Actress Allison Scagliotti has carved out an impressive Hollywood career. As a young teen, she had a recurring role on the Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh. In 2009, she won the role of “Claudia Donovan” on the Syfy series Warehouse 13. Most recently, she’s been cast as “Camille Engelson” on the ABC Family series Stitchers. But few know that the talented actress is also an accomplished musician. Allison plays covers at open mic nights and portrayed “Gretchen” in the off-Broadway musical Jasper in Deadland. Now enrolled in Berklee Online‘s bachelor of professional studies degree program as an Interdisciplinary Music Studies major, she is earning her degree without having to disrupt her career. I spoke with Allison via email to learn more about her musical history and how she hopes to use her degree in the future.
Kayley Kravitz: I know that you studied film at NYU for a while but did not complete your degree. I’m curious to know what drew you to Berklee Online, and eventually what inspired you to pursue a degree in Interdisciplinary Music Studies?
Allison Scagliotti: NYU is an extraordinary place, but transferring into a film production major after being in the business since I was 11 was a bit like bringing coals to Newcastle; it just wasn’t the right program for me. After taking a semester off to film the third season of Warehouse 13, I attended the Monterey Jazz Festival, where Berklee’s info booth turned my world upside down. I won a raffle for half off the online blues guitar course and fell in love. Since fall of 2011, I’ve completed a Master Certificate in Guitar and Specialist Certificate in Vocal Styles and haven’t looked back. The Interdisciplinary Music Studies degree is the program I’ve been searching for in vain for years. Combining the business and technology of music with theory and performance makes me feel I’ll truly be receiving the most well-rounded and applicable music education I could ever ask for.
KK: As you complete your degree with Berklee, are you working towards any personal musical dreams or goals? Additionally, do you see any crossover with music and your film and television work?
AS: I have always believed that at least a cursory knowledge of music is important for every performer. There’s music between two people in a scene. The structure of a film resembles a symphony to me. And it’s crucial to know when to hold and when to hit it. As for my personal goals, I have a long standing dream of producing my own album of classic blues covers, playing a musician on film, and starring in a Broadway musical – a lean list! To me, there’s no line between the two: there’s music in acting and acting in music.
KK: Has music always been a large part of your life? Which artists and bands would you say have been your biggest influences?
AS: I started ballet at age three and piano at age seven, so I’ve been hearing music in my head for as long as I can remember. Even the culture of music fascinates me, so much so that in my teens I decorated my room like an indie record label lobby and fantasized about interning for Rolling Stone. My major influences include Robert Johnson, the Rolling Stones, any incarnation of a Jack White band, the Pixies, Nirvana, Radiohead, Steppenwolf, and of course the Runaways.
KK: Your character on Warehouse 13, Claudia, was a musician — was that something that you brought to the character based on your personal experiences, or was it something that the writers wanted Claudia to be and you just happened to have a musical background?
AS: One of the great things about working on that show was how open the writers were to all of us bringing ourselves to our characters. I let them know early on it was something I wanted to do, and was overjoyed that I got to do it more than once. Over the course of the show I sang songs by the Pixies, the Runaways, and Garbage. I also happened to be playing covers at a lot of open mic nights in Toronto, when timing allowed. In some small way, I was fulfilling my fantasy of actually being a rock star.
KK: I know you got to work with Cherie Currie from the Runaways on Warehouse 13. What was that like, and have your acting experiences lead you to work with any other musicians that you admire?
AS: I’ll never forget meeting Cherie and her son, Jake, in the studio for the first time. I was filled with nerves, but they were both so warm and encouraging and I wound up having a blast. I’m lucky enough to call her my friend (which reminds me we’re overdue for our hike)! Cherie later invited me to sing on stage with her at the Viper Room in 2013. If you whispered to 15-year-old me that one day I’d be starring alongside Joan Jett in an indie movie (Endless Bummer), having dinner with Maynard James Keenan (of Tool, a close friend of Warehouse 13 actor Eddie McClintock), and getting private bass lessons from Nick St. Nicholas (formerly of Steppenwolf), I might have had a heart attack. Their presence in my life only motivates me to keep getting better.
KK: You’re currently on the show Stitchers and you’re planning to start the Berklee Online degree program this fall. How do you find the time to juggle a rigorous filming schedule and your classes? Do you have any time management tips for your online classmates?
AS: Well, I’m still figuring that out, but from the perspective of an over-achieving perfectionist in recovery: balance is key. Remind yourself that it’s okay not to do it all in one day. I’m finishing a screenplay program right now, and when I feel like procrastinating, I simply remind myself that all I have to do is write one page. When I do that, I usually write five. I read a great John Steinbeck quote recently that I’m taking with me: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”