No, you're not crazy. It's the same girl in all those ads.
You probably first saw her last year picking at her parents' social lives in that biting Toyota Venza spot. Or maybe it was the eBay ad, in which she narrowly evades becoming the polite inheritor of a box full of mom jeans. It could have also been that Walmart spot, where she proves she can spell "hobo" on a calculator. Actually, it could have been a bunch of others, too.
If you have a TV, you've probably seen Allyn Rachel's deadpan brand of wide-eyed, plucky humor in commercials from some of the biggest marketers in the business. In just the past year -- and these are in addition to her most notable gigs aforementioned -- she's appeared in commercials for McDonald's, AT&T, IHOP, MetLife and Dish Network, with more for Kotex and Nokia soon to air.
Ms. Rachel graduated from NYU's Tisch School of Dramatic Arts in, and has been a student and regular player at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles since 2009. She appeared in a couple of commercials for Gamefly and Vegas.com after, but it wasn't until 2011 that commercial casting agents -- and director Matt Aselton, with whom she has now worked on four separate spots -- took notice, and her luck started to change.
She's also found time to develop a web series called "Couple Time " with her real-life boyfriend of eight years, Patrick Carlyle, which bills itself as the web's chronicle of "weird stuff couples do when no one else is around." Of course, Ms. Rachel has grander plans for that concept.
Ad Age caught up with Ms. Rachel to discuss her recent commercial success, her comedy icons and how she'll know when it's time to move on from adland.
Ad Age : There's a lot of commercial interest in you these days. How are you holding up?
Allyn Rachel: It's been unbelievable. I've gotten to do such cool spots. They've consistently been really funny, and I've worked with really great directors who have given me the freedom to improvise and pitch lines, some of which have even made it. It's been awesome.
Ad Age : Really? Which lines were yours?
Ms. Rachel: The "That's too small to be a real puppy" line form the Toyota Venza commercial was mine. Also, that fist shake in the eBay commercial.
Ad Age : What do you think it is that endears you to casting agents and marketers?
Ms. Rachel: I do mostly comedy, and it tends to be a subtler comedy. But I think that probably lends itself well to commercials. A lot of [the material] is totally bananas, but some of it is more grounded, and still silly. I feel like I can wrap my head around that . I do a lot of improv, also. In callbacks, the director will say, "Let's try it this way." My training has been such a helpful tool in coming up with weird stuff on the fly, and pulling things out of my brain.
Ad Age : Speaking of improv, you're a product of the famous Upright Citizens Brigade. How is that going?
Ms. Rachel: I'm on sketch team there once a month. It's called "The Get Go!" and it's made up of all girls. I've gone through the whole [UCB] program, and all my closest friends are there. There are all these brilliant, hilarious people, and I get to surround myself with them. I'm learning so much being in that environment.
Ad Age : Large national TV campaigns aren't easy for actors to book. Are you surprised at how you've managed to land not just one, but so many?
Ms. Rachel: For the longest time, I was auditioning, getting called back, and I had a long string of things not going my way. I thought, "Maybe this is never going happen. Maybe I'll never book a commercial." And also, I've now done four spots with the same director [Mr. Aselton, for Toyota, eBay, Walmart and Dish Network], so part of why I'm booking so many is because I'm working with the same people. And I feel like being in so many can hurt you in some ways. Casting directors don't necessarily want a more recognizable commercial face. Sometimes, they want a lesser known person. So, I'm surprised and thrilled it has gone on as long as it has already. You never know, it's not like a regular TV job where you can be in 4,000 things and everybody is great with that . No one necessarily wants to see all the same people all time. I feel lucky they've kept me around.
Ad Age : Some actors get pegged as "that girl from those commercials" and struggle to leverage their ad personas into actual roles in TV or film. Are you thinking about that ?
Ms. Rachel: Up until a year ago, it wasn't a thing I was thinking about. Last year, I certainly didn't expect what happened, but now it's something I'm keeping in mind. I'm talking to my agent and my managers about it. At a certain point, I'd consider maybe stepping away from commercials if they seem to be preventing other opportunities from coming about. As of now, I'm not associated too strongly with one brand, or one specific product, so it hasn't been a problem.
Ad Age : So far, which spot do you think has given you the most to "do" as an actor?
Ms. Rachel: I think the Toyota Venza spot. That was most dialogue-heavy, too.
Ad Age : Which one are you most recognized for? Which is your favorite?
Ms. Rachel: The eBay one might be my favorite. It's definitely my most recognized one, too, because it's been airing for so long.
Ad Age : Tell me about "Couple Time ." It's adorable.
Ms. Rachel: Thank you! I've been dating my boyfriend for eight years, so we're best friends and we have all these silly moments when just the two of us are alone. We watch a ton of comedy on TV, and we wanted to do something different than a standard relationship comedy. So much of the time, those focus on the competitive aspects of being in a relationship, or the obstacles within a relationship, and we're like, "Wait, aren't you supposed to be on same team?" So we've developed that into a web series, and taken that idea and developed it into pilot, and we've been pitching it around. It's all going really well. We definitely have seen some interest.
Ad Age : What's next for you?
Ms. Rachel: I've been writing a lot. I've been really focused on "Couple Time ," but I'm also working on a feature with another writing partner. I'm auditioning, and I definitely want to do more film and TV stuff. I love to do everything, but I feel most confident in comedy.
Ad Age : Who has your dream career? Who do you look up to?
Ms. Rachel: I love Kristin Wigg. I love Amy Poelher. I don't necessarily want to go the ["Saturday Night Live"] route, but I look up to them so much. They're so brave, they do such risky, weird stuff. You never know what to expect from them.
Ad Age : Do you do impressions?
Ms. Rachel: Actually, my dream is to do Sean Connery singing "Good King Wenceslas," the Christmas carol. But it would need to be a very accurate version.