Alison Sweeney is one of those actresses people just seem to recognize. Perhaps it’s from her twenty-plus years playing Sami Brady on the long-running soap Days of Our Lives. Or maybe people recognize her as the face behind The Biggest Loser; she did host that series for nearly a decade, after all. Or maybe it’s her gig endorsing Arm & Hammer toothbrushes and toothpaste that has her on people’s minds lately. Whatever it is, you have to admit that the woman has been busy putting herself out there.
The thing is, she’s probably even busier than the average person realizes. She may even be the busiest woman in Hollywood.
Sweeney’s latest project, the Murder She Baked films from Hallmark Channel, have come to Canada in full force. The latest installment, A Deadly Recipe, hits Bravo on June 30 and features Sweeney’s cookie-shop owning character, Hannah working to clear her brother-in-law’s name from a grisly murder. That’s not all that’s keeping Sweeney on the go, however, as she’s also producing the films.
It’s a position she’s always wanted to be in, ever since her soap days when she dabbled behind-the-scenes as a director on several episodes of Days and General Hospital.
“Actresses in daytime know better than anyone — we’re the ones who meet the fans every day and talk to them on the Internet and social media and hear the critiscms and concerns and critiques and the complaints,” she explains. “Believe me, it’s frustrating when that isn’t passed up the chain. You watch people choose not to do anything about it, and that’s incredibly frustrating. So I choose not to do my business that way. I want to engage the fans, I want them to know that I listem to them, that they’re part of the decisions that I make every day.”
Considering the sheer number of decisions Sweeney must have to make in her daily life, that’s a pretty firm commitment. On top of acting and producing and being a spokesperson, Sweeney is also an author, mom and health advocate. She’s written three fictional novels about women in Hollywood who have jobs such as publicist or makeup artist, and who go on journeys of self discovery all while getting into “just a little bit” of trouble.
“I’ve learned so many lessons from daytime that carry me forward into everything that I do. But I think most important is storytelling, and how to get the audience to understand the story that you’re wanting to tell,” she says. “You want them to get on the train and to root for the love triangle [or characters].”
As for her skills in the kitchen, Sweeney subscribes to what she calls the “Emeril Lagasse school of cooking” — that is, she taught herself by watching the Food Network. Today she can whip up the basics as well as some baked goods like a basic pie crust, soufflé or creme anglaise.
“One of the things I really champion is the idea of mastering the kitchen, being confident in there. So many people in my generation feel afraid of or angry at their kitchen,” she says. “I really hope for my kids that I can teach them to feel confident in the kitchen. You don’t have to love it, you just have to know how to do enough to make yourself something so that you’re healthy and not eating out all the time, which is more expensive and not as good for you.”
Okay, so that’s directing, producing, acting, writing, meeting with fans, being a mother of two, acting as a spokesperson and cooking? Not only is Alison Sweeney probably the busiest person in Hollywood, she may also be our hero. So how does she do it all?
“Time management. Being organized,” she laughs. “I have a Google calendar that I keep good track of, and I put everything in it — even if it’s time to write or time to work out or when I pick up my kids and all those plans. It’s all mapped out for me and I try to really honour it. I take all those things seriously so they get equal attention and when I am doing something I give that my full attention and try not to let myself get distracted.”
Considering all the other things pulling at her time, it’s a wonder she manages even that.