411Mania Interviews: Alison Sweeney
Alison Sweeney has literally grown on up your television screen, debuting on Days of Our Lives in 1993 at age 16 after guest spots on shows like Simon and Simon, Webster, and St. Elsewhere. She has played Sami Brady on the daytime drama ever since, winning four Soap Opera Digest Awards as well as a fan-voted Emmy in the process. Along with author and Mother on her resume she has most recently added reality show host; tonight begins her fourth season as host of NBC’s hit series, The Biggest Loser. Recently she sat down to talk with us about her career.
Al Norton: You’ve handled being a Mom, a wife, a lead actress on a daytime show, and the host of a reality show at the same time before, but what’s it like juggling all of that while being pregnant?
Alison Sweeney: I try not to add it all up like that. I mean, if I think about all the stuff I have to do – the responsibilities, and time commitments, all at once, it would drive me crazy. So I just try to take it one day at a time, figure out how to get through that day and then move on to the next. I have had a very smooth pregnancy in that my symptoms didn’t keep me from working or getting through the tough, long days.
Al Norton: Obviously people’s individual stores make the drama fresh each season on the human side of things, but do you think they should ever tinker with the format of The Biggest Loser at all, and if so, are there any changes you would make if you were in charge?
Alison Sweeney: We do change things up every season to keep it fresh, and keep the audience, the contestants and the trainers on their toes. But the truth is, I wouldn’t want to deviate too far from the format because our show isn’t really about that. What I think keeps the audience coming back for more, and hundreds of thousands of people lining up to become contestants every season, is the core of what the Biggest Loser is about. It’s a show that helps people get their lives and their health back and the audience at home goes on that emotional journey with our contestants each season. That’s what it’s all about and we’d never want to lose sight of that.
Al Norton: Do you think the show has made a difference in terms of the way viewers look at the choices they make every day in regards to their health?
Alison Sweeney: Biggest Loser strives to inform the audience as well as the contestants. We’re not trying to hide anything or keep secrets of how to succeed. Bob and Jillian do an incredible job educating each new group of contestants on how to get healthy by guiding them through their nutrition and their exercise. We try to put all that information into the show so that all our viewers can take that knowledge for themselves and it works! I get fans approaching me every day to share their story of how Biggest Loser inspires them to hit the gym more, or to eat a healthier dinner. Some people even pull out old photos of themselves, 100lbs heavier, just because they want me to know what an impact we’ve had in their lives. It means so much to me to hear those stories.
Al Norton: Clearly we are much more knowledgeable about diet and exercise than we were 15-20 years ago but just as clearly weight is an even bigger issue in our country than it was then. What do you think needs to happen in order to make sure more and more kids aren’t growing up overweight?
Alison Sweeney: It is shocking to see that even as we learn more and more about health and nutrition, or country and the world becomes more and more obese. I feel so personally tied to the struggle our country faces with childhood obesity. It is truly horrifying to see the statistics. And obviously, a lot of this problem stems from a lack of awareness with parents not understanding how destructive fast food is to their children’s growing, developing metabolisms. Also, especially at difficult times like this, it is extremely difficult for people to afford healthier alternatives. There are so many things making it difficult for parents to help their kids get the nutrition and exercise they need. So I wish I had an easy answer. Obviously raising awareness is a big part of it.
Al Norton: Do you think there could ever be a Biggest Loser: Teens or would that be too big a stage for a young person to deal with?
Alison Sweeney: If we were to do a BL:Teens I think it would be a different show. We do have an 18 and a 19 year old in this coming season, but kids younger than that… well, there are all sorts of other issues to be concerned about.
Al Norton: Can you give us a preview on what we’ll see on the new season of The Biggest Loser?
Alison Sweeney: I’m telling you, this new season of Biggest Loser is FANTASTIC. I am so excited for the fans to see the first episode because I know the new contestants will blow them away. It aims right at the heart of why the Biggest Loser is so important and how it is literally saving lives.
Al Norton: We spoke about a year ago and I asked you if you thought a Days of our Lives storyline that had Sami falling in love with EJ, who had sexually assaulted her in the past, was something you would have issues with. Now that we are on the other side of that story, at least for the time being, how do you think it played out on the screen? What kind of feedback did you get from fans?
Alison Sweeney: I have read all sorts of opposing view points on that story. In 16 years on a soap, I’ve never been part of a more controversial, divisive storyline. And for someone who is always interested in the fans perspective and feedback, it was incredibly difficult for me to try to digest both sides of the argument. In the end, I had a job to do, and I did it the best I could.
Working with Galen is so much fun. I love the newness of it, and that there is no history of any variety with this character. After 16 years in Salem, Sami has baggage with everyone. Lol. So, the Sami/Rafe dynamic is a fun new twist for me. He is a talented actor, who certainly isn’t hard to look at, is he??!!
Al Norton: The big story about Days of our Lives right now is the budget cuts, with your longtime co-stars Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall being let go. What is the mood on the set?
Alison Sweeney: Drake and Dee are truly remarkable people. It has been such an honor to know them and work with them. My first storyline on the show was with Dee, Drake and Wayne. Even though we’ve known for a while, I still can’t imagine what it will be like not seeing them on set all the time. They will be missed for far more than could ever explain.
Al Norton: You’ve starred on a daytime soap, hosted a primetime reality show, written a book…what’s left on your career to-do list?
Alison Sweeney: Ha!!! A lot! I have several projects I’m working on and very excited about. More to come…
Don’t miss The Biggest Loser tonight at 8 pm on NBC