Although Alon McKlveen’s appearance in the new Netflix feature film “Dumplin’” is short, it’s memorable nonetheless.
That’s because the 20-year-old Gwinnett native is in an early scene with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, award-winning actor Jennifer Aniston. Aniston also served as producer of the film, which is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Julie Murphy.
McKlveen is mostly seen from behind in the brief scene in which she appears, but she’s well aware that when in pursuit of a career in acting, one has to begin somewhere.
“I was in the first pageant scene,” quipped McKlveen earlier this month. “That’s show biz; that’s my start right there.”
Filmed last fall in and around Atlanta, with some major scenes filmed in Covington, “Dumplin’” melds comedy and drama to tell a story of beauty pageant life in a small Texas town. The film, directed by Anne Fletcher, comes complete with a soundtrack by Dolly Parton and a bevy of cheerful drag queens and covers some topical subjects, including empowerment, friendship and acceptance.
McKlveen, a junior studying communications at the University of Georgia, said she appreciated both the working conditions and the message of “Dumplin.’”
“I thought Anne Fletcher did a great job with the characters,” said McKlveen, the daughter of Laura and Bill McKlveen of Snellville. “It was very well-organized, and I loved the way they put it together. I loved that Jennifer Aniston was in it and that it was on Netflix so that everyone could watch it. It was nice because I think the film was really inclusive, and I liked the message behind it.
“What I liked about it, too, was that Anne was so positive, and when I was talking to her she told me, ‘You know what? It may be a man’s world, but there are women directing and producing this and we’re going to make it right.’ I really liked her focus. (The film) shows girls can be anything they want to be.”
McKlveen, who played volleyball and was a pole vaulter at Brookwood High, has a pretty extensive background in modeling — and has competed in a couple of pageants — and wanted to use that experience to transition into film work.
“I’ve been modeling for about three years now and I’ve always wanted to get into acting, but never really knew how,” said McKlveen, who recently appeared in a video by the Backpack Kid and has a string of modeling jobs booked while on winter break from UGA. “It was interesting because my pageant coach Kim Vaughn told me about this opportunity to audition, and I never really thought about going to auditions, but Kim said she thought it would be a great fit … and I went and it turned out to be a really great experience.”
Besides an opportunity to work on a relatively high-profile project, perhaps the best part of McKlveen’s experience on “Dumplin’” was spending a little off-camera time with Aniston, whom she has admired since she became a “Friends” fan (which probably reached its peak before McKlveen was born).
“She was so sweet,” McKlveen said of Aniston. “I remember being taken backstage and as I turned the corner, she’s standing there in a beautiful, sparkly dress and I guess I looked a bit starstruck because she was like, ‘Hey!” and I was ‘Hi!’ and our first interaction was a positive one. I remember being so starstruck that I froze when I saw her.
“I was lucky because they filmed a few scenes before mine and I got to sit backstage with her. She was very professional.”
Although limited in her ability to work in film while going to school, McKlveen said she wants to take a shot at an acting career and plans to do as much as she can while still pursuing her degree.
“Right now I’m searching for a talent agent,” she said. “The business is big in Atlanta, and I’m just trying to get signed with someone so I can get speaking roles that are actually heard and to work a lot more. That’s something I definitely want to do when I graduate and I’m able to take more roles.”
McKlveen has a strong supporting cast in her corner and said her family and friends were delighted with her showing in “Dumplin’” no matter how small the part.
“My friends and family were so happy,” she said. “It’s funny because I’ve had a lot of modeling jobs and my dad has always been very encouraging, but as soon as he found out about the movie, I think he was the most excited of anyone. It was funny because he’s kind of a quiet person and seeing him excited for me made me really happy.”