When Hulu introduced its original programming to the Television Critics Association, the new series "Battleground" was a surprise to me. Jay Hayden stars as the manager of a local election campaign. The cast includes Alison Haislip in the campaign office. Since she recognized me from chatting with her at G4 sessions previously, Haislip stayed behind — as the hotel staff packed up the ballroom from the final TCA session — to talk about her character and give me some tech tips.
Crave Online: Were you telling people about Hulu before it was the cool thing that everyone uses?
Alison Haislip: Yeah, I was always definitely a huge fan of Hulu. I can’t say I went out there and put on a Hulu cheerleading skirt but as soon as Hulu was a thing, I was watching shows on Hulu. Especially this business and this industry, you can DVR stuff but if you’re working on location, for example on this show, I was in Wisconsin in a hotel for two months. I didn’t have a DVR. How was I going to watch "The Office" and "Glee" and "Grey’s Anatomy"? Yeah, I watch all those shows, okay?
So I would come home from set and I could just go to Hulu.com and watch the shows and it was amazing. It’s just so much better than trying to find some bootleg copy on YouTube, or torrenting something. This is obviously, A, legal and B, an incredibly easily accessible site to go for. Now that they’re doing their own content, it’s like people are going to go to watch "Parks and Rec" and then they’ll stay and watch "Battleground."
Crave Online: Did you ever imagine you’d be on an original show on Hulu?
Alison Haislip: An original show, no. I didn’t even know that was going to be a concept but it didn’t surprise me at all. It seems like the industry is finally figuring out a way to make online a completely viable platform for media. It really sounded like I was told to say that and I wasn’t. I’m actually sort of amazed at how that came out of my mouth. But it’s like these days people don’t care how they get their content. Nine times out of 10 they’re not watching it on their TV. They’re watching it on one of their portable devices. They DVRed and sent it to the computer or they have AppleTV and they shoot it to something else. So it makes sense in this day and age for there to be shows created solely for Hulu.
Crave Online: Now there’s also the Roku, a Sony streaming player. What is the best device to watch Hulu Plus on?
Alison Haislip: Well, I’m going to be watching this show through my Xbox. That to me is the easiest but the fact that I can also, if I’m traveling, watch it on my iPad if I have to, is amazing. I would say if you have the means, watch it on your TV. If you don’t, a computer screen is just fine.
Crave Online: How juicy does the drama get for your character?
Alison Haislip: Honestly, my character is the one character who kind of stays out of the drama. Ali is the fly on the wall who watches the office. She’s the one who knows everything that’s going on but she doesn’t say a word. So I’m able to stay on the outskirts. I’m able to observe which is really cool for my character. It also makes me a little socially awkward but that’s kind of who I am anyway.
Crave Online: It is a speaking part though?
Alison Haislip: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I spoke in the trailer, but I’m either there, if the drama’s going on, I cut the tension. Or, I’m also Chloe to Tak’s Jack Bauer. I’m the girlfriend. I’m the one who, we have a crisis, I can get on my computer and I can fix it. I will look it up. I will find that information. I will fix it. There’s definitely an episode where I screw up though and that’s a big deal.
Crave Online: I also heard you refer to yourselves as Troy and Abed. Are "Community" and "24" your TV references or do you have more?
Alison Haislip: No, for the most part, when I thought of the Chloe/Jack Bauer reference, it was when Jay and Jack [De Sena] and I were all doing a scene and Jack goes, “So does this mean I’m Tony Almeida?” We were like, “Yes, totally!” So we prefer that and Jordan and I, my role was originally supposed to be a guy. This was supposed to be sort of like a duo of the two of us. Then when it was cast as a girl, it kind of adds a different dynamic. But the instant I met Jordan, I was like oh, we’re going to have fun. We created this relationship between our characters that’s we’re almost like The Hardy Boys if they didn’t solve crimes and just got into a lot of trouble. We’re like brother/sister.
Crave Online: There’ s a great history of roles for men rewritten as women. I’m sure you know Ripley in "Alien" was a man until Sigourney Weaver came along.
Alison Haislip: Yes.
Crave Online: Is that a nice legacy to be part of?
Alison Haislip: Absolutely. I’ve always known that I hang with the guys. I just tend to gravitate towards guy things like football and stuff like that. So it was never out of the question. In high school I would do plays and I would get cast in guy’s roles. Not that I would play it as a guy, they would just change the gender of the character but the energy was still there about me. I’m not going to go off and play friggin’ Rachel McAdams in "The Notebook." That’s not me. No one wants to see me do that. People want to see me kick ass and take names. Like I said, there were two other girl roles in this script and when I first read the script as Jay got cast, I was like, “Those aren’t me. I would not be cast as those two roles.” So when this rolled around I was like, “This is me.”
Crave Online: Gadget-wise, I finally got an iPhone. I’m still learning things, like how to turn it off.
Alison Haislip: And how to handle Siri?
Crave Online: I don’t really talk to Siri but someone taught me how to close running apps. There were like 50 things including some I never even opened.
Alison Haislip: It’s crazy, right?
Crave Online: So when am I going to know how to use my iPhone?
Alison Haislip: Never. Never. I think technology moves faster than we do and as soon as we figure it out, there’s going to be another generation of whatever and we’re going to have to figure it out all over again. But that’s why we love tech, right? That’s why it keeps us interested. That’s why we obsess with it, because we can never catch up to it.
Crave Online: So what’s the next thing? What else does a phone need to do?
Alison Haislip: I think if a phone can take just as high quality pictures as an actual everyday camera, then we’ll be in better business.
Crave Online: I thought the iPhone was pretty good with that.
Alison Haislip: They’re decent. They’re not bad. I’m not trying to say that they’re awful but like that perfection, that it doesn’t screw up how blurry, you get that 18 megapixel kind of picture so we no longer have to use cameras at all. I think that’s the point.
Crave Online: What games are you currently into on Xbox?
Alison Haislip: I have Arkham City staring me in the face. It’s daunting because I got it when I was in Wisconsin and didn’t have a chance to play it. So that’s my next one. You know what I did just recently was play the co-op on Portal 2. I’d finished Portal 2 like three days after it came out but I hadn’t played the co-op. Last weekend I finally sat down and played through the entire co-op with a friend of mine, and it was just as good as the campaign! That game is amazing. I love it so much. I want there to be more DLCs for it so I can continue playing that game.
Crave Online: Are you done with G4 now?
Alison Haislip: I finished at G4 in November. I mean, I don't think you’re never going to see my face on that network again but I’m done fulltime there. So I actually have some time now. This is the first time in four years that I’ve had some time off. It’s nice to chill out and be able to just be here and support this. Then it comes out and I’ve got to start tweetin’.
Crave Online: And you have Arkham City waiting for you.
Alison Haislip: And I have Arkham City staring me in the face.