Biography

001. EARLY LIFE  ●  002. CAREER  ●  003. PERSONAL LIFE  ●  004. ADVOCACY  ●  005. ENDORSEMENTS

Full Name: Allison Howell Williams
Date of Birth: April 13, 1988
Place of Birth: New Canaan, Connecticut, United States
Height: 5 ft 5¾ (1.67 m)
Education: Yale University
Parents: Brian Williams and Jane Stoddard Williams
Brother: Douglas Williams
Husband: Ricky Van Veen (m. 2015)

001. Early life and education


Allison Howell Williams was born on April 13, 1988. The daughter of former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and TV producer, Jane Gillan Stoddard. She spent most of her life in her hometown of New Canaan, Connecticut, an upscale town situated on the Long Island Sound, and attended Greenwich Academy, an all-girls prep school in nearby Greenwich. She has a younger brother, Douglas Williams who is a sports newscaster on SNY.

From a young age, Allison realized she wanted to be a performer. “I wanted to be an actress before I understood anything else about my life — before I went to school, before I understood what it is that my dad does. It was innate. Everything, everything that ever happened in my life happened in the framework of my knowing that this was where I was going to end up. So in school, I could learn purely for the sake of learning. It gave me this almost gluttonous sense of intellectual curiosity. I never want to stop learning.” 

In 2004, at the age of 16, Allison made her debut in the television series ‘‘American Dreams’’ as Deborah in a minor role, where she succeed to pull the attention of peoples. The Series American Dreams is an American television drama program broadcast on NBC television network. However, the start of her career was postponed as her parents suggested her to focus on her studies and graduate college. During high school, Allison worked at a farmer’s market and she also has worked in the stock room of Ralph Lauren and even became a salesperson for the same brand.

She was a production assistant on Robert Altman’s last movie, “A Prairie Home Companion.” In this last job, she got to meet Meryl Streep, who gave her an advice before she started college. “She told me that, if I was going to go to college, I should study as much as I can, be ravenous and selfish about it. And do theater, do acting, but don’t necessarily study it then,” said Williams in an interview for ABC.

Williams followed her advice and majored in English where she also took mainly anthropology classes. However, Allison still found time to pursue acting when she wasn’t studying and joined an improv club. During her freshman year, she auditioned for the improv group ‘Just Add Water’. The group plays both short-form and long-form games and makes frequent use of music in its performances. The group is completely student-run and directed, and is also known for wearing brightly colored jumpsuits as performance uniforms.

During her Yale years, Allison took several summer jobs in different movie productions as she was notallowed to act until she graduated. She worked as Tina Fey’s assistant the summer the “30 Rock” star was shooting “Baby Mama” (she doesn’t deny that her father’s connections helped her there), she served as a utility stand-in for the “Boardwalk Empire” pilot. In an interview, she claims that Martin Scorsese called her ‘Allie Capone’ on set. These jobs helped her understand movies and acting in a different way as she learned how everything works behind the scenes.

Allison was also inducted by St. Elmo, a secret society at Yale. She graduated with an English degree in 2010. Upon her graduation, Allison decided she needed a calling card to send people in the industry. That summer Allison was obsessed with ‘Mad Men’ and its theme song, so she came up with the idea of adding lyrics to the theme. A friend of hers realized that the song ‘Nature Boy’ fitted perfectly with the melody. They shot the video, which according to her was one-take. In the video, Allison sings Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” and the song was set to RJD2’s “A Beautiful Mine,” the theme song for TV’s Mad Men. After uploading the video to YouTube, she moved to Los Angeles. The rendition racked up more than a million hits through early 2015.

002. Career


GIRLS

While in Los Angeles, Allison received a call from her agents letting her know that Judd Apatow had seen the video and had offered her to audition for an HBO show he was producing. The show was created by Lena Dunham, who had a different view of Marnie but after their auditioned together she was so impressed by their chemistry that decided to cast Allison as Marnie Michaels, the pretty foil for Lena Dunham’s Hannah Hovarth. Allison also credits her previous experience in an improv group for her successful audition, as she had to improv a fight with Lena. Girls premiered on April 15, 2012, and it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Critics lauded the show for its raw nature, humor, and refreshing tone, applauding Dunham’s more realistic portrayal of women and their relationships than mainstream media tends to present.

