Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
(Streaming on Hulu as of November 20th)
The Performer: Kiera Allen
The Film: Run
Much like how classic suspense films such as Misery and Rear Window made you yell at movie screens due to their main characters’ physical disabilities, Hulu’s Run will have you screaming at whatever devices you’re watching on — because you so badly want the lead to succeed.
Run, co-written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, has certain markings of a Hitchcock film. It centers around a mother Diane (Sarah Paulson) who’s raised her “special needs” daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen) in a small rural town, in total isolation — living peacefully and predictably.
Their symbiotic relationship feels rather wholesome at first, with meals being prepped, medicines being given, and mom being typically overprotective of her daughter’s disabilities.
But that all morphs rather quickly into something that will inevitably prevent holiday gifts from being swapped. That’s when Chloe starts to put together a plot that involves her mother possibly working to keep her sick at home intentionally. Munchausen syndrome by proxy, it’s called, for those keeping score at home. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game, where Chloe attempts to overcome her limitations — including unusable legs — to outsmart the person she calls “mom.”
Playing opposite Paulson — who has an impressive track record of solid performances to her name — would normally be no easy task for a relative newcomer. But Allen excels, holding her own as a homeschooled high-schooler peeling away the layers of an onion that reveal the horror show that is suddenly her life. In doing so, Allen — a wheelchair user in real life — embodies a character à la James Caan in Misery or Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, who operates at a clear disadvantage while relying on strength of mind to outwit an opponent.
It’s a performance that non-disabled audience members may not be able to fully appreciate, but it’s worth noting given Allen’s real-life connection to this role, only the second of her young career.
The 22-year-old Allen is a New York-based actor who refined her acting chops by training in the Meisner technique at the Maggie Flanigan Studio. Allen made her off-Broadway theatre debut in 2017 at age 19 before performing in several other productions including with the Cape Cod Theatre Project and the Royal Court Theatre (amongst others). As it turns out, one of Allen’s passions is writing — and she’s currently studying in the undergraduate Creative Writing program at Columbia University (when she’s not doing dramatic reads of Harry Potter with her friends).
About Allen’s casting in Run, Hulu’s press materials say it’s “the first time in 70 years — since Sign of the Ram (1948) — that a Hollywood film has featured a wheelchair-confined character portrayed by a disabled actor.” It’s a shocking statistic that puts further attention on Allen’s great performance — something Allen spoke about recently in an interview with The New York Times:
“There is so little media representation of people with disabilities that I feel like I’m representing an entire community because of this lack of visibility. I’m really hoping that this movie brings down some barriers and that more disabled people are cast in major movies.”
Side note, if you want to see how Run could have been better, watch the deleted scenes on Hulu that filmmaker Chaganty was forced to cut from the film. They put Paulson and Allen’s acting abilities on display and could have even improved the movie’s most mind*ck element.
Either way, in a country starved for new movie content, Run seems to have hit the spot becoming Hulu’s most-watched movie ever for an opening weekend, making Allen’s performance even more momentous.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.