The Career Of A Lifetime: A Conversation With Actress, Ali Skovbye
There is something to be said for a young woman who, while forging a path through a complicated and adult industry, is not only beautiful, but kind, smart and humble. Starting her career at just five years old, the now sixteen-year-old actress Ali Skovbye has been popping up on screens for almost her entire life. From character to character she moves with grace and dedication.
From shows like Once Upon a Time, When Calls the Heart, and The Man in the High Castle to an incredible amount of television movies, the young actress has proven her abilities time and time again in a competitive field of work.
I was fortunate enough to catch her during some down time amidst her busy pilot-season schedule in Los Angeles. From her current projects to advice for new actors to the person whom she is inspired by the most, Ali has no shortage of valuable stories and advice to share.
From The Start
It was a beautiful day in their hometown of Vancouver and the Skovbye family was spending their afternoon at the park. What seemed like an average day for the four of them soon transpired into something more when an agent approached Ali’s mom, Tina, in regards to their eldest daughter. “My family had no idea about acting at all, so my parents were a bit confused when this agent suggested that Tiera should try it out. They decided to go and meet with the agent and because of how young she was they decided she could start trying for commercials.”
Being more introverted than her big sis, Ali didn’t feel the same spark for the industry when Tiera started to break into it herself. Then, over the next few years, Tiera started to work more and more. Adoringly looking at the life her big sister was creating, little Ali started to feel called to the profession as well. “Naturally as the younger sister I wanted to follow in her footsteps. So, I was only five but I asked to get into it to and I started to audition. The older I got the more I realized how much I genuinely love the craft and I can’t imagine my life without it now.”
The Skovbye girl’s career in entertainment transformed their lives and, later down the road, changed the lives of their parents as well. “My dad works as a background agent and a lot of people assume that’s how I got into the industry, but he was a waiter for a long time before we got into the industry. Some years after Tiera and I started acting, a friend reached out to him to ask if he would work as an agent, so I guess he’s in the business now too!” Having her family relate to the industry she is in on a deeper level than simply through hearing it from her perspective brings the family so much closer together. Their strong family bond reaches through their lives and right into their chosen career paths.
At the tender age of five years old, Ali can be seen as Beth, the niece to Ashton Kutcher’s character named Walter in the film Personal Effects. The cast also included top celebrities such as Kathy Bates and Michelle Pfeiffer. Though she was just a child at the time the movie was made, it left her with a lasting impression of what her career could look like. “It was so incredible, I look back at photos from set and think about how cool that was for me as a kid because now the cast are all actors who I look up to.” Now, her IMDB profile sits at a total of 35 credits, and looking back at her first set experience it’s clear to see that she was destined to forge a noteworthy career path.
Most recently, Ali is waiting for the April release of Breakthrough, the incredible true story of a boy who beats impossible odds. When John Smith was fourteen years old, he fell through a frozen lake. Under the ice for fifteen minutes and without a heartbeat for nearly an hour, doctors believed it was too late. When John’s mother, Joyce, entered the hospital room she began to pray, and as she did her son regained a heartbeat. The story follows the Smith family and how their lives were forever changed by this miracle.
“I play one of John’s best friends, Emma. She is one of his closest friends in real life and she’s mentioned in the book his mom Joyce wrote based on the events called The Impossible.” This role was a new challenge for Ali, unlike many of the roles she has taken on before. “I’ve never actually been in a movie that was about true events. It was really nerve wracking to play somebody who is real! A real life human,” she told me, laughing.
There is a fine line to walk when playing another human being, a character that exists in the world before the writers form the script. Ali wanted to make sure that she did Emma justice as a person who experienced the trauma of almost losing a close friend. “I was able to get her phone number and message her for character study. That was really helpful and a great experience.”
Challenges in the industry
With her mass amount of on set experience, Ali is familiar with the many obstacles one may face in the industry. In fact, the day before flying out to film Breakthrough, she had just finished filming His Perfect Obsession. “I literally finished filming the previous film at five a.m., got on a plane at seven a.m., got to set around 10 a.m. and did all of the prep work that needed to be done before shooting. It was all very hectic for me.”
Thinking of going from one set to another in as quickly as one day, it makes you wonder how Ali is able to switch into a new character’s headspace and jump onto a brand new set in such a short amount of time. “I’ve actually never experienced a turnaround as quick as that one. I had to mentally drop everything about the character I was playing before, just forget about it all as soon as possible. I spent a lot of time on the plane reading through the Breakthrough script and preparing myself to be in Emma’s mindset.”
We also can not forget that Ali is just sixteen years old. The biggest obstacle that she faces on a regular basis is balancing her school, social and work life. Many young actors opt to take their school courses online or work through their subjects with on set tutors, but Ali has chosen a different path. “I’m in the 11th grade and I still go to a regular high school. It can be really challenging to try to be as present as possible in the acting world, but still going back to school and focus on getting good grades.” She explained the catch-up when she’s back from work can be hectic, but she loves the busy life she leads and would not have it any other way.
“People find it super weird that I go to school as an actor. At the end of the day, I love my job so much that if I were to homeschool, I know I wouldn’t get any work done,” she confessed. For Ali, it is imperative that she gets an education. It is admirable to see a young woman who knows herself well enough to properly prioritize her life in a way that will benefit her greatly in the future. More than that, attending class in person has acted as a grounding experience and offered her the chance to continue building strong relationships with her peers who she has known since elementary school.
Actors are skilled in their ability to find inspiration to help them prepare for a role, but Ali doesn’t need to look very far to find the one person who inspires her most in life. From the very beginning, Ali and her sister Tiera have been incredibly close. With Tiera taking the lead in the acting industry and Ali following her in her footsteps, the two share a unique bond. “She started out in the business before me and she has always been successful, so I always looked up to her through everything that she did. I admire her talent and the amazing things that she does… I love her. She is definitely the person who inspires me the most.”
Ali assured me that they do still fight, they are sisters after all. But it’s clear to see that the love and support they share with each other is unending. From a good or bad audition, to self tapes or just giving life advice, Tiera is always there for her sister, and Ali is forever grateful.
When I asked Ali about what makes a great actor, some of the most valued qualities to her are perseverance, hard work and honesty. “It’s really such a difficult business that can tear you down 70% of the time or more. If you don’t want to do it for any other reason than purely loving the craft, then I don’t think it’s worth it. If you do pursue it because of your love for the craft, then you have to work super, super hard and never give up.”
To be in an industry ripe with opportunity for rejection, you have to have thick skin. The ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again will take you far in life and in acting. To take it one step further, Ali suggests always staying honest with yourself in your craft. When I asked her what exactly she meant by that, her answer was simple, “There’s a lot of egos in this business. You need to be honest with who you are and trust yourself enough to portray the character well. You don’t have to throw a bunch of tricks and cards peoples way, just trust yourself and it will all work out.”
To aspiring actors, Ali suggests getting involved in classes before anything else. “When you’re starting out, you want to audition and start booking jobs right away, but it can be a very slow process to get to that point. Start with classes and practice a lot. The more you do it, the better you’ll be.”
It’s clear to see that Ali has a good head on her shoulders. Aware of herself, grateful for her experiences and always working towards being a better actor; you don’t have to be in the business to be inspired by her. With an already prominent career in place, I believe that I can speak for all of us when I say that it will be truly exciting to see how she expands and grows in the future.
Catch Ali as Emma in Breakthrough on April 17th and stay tuned for His Perfect Obsession, which is still in post-production. For life updates, you can catch Ali spending time with her family and her beloved dog Otis on her instagram @ali.skovbye