn’t just helped Alison find her strength, it also aided her in finding her voice, and she’s eager to use it.
Alison married actor Dave Franco in a private ceremony on March 13, 2017. She and Dave met at Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2011 and began dating shortly after. Dave proposed while they were on a trip to Big Sur, California in 2015 and she immediately accepted, telling Larry King in 2017, “I was so shocked that I actually burst out laughing, and I asked him a number of times if he was being serious before saying yes.” Dave’s devotion to his former 16-pound cats, Harry and Arturo, complicated his love life; and Alison’s acceptance of it gave him the signal of her being “the one.” He told Jimmy Fallon in 2017, “Alison [Brie] loves them, thank God. She was really the only option [for marriage].” The couple has always remained private about their lives, as Alison told The Sunday Morning Herald in 2018, “we are also a private couple and try to figure how to deal with the attention that comes our way at red-carpet events, how to find a balance.” Their first public appearance together was in 2015 (paparazzi photos were snapped of the couple in 2013 grocery shopping).
The couple currently live in Los Angeles with their two cats Max and Otis. Having previously stated that she had no desire to be married, Alison has become a fan of marriage, “I love being married – it’s such a beautiful feeling,” she says. “We understand each other and the business because we’re in this together. He’s affectionate, interested in what I do and likes to sit on the couch and watch TV with me.”
Alison may be busy, but she seems to like it that way, telling Zink magazine in 2010; ‘If anything I’d just squeeze in more work and have no social life.” While she is working, Alison likes to be in control, telling uproxx.com in 2010 that “I have a strong work ethic.” She tells The Hollywood Reporter that “prior to GLOW, my mentality was work-focused. After, the bar got set so high that I didn’t want to do another project that wasn’t meaningful.” She continues to say “I just didn’t want another project to come out that I wasn’t equally as proud of.” Because she likes to keep busy, Alison is always looking for more work, including writing and producing. Her first foray into producing was on the TVLand series Teachers in 2016, a comedy series detailing the lives of six elementary school educators trying to mold young minds, even though their own lives aren’t really together. Of branching out, Alison says, “I haven’t been finding a ton of opportunities, so I’m trying to create them.”
Last Updated: February 1, 2022
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