Set in present day Appalachia, Outsiders has the appeal of a family-driven, hardcore isolationist show. We managed to catch up with actress Tina Alexis Allen, who plays Shurn, the fiery member of the Farrell clan. She talks about transforming herself into the tough-loving character and her unconventional path to acting.
Q: Outsiders has been compared to Game of Thrones, Anarchy, and Justified. For those of us out there who haven’t tuned in to the latest family-driven, hard-core isolationist show, what do you think makes this show unique and eye-catching?
A: Even though the show is set in present day Appalachia – Kentucky to be exact – it has a Shakespearean quality. From our language, to rituals and traditions, to a Romeo/Juliet love affair and even a muddy version of dueling. The Farrells are at the end of the day, a proud, close-knit family that would risk everything for each other and for our way of life. My clan has lived on this Mountain going back 200 years. Our survival is dependent upon this land, it’s all we know and love and yet, we are considered Outsiders to the townspeople below. Although this show was conceived of by Peter Mattei long before Trump, it has so much resonance to our current climate, politically and socially. Outsiders really captures the zeitgeist of today’s America. There is a lot of conflict between my family and the town below particularly the coal company who want us off our mountain. Us against them is a hard-core existence and it cuts both ways. Plus, I’m pretty sure we can compete with any show when it comes to who has the most hair. We like our men hairy up here. And we aren’t afraid of a little dirt, either.
Q: Shurn is a fierce tough-love character I see in every woman and ultimately every mother. Do you relate to the character, and does it influence the way you portray Shurn?
A: I adore Shurn and yes, I relate to her fight, her fierce loyalty to family and her unwavering commitment to truth. I particularly love her dilemma with regards to love and revenge. With regards to peace and violence. With regards to family and outsiders. I think I love Shurn’s fearlessness the most, there is nothing she would not say or do, including risking her life for the survival of the clan. She’s a Mama Bear and I’m pretty certain, every mother knows that visceral quality of the Mama Bear. In Season One, I lose my son and hold Big Foster, (David Morse) responsible. Forgiveness is hard to come by when it comes to Big Foster and yet, he’s our leader and my blood. Therein lies Shurn’s great dilemma – how do I forgive this unspeakable tragedy and move forward after losing my only child.
Q: Secrets of A Holy Father is based on your own true story. In this show you transform yourself into him. What was the journey into that role like?
A: Like Shurn, I have a very deep passion to explore the truth and call a spade a spade – even the uncomfortable stuff. There are things in my past – which I explored – no holds barred – in my solo show, Secrets of a Holy Father, that was only possible by stepping into my father’s shoes and trying to understand the past from his perspective. It was the scariest and most profoundly satisfying experience to play my Dad. They say you can never know a man until you have walked in his shoes and in my case, I guess I also needed to put on his suit and tie. The journey – including the terror, and the resistance – has contributed to the positive state of my career today for sure but also, the positive state of my heart. The gift of doing that show is that I now view my father as a human being, and not just my Dad.
Q: From being offered full basketball scholarships to getting an MBA in Marketing, your acting career is a rather unconventional one. Can you tell us more about this?
A: From the time I was a little kid, I played basketball with my 5 brothers (7 sisters too). There’s a freedom of physical expression in playing sports, and a place to blow off steam. Looking back, the basketball court was a safe haven and a place where I could be free and ultimately, stand out among the crowded field of being the youngest of 13 children. Full basketball scholarships followed but ultimately, I realized basketball wasn’t going to be a viable future so I got an MBA – knowing business would be. I adored fashion and decided I wanted to go to New York and work in the fashion industry. I was recruited out of graduate school and became a marketing executive for various designers. Despite the quick, early success, I felt something was missing. In hindsight, I think I had expressed a lot of me through basketball and fashion but most of that was external – and it was now the internal world that needed my attention. Thank God, I listen, to some crazy small voice that decided taking an acting class sounded like a good idea. So at nearly thirty, I walked away cold turkey from fashion and began studying acting.
Q: Let’s talk about your jewellery line. You use deconstructed bullets to create intricate jewellery. Can you tell us more about it – when, where, and what spurned this idea?
A: I guess, life does come full circle, because two years ago, I co-founded a socially conscious jewelry line with New York based artist and designer, Gina Raphaela. The No More Violence collection uses inert bullets and we transform them into beautiful statement pieces. Partial proceeds are donated to non-profits that support a mission of peace. We were inspired by too many incidents of violence in our country and around the world and wanted to create a brand that symbolized our ability as human beings to transform anything. My father always told me “there is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” We were inspired by other brands who lead with service and a commitment to make a difference in the world.
Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaAlexisAllen.
Shop the Gina Raphaela No More Violence collection online here.