Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Naked Truth: Alison Brie

[The Naked Truth is a feature celebrating the lives and careers of the most talented women that pop culture has to offer. The fact that they're also all incredibly gorgeous is just a great excuse to post as many stunning images as possible. You can see more of this sort of thing at Flixist's Some Like It Hot feature.]

The people have spoken: Community's Alison Brie is your favourite actress of the new TV season and thus earns herself a Naked Truth tribute. Congratulations, readers, you have chosen wisely. Rashida Jones, Yvonne Strahovski and Karen 'flame-haired Scottish Amazon' Gillan also received nods, but Brie's victory was comfortable.

It's not difficult to understand why: as much as Fox might be pushing Zooey Deschanel in New Girl as the face of *shudder* 'adorkable', Brie has owned that market since first appearing on our screens, be they computer (she has done two web series) or television, where she appears in both one of the most celebrated comedies and dramas of modern times. But where Deschanel (who didn't receive a single vote, surprisingly) is defined by her quirkiness, Brie can move between adorable geekiness to flirty sexpot or glamorous '60s sophisticate at the drop of a hat, fitting as easily into a period drama as a knockabout ensemble comedy.

She's dorky, distinguished and devilishly delicious. Welcome to your Naked Truth, Alison Brie...

Alison Brie entered the world shortly after Christmas day in 1983, generously giving Jesus four days' grace so everyone would also remember he had a birthday at around the same time. With Jewish roots through her mother, she first began acting at the Jewish Community Centre in the Los Angeles suburb of South Pasadena as a five-year old. Her first performance was playing Toto in The Wizard Of Oz. Yes, Toto's the dog, and no, I don't know how that worked either. I bet there was a lot of 'awwww'ing on that day, though.

She graduated from South Pasadena High School in 2001, having been President of the Drama Club in her senior year, before going on to receive her BFA in Acting from the California Institute Of The Arts. While studying there, she performed in a stage production of The Peach Blossom Fan, one of the most beloved plays in Chinese culture, at Disney's Redcat Theatre, and went on to study at the prestigious Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland - or the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, as it was then known.

After starring in 2004's Stolen Poem, a short drama, she got her first break two years later when cast in a supporting role in Hanna Montana, playing Nina, an amateur hairdresser. Even while continuing to pursue screen work, Brie's greatest successes continued to come from the stage. She participated in a number of LA theatre companies, including The Odyssey, The Blank Theatre Company and The Write-Act, eventually winning a 2007 Indy Award for her performance as Ophelia in the Rubicon Theatre performance of Hamlet.

Her screen career at the time was chugging along, although not exactly at the same level of prestige as winning awards for Hamlet: she appeared in such questionably-titled movies as Dickie Smalls: From Shame To Fame, a mockumentary about a man looking for his father, who may be a famously under-endowed '80s porn star, and The Deadliest Lesson, where a teacher witnesses a drug killing and becomes A TARGET FOR DEATH. Truly, the deadliest lesson of all.

Despite this, 2007 was also the year when Brie was cast in the first of the two television roles which would make her famous. Having worked as a clown for several years - no word unfortunately on whether she actually attended a Simpsons-esque clown college, but here's hoping - she won the part of Trudy Campbell in AMC's Mad Men, only a small part in practice but on what quickly became one of the most iconic and celebrated television series of its time. (Its fifth season starts in March next year). She also got to learn the Charleston, which she later performed in a low-cut dress for the TV Guide Channel, to the delight of the drooling internet.

Brie then moved into starring in web comedies. Her first was My Alibi in 2008, a Disney-financed set of three minute skits revolving around a group of students who are accused of pulling a spectacular prank at their high school and sent to detention, where each of them relates what happened to them leading up to that point. Kind of a Breakfast Club vs Rashomon type deal. The series took online submissions for ideas from fans and became known for its increasingly silly plot twists. Brie played Rebecca Fuller, a somewhat uptight schoolgirl, in what was an early incarnation of the comedy role that would later make her name.

She next became involved with Hot Sluts, described on IMDB as a web series involving: 'Endless cleavage, bitchy girl fights, and an 800-pound disco ball. All in one slutty nightclub', where Brie played the lead role of Amber for the entire run. Having never seen the series, I'll hand over to IMDB user mattechalk to describe its appeal.
'The people who made this show obviously wanted to make it look like a shoddy, poorly-produced 1980s drama. But its not a drama, that's the humor in it. Anyways, this show is more or less just an excuse to show hot, busty women parading around in barely any clothing. This show is not to be taken seriously. Perfect if you're in your 20's, male, and a stoner.'
 So yeah. That's a thing that Alison Brie, 2007 Indy Award winner for Hamlet, was in.

2009 was the year that Brie's reputation really took off, though, when she got her first major leading role in the NBC comedy Community, playing Annie 'Adderall' Edison as part of an ensemble cast that mixed relative unknowns, including Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald 'Childish Gambino' Glover, with more established names like the The Soup's Joel McHale, Ken Jeong and comedy superstar Chevy Chase.

Although the series was expected to be a vehicle for McHale and Chase, the lesser known faces quickly became the series' breakout stars. As with Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones on Parks & Recreation or the continuing excellence of Tina Fey on 30 Rock, Brie and co-star Gillian Jacobs were at the forefront of a new wave of female comics laying smackdown to the idea that it wasn't possible to be female, funny and ridiculously attractive all at the same time. Although Gillian's Britta became the more experimental role - having started out as a more typical love interest - Brie was soon noticed for the madcap intensity of her comic performances, whether acting out a gravy train leaving the station (I choo-choo-choose you!), chloroforming a janitor, or being the most adorable zombie (Zom-Brie?) ever.

Brie's career has since gone from strength to strength, inspiring an excellent rap, winning a prominent role in Scream 4 and winning an award for Best Supporting Performance at the Orlando Film Festival for her part as Ella in indie comedy Montana Amazon, about a grandmother who goes on the run with two teenagers. Her upcoming roles include playing Emily Blunt's English sister in The Five Year Engagement, and as if that weren't a spectacular enough pairing, she will then be alongside fellow niche internet über-crush, Lizzy Caplan of Party Down fame, in Save The Date.

Unsurprisingly, Brie has also become a favourite choice for magazine photoshoots, including Complex...

...this gorgeous recent effort for Rolling Stone, whose headline sums up her appeal rather perfectly...

 ...and a now near-legendary GQ shoot alongside Community co-star Gillian Jacobs.

So that's Alison Brie's Naked Truth. Accomplished comedienne. Award-winning dramatic actress. Internet darling. Hot Sluts. She's your choice for the best actress of the new TV season and, if you're living in the US, you can see her tomorrow night when Community's third season kicks off. Should you live outside the States, I'm sure you'll be able to find another way of catching up with one of the sharpest comedies of recent years.

And you're not seriously going to miss it after all of that, are you? 

Click here to read reviews of the latest Community episodes!


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