For its first season, the show received several nominations including five Emmy nominations and two Golden Globes (including Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical). During its run, the show received over 100 nominations.

In “Girls”, Allison played Marnie Michaels, Hannah’s best friend and, at the start of season 1, roommate. Along with Jessa, Charlie and Elijah, Marnie was a classmate of Hannah’s at Oberlin College.

During season five, Lena Dunham wrote an episode focused on Marnie Michaels called “The Panic in Central Park”. The episode received great reviews, some calling it the best of the season and one of the best in the show. Allison’s performance got a lot of buzz and it earned her a Critics’ Choice TV Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

It was announced that the sixth season of Girls would be the last one. The first episode of that final season aired on February 12, 2017 and the showed had her last episode and series finale on April 16, 2017. The series ended on April 16, 2017 with a positive review of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 84% audience score.

PETER PAN LIVE AND OTHER PROJECTS

And while Girls turned out to be a great success, Allison was still in search to expand her acting resume and even dared to write. She wrote a series of Funny or Die sketches called ‘Will & Kate: Before Happily Ever After’, in which she starred as newlywed Kate Middleton, with English actor and model Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. The series received positive reviews and it gave Allison the chance to prove herself as a comedy actress and as a writer.

Allison also has appeared in the webseries from CollegeHumor, Jake and Amir as Cheryl, Amir’s obnoxious and unstable friend. She also guest starred in shows like ‘The League’ as Danielle and in 2013 as Jillian in three episodes of ‘The Mindy Project’.

In 2014, she participated in the film ‘College Musical’ where she played Bianca. While in Yale, she had participated in the YouTube version of ‘College Musical’. Both productions were directed by fellow Yale student Kurt Schneider.

However, the big highlight of Allison’s year in 2014 was the announcement that she would be playing Peter Pan in the NBC production of “Peter Pan Live!”. Allison has said that playing Peter Pan was a dreamed of hers as a child. The casting announcing was given by her father, Brian Williams during NBC Nightly News. The show was watched by more than 9 million viewers and received mixed reviews, however, most media outlets praised Allison’s performance.

In Peter Pan Live, Allison was able to show her singing skills but she also made use of them on her TV Show, Girls as her character Marnie Michaels decides to become a folk singer.

GET OUT

On November 2015, it was announced that Allison had been cast in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. This film would also be Allison’s feature film debut. The film was titled ‘Get Out’ and not many details were given about the plot except that it centered on a young African American man who visits his white girlfriend’s family estate.

The movie was filmed in Fairhope, Alabama for three weeks, followed by Barton Academy and in the Ashland Place Historic District in midtown Mobile, Alabama and its released was set for February 2017.

“Get Out” was released on February 24, 2017, and quickly the film turned into a success. The movie grossed $175.5 million in the United States and Canada and $78.7 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $254.1 million, against a production budget of $4.5 million. The reviews to the film were very positive.

Get Out received widespread universal critical acclaim from critics, and has been named as the best film of 2017 on numerous sites. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 292 reviews, and an average rating of 8.3/10. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has an average weighted score of 84 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A–” on an A+ to F scale.

Allison’s performance as Rose Armitage received rave reviews. David Sims from The Atlantic said: “Williams excels as Rose, weaponizing the lack of self-awareness she deploys so well on HBO’s Girls.”  While, Jason Guerrasio from Business Insider wrote: “Williams crafts a character who will not soon be forgotten by horror-movie fans.” The New York Times said: “Allison Williams was perfectly cast.”

The film received a lot of award buzz, and Allison was submitted to awards in the leading actress category. “Get Out” dominated at the Gotham Awards winning three awards and it also leads in nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards.

