My first memory of Adam Sandler comes from Christmas in 1994, I’d snuck into my cousin’s room during dinner to listen to “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!” on cassette (yes, cassette). Ever since, Sandler and his production company, Happy Madison, have been making films that never fail to make us laugh (but promise to always tug on our heartstrings).
What’s more exciting than Sandler’s umpteenth movie—and Robert Smigel’s directorial debut—is there’s a local Hudson County actress making her first film appearance. No stranger to giving rockstar performances from her time on the Broadway stage since she was a teenager, local gal Allison Strong seems to be living the dream as Sandler’s bride-to-be daughter in Netflix’s newly released “The Week Of”.
“You grow up with Adam’s films,” Strong told me. “It was kind of surreal for me when I got the audition; it was even more surreal when I saw myself on a billboard [with Adam] in the middle of Manhattan.”
The young actress says she’s seeing this role as her first big break and that is, of course, apart from her first big break on Broadway which earned her a spot in “Bye Bye Birdie” as a teenager.
“[Transitioning from the stage to film] felt very natural to me. When I auditioned for the part I didn’t get coached for it, I didn’t take a class—I just did as little with the part as possible and just tried to be myself. A lot of those qualities fit [the character], she’s not so different from me at all,” Strong said.
“The film basically stands for the week of the wedding and all of the craziness that ensues. Sarah [Strong’s character] is the oldest daughter. She is in dental school and engaged to Chris Rock’s son [Roland Buck III]. She loves her dad so much, she basically isn’t saying anything no matter what crazy ideas he comes up with to save a dollar to pay for the wedding. As the film progresses, the methods of saving money to try to do this all on his own just get wilder and wilder… It’s so funny because a lot of the comedy that ensues is the hilarity of these two polar opposite families coming together,” Strong explained.
What’s more special for the hometown actress who went to grade school right here in Weehawken and college just up the road at Montclair State University, is that the entire film was shot right in Long Island with a slew of New York/New Jersey actors, including the Garden State’s own Chris Rock.
She said, “It’s funny, I was at an Edgewater movie theater a couple of years ago, and I was getting popcorn right behind Chris and I remember walking away wanting a picture with him but never getting it. This summer, we got to talking about how we’re both from New Jersey and I finally got my picture. It was as natural as anything and I didn’t have to feel weird about it!”
Strong’s biggest fan has to be her mom, who has stood behind her since her early years of singing on the kitchen table in Union City to camping outside the Roundabout Theatre Company for her first big Broadway role.
“[Adam] actually wanted my mom to be in the wedding scene, and so my mom makes a small cameo… He actually went up and spoke with her for a little bit and it just meant so much to me and I think it must’ve meant a lot to my mom because she’s the reason I’m here.”
As a freshman at Montclair, she answered a cattle call for “Bye Bye Birdie” with John Stamos and Gina Gershon in the Big Apple which led to a prominent role in “Mamma Mia” shortly thereafter.
Strong says she wants to continue her career in film and eventually, meld her two loves in a musical movie (something you can just tell is in the young star’s future).
At 27-years-old, the Hoboken-born actress is clearly on the rise and has no plans of slowing down. “The sky’s the limit,” she told me confidently. “I’m so excited for the release and our premier in Manhattan on April 23rd.”
As you can imagine, Strong and her family are excited for the Netflix release of the film and have been doing their best to promote it. For a closer, more intimate look at Strong’s incredible journey (and her favorite hometown hotspots) stay tuned for this year’s Family Issue of The Digest coming this summer.
“The Week Of” is now streaming on Netflix as of April 27th. Follow Strong’s journey: @allisontstrong.