People often find their place in life as a result of their experiences. Opportunities are sometimes presented and sometimes pursued. Actors are the type of people and professionals who spend their lives trying to experience many things because this allows them to create a bank of feelings with which to approach their different roles. That seems somewhat counterintuitive to most of us who seek to find one comfortable place in life and exist there. Still, there is a certain undeniable early imprinting that leads an actor to choices. Alison Araya is an actress who has played many varying shades of the modern resilient and empowered woman. She has been on screen as a teacher (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), the protecting stepmother in a same sex relationship (The Unseen), a police officer (a recurring role in CW’s “Arrow”), and even a Goddess (in the Sci-fi comedy “Earthlickers”); what shines through is a simultaneous vulnerability and strength. It’s the combination of this dichotomy that continues to result in roles being awarded to Araya. As a member of her creative community, she adheres to the pursuit of eclectic experiences but there is visible proof of her early life in the unspoken manner with which she carries herself.
Araya grew up in Sydney, Australia where her parents immigrated from Canada. They were married and divorced while Alison was very young. Her mother became a very real hero to her as she struggled to make sure that all the children were not only provided for but given every opportunity she could provide. As a young girl with a strong female role model, it seemed natural to young Alison that she should be able to physically compete with the boys of her family when it came to BMX biking, wrestling, skateboarding, etc. When she saw Drew Barrymore in ET, it convinced Alison that the new competition for her was with those on the silver screen. She began acting and attended a performing arts high school in Australia, following this with a foray into the professional acting world.
The determination her mother displayed in those early years would serve Araya well; a career in acting is not for those who don’t take criticism or rejection with ease. The path to her success seems to have happened quickly in spite of this. Most entertainers joke that they have put decades into becoming an “overnight success.” Alison has been seen in roles that span many mediums: blockbuster feature films, TV series, Independent films, all are a part of her impressive resume. CW’s “Arrow” is currently finishing its sixth season. The crime drama is the story of DC comic book hero Green Arrow. Spoiled billionaire playboy Oliver Queen is missing and presumed dead when his yacht is lost at sea. He returns five years later a changed man, determined to clean up the city as a hooded vigilante armed with a bow. Lopez is a recurring character that has been on the successful series since 2014. As Officer Lopez, Araya is a bridge between the more “normal” people of the city, the vigilante Arrow, and the crime community. While originally cast as a single appearance character, Alison was so charismatic that the producers made Officer Lopez a recurring character for the past three seasons. Alison is one of the few actors to cross over into both the DC and Marvel universes. She appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (grossing $375MM worldwide) and even in Warner Brothers Watchmen (grossing $181 MM worldwide). Proving that she’s not limited to the comic book franchises, Araya appeared as Goddess Y in the sci-fi comedy “Earthlickers” which is closer in tone to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood than Star Wars. Rounding out her portrayal of strong women is the role of Moll in The Unseen. This film shows Alison playing a same sex partner and adoptive step mother who confronts an absent (in a number of ways) father. It’s a deadbeat dad story with a new twist.
The unifying thread of all these characters is not that they are a “type” but that there is an inner determination and resiliency which the actress brings to them. We can see them as shades of what Araya is and what she could be. The actress herself notes, “It is an exciting time for women in film and women of diversity. Being Latina, I am proud to represent and I feel the stories being told provides many opportunities to share my gifts. I have been blessed to work as much as I have in Canada. I worked hard and earned my stripes but I feel life must always be moving forward. I try to keep challenging my comfort zone, we can get too comfortable and complacent. I like to shake things up and feel the excitement of not knowing what happens next. I believe every role has its own challenges and I welcome the opportunity to be pushed beyond my perceived limitations. I haven’t met my most difficult role yet but I am excited to tackle it. I learn so much from each of my experiences and sometimes it takes time for the dust to settle and retrospection to begin. In that space the gem appears, so when my difficult or challenging role meets up with me, I’m excited and curious what gems will come of that.”
In spite of the outward confidence her roles convey, Araya makes note of the idea that acting is a humbling experience rather than one which creates hubris. She points to actors like Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett (and others) who take risks and continually investigate who they are rather than playing it safe. She affirms, “I have so much respect for all actors. What we do is so incredibly vulnerable. We are revealing our souls and creating. We willing risk exposing ourselves and our humanity to serve story. I believe acting is therapeutic and can bring about tremendous healing. Through my acting I have learned so much about myself. I constantly met myself in unexpected crevices of my humanity and I believe I have evolved so much as a person directly and indirectly through my acting career. The best investment actors can make is taking care of our mental house. When the wave hits and jobs are lined up one after the other it is easy to feel empowered and successful. It’s when the wave stops and the next gig isn’t on the horizon, that’s when doubt can creep in and these are the times I take most care of myself, because I know how hard it can be. I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years of my career will teach me.”