FUTURE PROJECTS

In August, it was announced that Allison will guest start on Showtime’s upcoming miniseries, the Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer Patrick Melrose. Williams is set to join the limited series for one episode as Marianne. 

Allison’s next film is another thriller. In late October it was reported that she had been cast in “The Perfection”. The premise of the film is a pair of cello prodigies bound by a sinister obsession. For this role, Allison has started to take cello lessons (as seen in her Instagram stories). The film will begin production in Shanghai and Vancouver in February.

003. Personal Life


Allison Williams started dating Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor, in 2011. According to Allison, they met during a viewing party for the show “The Bachelor”. During a guest appearance on Bachelor Live Williams shared the story. “I would not be married to my husband if it weren’t for this show,” she revealed. “We went to a weekly viewing party every week and it was like a big group date, but with both genders equally distributed … it was like how we met up.”

After dating for three years, the couple got engaged. The proposal took place in the very same place where they met. “And that’s where Ricky proposed to me – on Lee Eisenberg’s couch!” she said. After delaying the wedding, the couple got married on September 19, 2015 in a private ceremony in Saratoga, Wyoming. Tom Hanks officiated the ceremony and she wore a gorgeous Oscar de la Renta wedding dress. She and her husband live in Chelsea, New York with their dog. Allison and Ricky have a Golden Retriever-mix named Moxie. They adopted her from the North Shore Animal League when she was believed to be 10-weeks-old.

004. Advocacy


Allison is an ambassador for Horizons National. She led the 2016 and 2017 “10 Days of Giving” campaign to raise awareness and funds for the organization’s educational goals. In the that campaign, Allison partners with her favorite brands to raise funds to help Horizons grow.

Horizons is a proven solution for a real problem: the wide gaps in opportunity and achievement between children from low-income families and their more fortunate peers. As an advocate and ambassador for the learning-focused nonprofit Horizons National, Williams brings attention to what’s called the summer slide. “The lack of school engagement for low-income students during summer vacation can be detrimental to their education,” Williams says. “Kids whose families can’t afford enriching summer experiences or camp programs tend to lose ground over the summers, although the curriculum assumes they’ll continue to grow.”

Allison got involved into the project because her mother chairs the national board, but she also went to school with Horizons students at New Canaan Country School, in Connecticut; she saw firsthand how transformative the program was for her classmates. “One of the craziest inequities I can imagine is the circumstances you’re born into determining what you can make of your academics,” Williams says.

In October 2016, Allison Williams joined (RED) on a four-day trip to Nairobi, Kenya, and Kigali, Rwanda, to meet with local health workers and peer educators who are working to eradicate HIV and AIDS in their communities. Williams’s activist streak began during her undergrad years at Yale, where she took classes focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and spent a summer in Ghana working with Theatre for a Change, a performance troupe dedicated to raising awareness about HIV.

In 2017, she traveled with (RED) to partake in various HIV/AIDS programs in the East African country of Zambia.

005. Endorsements


2013, Allison earned her first beauty campaign with British skin-care line Simple. In 2016, she became an ambassador for Keds, the famous sneakers company. “Keds has always been in my life, and I’m really picky about the brands I’m aligned with. I don’t have to pretend to adjust my morals to fit the ones that I talk about,” Williams said in a shoot with the brand. “Keds and I agree on so many levels. Their slogan, “Ladies first,” is something I care strongly about—it’s about putting girls and women first and making sure that we can be feminine and stylish without feeling like we’re sacrificing the ability to be taken seriously.”

Also in 2016, Allison started in “Past Forward” an 18-minute short film out today, written and directed by David O. Russell. The short film was a publicity campaign for the fashion brand, Prada. Freida Pinto, Kuoth Wie, Sacha Baron Cohen, John Krasinski, Jack Huston, and Sinqua Walls also participated in the film.

Allison has also been on the cover of several magazines such as Glamour, Elle, InStyle, Allure, The Hollywood Reporter and more.

Last updated: December 2017

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