By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
Valerie and Davis Tolman remember sitting at a local movie theater in 2015 and watching their daughter Allison’s face appear on the big screen in a movie trailer for the Christmas horror flick “Krampus.”
The Sugar Land couple took a picture of the theatre screen and Davis tried not to shout to everyone, “that’s my daughter.”
Now she appears every Tuesday night on television as the young, creative Nan, the owner of a soulful-eyed philosophical canine named Martin whose thoughts are heard in the ABC comedy “Downward Dog.”
This week her face graces the big screen again in the comedy “The House” with actors Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell. Poehler and Ferrell are proud parents of a young girl entering the college of her choice. Allison Tolman plays the character who informs the parents they can’t afford college, starting them off on a rollicking plan to turn a home into an underground casino to pay for their daughter’s education. The show opens in theaters June 30.
“She always wanted to be an actress,” recalled her mother, Valerie Tolman. “We all tend to think you have to know somebody to make it in TV or movies. We always encouraged her but it seemed like a hard field to break into. We really didn’t see that as viable future, but we didn’t tell her she couldn’t do it.”
While in middle school, Allison was in a couple plays with the Fort Bend Community Theater and she was voted “wittiest senior” at Clements High School in Sugar Land. She majored in theatre at Baylor College and she held down regular jobs while getting cast in occasional commercials.
A sample of her wit: “Throughout her career, Tolman has played a veterinary receptionist, personal assistant, children’s theatre teacher, vocal coach, phone sales associate, client services representative, and dog walker never on film, but in her actual life in order to pay her rent and be able to afford more tank tops from Target than any human actually needs,” she wrote in her online bio with IMDb.
She moved to Dallas where she founded an improv theatre troupe. She then she moved to Chicago where she worked improv and wrote comedy sketches as she studied with the Second City Conservatory.
“She put together a living. She was getting real discouraged. Doing all these auditions you get a lot of rejections. Then she got a callback to go to New York for “Fargo” with two other named actresses. She did her audition in New York and got the part,” recalled her mother.
“We thought she’d have a bit part and we assumed she was a nurse or something. And when the show came out, it was like, she’s the main character!”
“She told us, but it was amazing to see her,” added her father.
She received a supporting actress Emmy nomination for her starring role in the first season of “Fargo,” the TV series inspired by the Coen Brothers’ classic movie of the same name.
With the hit of “Fargo” under her belt, Tolman still had to audition for the next gig.
“It is a very interesting job that she has. It’s been really fun to learn more about that industry,” said her mother.
Davis Tolman broke it down this way: “There are three parts to a job. Doing the audition, dealing with rejection and going off for a month or two to make the show and then you’re expected to do publicity. I’m really, really impressed with my daughter,” he said.
Valerie Tolman noted that her own grandmother was a child actress and her grandfather was on vaudeville. She jokes the acting gene skipped a couple generations.
Valerie Tolman volunteers at the Missouri City Animal Shelter and was particularly pleased that Allison’s co-star Ned, who plays Allison’s brown and white dog Martin, is an actual rescue dog from the Chicago shelter.
Allison returns homes to Fort Bend County once or twice a year and once a year they take family vacations.
“When she’s home, the people at church are excited to see her because they watched her grow up,” Valerie said.
“She’s a regular person, pretty grounded,” she added.
News recently broke that ABC will not renew Tolman’s show, but the creators said the show has a solid, but small, fan base and they are hopeful to get a bite of interest from another network.