Chicago actress Sarah Alami had many things going for her on Scream Queens. She is a gorgeous woman who, despite her unique beauty, still comes off like the girl next door. Her thick Midwestern accent — as well as her tomboyish farm girl upbringing — probably help, as does her rather shy personality. Though she became bolder as the show went on, Sarah’s homesickness distracted her from the challenges. When she was eliminated last week, she was genuinely relieved — talking to her young daughter again outweighed any feelings she had about leaving Scream Queens.
In this interview she talks about her best Scream Queens challenges, her friendships in the house, seducing John Homa, and her Fangoria spread (that’s her winning photo above). Even when it comes to her challenge win, Sarah’s modest. “I don’t really see what everybody else sees. It’s amazing to get praise, and I’m very thankful for it, but I don’t know?” she says, “It’s just make-up. You put on make-up, everybody looks like that.”
Everybody does not look like that.
When you got the axe last week, you seemed so relieved. Was being on the show difficult for you?
Oh, my gosh, it was really tough being on a reality show. You have to have a thick skin, and I had a lot of weak performances on the show that I was able to learn from. To be honest with you, I felt a little cheated you know, when my weaker performances were definitely highlighted but I felt like my stronger performances…they weren’t shown. It happened with the first Director’s Challenge and also with the snake Director’s Challenge. I got amazing feedback so I was excited to show everybody what I’m capable of. I feel a little bit cheated. I’m also pretty private, and I had a difficult time talking about other people or making other people feel bad, you know? I felt pressured sometimes in doing that. So I stayed true to myself and then was quiet the whole time about everything.
I noticed that there really weren’t many interviews with you about your castmates.
Looking back, I worried so much about what the other girls were doing and what they were saying about me that I didn’t concentrate on myself. I wish I would have went in there and said, “This is a competition.” Not that I should have talked bad about other people. I don’t regret that. But I feel like I should have focused more on myself and what I was doing.
But you did makes friends — weren’t you and Tai close?
Tai and I have known each other for years. Chicago is a small market for actors, so when I saw her we were both really excited. I really got along with everybody. Gabby and I even connected. We were friends.
Did that help with how homesick you were?
We didn’t have phones, we didn’t have Internet. I’m a single mom, and I’ve been away from my daughter before for work, but to go away and be gone for almost two months? It hurt so much not to be able to call her, or call my dad and be like, “Hey, is Jasmine okay? What’s going on at home?” I would go nights without sleeping just because she’s really all I have, besides work. That was a big thing for me. Gabby slept right next to me, so she would hear me crying throughout the night. Honestly, the realest moment I had on that show was the tears when I left. That was very real. It was tears of joy.
How did that affect your performances?
It’s hard for me to explain. At first I was really excited about the opportunity to do this. But the first few weeks went by and a lot of things were happening behind the scenes and during our interviews…I really didn’t feel 100 percent there. Some of the girls really would give anything to be in that movie. Back home, I love what I do. I wake up, I drop Jasmine off at school and I get ready to go on my audition, and I have this huge dorky smile on my face because I really like love what I do and it’s very exciting to me. When I was on the show it wasn’t fun. I felt hurt being away from my child. I felt like I couldn’t focus 100 percent on my work. From the beginning I kept thinking “This is a reality show.” I kept thinking, “Oh my God! This is gonna be on The Soup.” Which I was! But I was questioning everything. I just felt I could have given more. I definitely could have given more.
How about your anxiety issues? Was that a big factor to you?
I know that they brought up my anxiety a lot on the show. I’ve lived with anxiety throughout my life, it’s something that I can’t turn on and off, but I’ve had no problem dealing with it throughout my life. And when it came to that maggot scene…when I was eight years old on my stepmother’s farm, my best friend and I found the neighborhood dog halfway out of the ditch, and he had been probably there for maybe two weeks and it was just the dog’s face, a little bit of his body, and nothing but maggots. During that performance it was really hard for me, because that’s same image that I’ve lived with throughout my life. It really did freak me out, and I wasn’t going to do it. I really, really tried to push through my fears, I did it. But at the same time, instead of focusing on the performance more, I was like, “Oh my God you got to get through this so you don’t go home.”
How old is your daughter? Have you gotten to watch the episodes with her?
Yes, I have. She’s 6. She’s my number one fan. It’s funny explaining [the show] to her because she asked me a hundred times but she doesn’t understand why I’m in the TV and how I’m sitting next to her. She doesn’t understand that, so it’s kind of cute. But I have a really big family and they’re really supportive. We get together every weekend and watch the show. I’m going to still watch the show to see what happened and see what I missed out on, and because it is a learning experience all the way.
Have you kept in touch with the other ladies on the show?
Tai and I have just been hanging out a lot. And it’s cool because we have a bond that no one else will understand or feel. We can share these stories of living together in this crazy house, going through this crazy experience, and no one will understand that really.
Toward the end of your time on the show, we started to see Tai and Gabby get into arguments. Was that hard to deal with, since you were close with both of them?
When them two were going at it, I just kind of like stayed to myself. I really don’t have opinions on her or Gabby, because I really respected both of them as actresses. Even though I was close with Tai, I think a lot of people would ask, “How come you don’t get in with her and gang up on Gabby?” I’m not that type of person. It’s like, if I have a friend, and she doesn’t go along with someone, that’s her business. I’m not going to, go and hate the girl for no reason. So, that was their business. I stay out of that crap. I was thinking about my kid and those maggots!
I did want to talk about some of your best moments that did make the show. I thought your photo spread for Fangoria was so perfect.
You know, honestly, when I do photos, even back home, I try to get away from the sexy stuff. I try to create parts. I really do. I want the pictures to tell a story, and that’s with everything. That’s another thing: obviously they had a problem with my accent. That’s something I’ve heard often in my acting career, so when it came time to take pictures, it was easier because I was able to show that emotion through the picture, rather than them focusing on this aaaaccent that I have. [Laughs] You hear that? Jesus.
That seemed to be when your confidence really came out. From then on you made bold choices. Like during the seduction scene with John Homa.
I was really, really trying to get into the scene, and I was trying to really listen to what he had to say and take his advice and the first thing he said was “seduce me.” And to me, that went beyond making a drink. If I was in a real-life situation, and I had to seduce somebody, I’m not just going to sit there and make a drink and then just go sit down, right? I mean, I want to kind of spice it up, and so I just went with the flow, girl.
I also liked your decision to be a rocker zombie. It was such a funny choice. Chicago’s got a huge comedy scene. Is that part of your background?
Yes! And it’s not even highlighted on the show, but yeah, my background is Second City in Chicago and in theater. And I trained there for years. I did the conservatory program, I’ve done the show on main stage, I’ve worked with the other writers from Second City to do improv shows like the Improv Match game show, which is a big hit, so it was pretty bad to go home the week that you feel like you would succeed the most in…but you know, it is what it is. Jamie said, “Make a bold choice, stick with it.” So I did the performance, and Jamie laughed the whole time. Now whether she was laughing at me or with me is another story!