SOCIAL ENGINEERING AND FRENCH FRY MEMES: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TIFFANY ALVORD ON 'GUILTY PARTY'
Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
November 27, 2018
In 2016, AT&T launched AT&T Hello Lab, a collection of original entertainment aimed at the social media savvy. The branded content spans live experiences, podcasts, and interactive programming, including the immersive web series Guilty Party, which already looks to be one of the banner's flagship properties in the early going.
The first season of AT&T Hello Lab's Guilty Party revolves around the social fallout at a high school after a student's diary is made public--viewers are invited to solve the mystery of the culprit who exposed those secrets, gathering clues from the show's central episodes, as well as a wealth of supplemental videos recorded from the varying perspectives of different characters and presented as their personal vlogs. The second season, Guilty Party: History of Lying, maps out a similarly structured whodunit, focusing on a group of undergraduates harboring an arsonist in their midst and spinning their tales through an assortment of faux interviews and "class assignments." As with fellow anthology series American Horror Story, Guilty Party brought back many key members of its original cast in new roles for its sophomore outing.
One of these returning stars is musician and renowned YouTuber Tiffany Alvord. In season one, she portrays the ostracized Emma, the poor unfortunate whose diary is published, and whose subsequent meltdown goes viral; and in season two, she slips into the role of affluent outsider Harper, who boasts a cunning aloofness and an aptitude for deception. She is joined by an ensemble of actors, artists, and social media influencers, including Teala Dunn, Alexis G. Zall, Miles McKenna, Jessie Paege, Manolo Vergara, and Vale Genta.
In this exclusive interview, Tiffany Alvord talks about her experience of working on the engaging and inventive Guilty Party.
Both seasons of AT&T Hello Lab's Guilty Party are available to stream freely on the show's official YouTube Channel.
RadioFree.com: As someone whose career has been primarily in music, how did this acting project come your way, and what did the audition process involve?
TIFFANY: I've always been interested in acting. It actually was kind of my passion before music, and so this came about just by being connected with the entertainment business...The initial process was like, "Okay, can she act?" And [there] was a set of three different monologues that I had to do self tapes for, and so I just prepped for those for a week and did my best. [laughs] And after that, we had a meeting [where] they're trying to figure out who would work well together, like finding good energy between different people and making sure everyone would be good for the project...And so that kind of started it, and it's been an amazing adventure.
Guilty Party's season one storyline with the mystery of Emma and her diary was so self-contained. Had there always been plans for a second season that would turn the show into an anthology series?
It came up after the success of season one. I mean, there was [casual] talk, like, "Hey, is there going to be a season two?" Because we all loved working together and had such a good time--the cast and the crew, everything just was so much fun...That's why I love this project and I love these people, and they were so excited to create something new and different.
What did you enjoy about playing Emma in season one, and then Harper in season two? They're both such distinctly different characters...
Oh yes, very much. The thing I loved most [about] playing Emma was being able to go crazy and just lose it. Because I'm very quiet, introverted, I keep the peace, [I don't] bring up any contention. And so preparing [for a] scene where I completely freak out and break down and scream at everyone, I'm like, "How do you even practice for that?" Because I live at my grandma's, I can't just start screaming like an insane person. So most of that was mental prep, like, "I guess if I really lost my mind, I can kind of picture that." With Harper in season two, she figures everything out in her mind, and she's different from my personality in the sense that she kind of knows it all, and she takes pride in [being a loner].
Did you have any characters or actors in mind that served as inspiration for your roles?
I know for season two, I definitely did, because Harper is more mysterious. My go-tos or examples were Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl and Hermione Granger, because they're both the "Oh, I got this all figured out" kind of thing.
Harper is a self-described "social engineer" who is adept at lying and manipulation. How would you characterize your own skills at deception?
I mean, I'm a huge advocate for "the best policy is honesty," and to be honest in all your endeavors, because I really do think the truth always catches up with you--yeah, not a fan of lying. So I feel like I have a pretty good sense of integrity and moral compass...Although [if someone asks], "Does this look good?", I'm not going to be like, "No, you should go change." [laughs]
How was your experience of working with the other actors in Guilty Party, and are there any that you've become particularly close to?
Yeah, actually, in season one, it was really fun because I had just met Jessie Paege, and we really bonded, and we became like best friends in real life. We started running together, and it was through Guilty Party, from doing the show. That kind of kick-started our friendship, which was so fun. And then in season two, I knew some of the other cast members, but I wasn't too close with them. But [over the course of] season two, since we had all worked together before, we all became better friends. And so everything else came more naturally, it was more effortless, like, "Hey, who's on set today?" It would become something I looked forward to because it's like, "Oh yay, my friends are going to be there!"
Guilty Party makes innovative use of social media, which is something you're no stranger to. What do you think about the way the series expands its narrative through the use of vlogs and other supplemental videos?
I think it's incredible, because I've never really seen any other shows dive so deep and have so much interaction in so many ways that the audience can connect. It's super cool, especially in the comments after each vlog episode--the characters will actually, in-character, be posting, and have a response to everything. It almost becomes confusing because it's like, "Wait, are these real people?"...Or even the aspect that fans can join and interact, and take tests and actually be part of the class. It's an all-immersive web series, and I haven't seen anyone do that before. So the fans that are in it, they're so invested because it feels so real.
In season one, Emma is the subject of a lot of vicious memes, one of which is notably captioned "When someone orders a salad...And then eats all of your fries." [jokes] Where do you stand on this very hot-button issue: share your fries, or have friends order their own?
I mean, here's the thing: sometimes as the friend, you just want a nibble. I don't know, I'm a sharer. I have six brothers, so it's kind of like "whatever food's here is kind of everyone's."
So you had to share to survive, because of your environment...
Yeah. And so it's almost a given, like, "I'm going to take some of your fries, but you can have a bite of whatever I'm eating." Family style. Everything's everyone's. [laughs]
When it comes to the mystery genre, are you the type who sees the twist ending coming a mile away?
I feel like I'm pretty good at predicting it--I feel like I'm better than average. But sometimes they get you, you know? [laughs]
Did you figure out the endings for these two seasons of Guilty Party before the reveals?
I didn't. I did not see it coming at all. So that was kind of a fun part, especially doing the readthrough. I'm like, "Wait! Wait, who did it?" [laughs] And then once it hits, it's like "Oh my gosh...I should've known!" No matter what, it's like, "Oh, it's so obvious now!"
Have there been discussions about you returning for a third season with an all-new character?
There's possibilities for it, but there's nothing set in stone. But I'm crossing fingers and hoping that it does well and everyone's happy, and that there is a season three, because that would be incredible. No promises yet!
What type of character would you like to play next?
You know, [I think it would be] fun to play the mean girl. I'm very much the quiet, nice, soft-spoken person, but to be someone who's sassy or a little savage would be fun. [laughs]