Allison Tolman Eats These Foods to Escape from Stressful, Murder-y Days on Set

The ‘Emergence’ and ‘Fargo’ actress uses “European moments” in her trailer with cheese plates and nostalgic peanut butter toast to get through her characters’ insane storylines.
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Allison Tolman

Murder follows actress Allison Tolman wherever she goes. On Fargo, she played a deputy trying to solve a string of crimes across the state; on Good Girls, her unhinged single mother character loved to blackmail and literally had a body buried in her backyard; and on her new show, Emergence (airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC), she’s trying to keep a mysterious supernatural child safe—while remaining the chief of police. If you’re exhausted just reading that, imagine the stress levels Allison goes through on a daily basis.

When we caught up with the award-nominated actress on the phone, she was up bright and early for a segment on The View… and wishing she had a piece of peanut butter toast. “When things are crazy and I need a pick-me-up, peanut butter toast makes me feel like a child, and sometimes you just need that comfort food,” she explained. “And, really, bread is also my favorite vehicle for anything.”

Read on to find out what else fuels her through whirlwind days as a freaked-out police chief, her go-to dinner party menu, and why she’s happy to be representing healthy, “normal-sized” women in Hollywood.

Rachael Ray Every Day: When you settle in a new place—whether your trailer or a new apartment—what’s the first thing you make to feel at home?

Allison Tolman: Toast. Is that terrible? I love it. The first thing I bought in my apartment when I moved to New Jersey for Emergence was a toaster oven because I can’t live without toast. I love peanut butter toast, avocado toast—which I didn’t know existed until I moved to California—and if I’m feeling really fancy, smoked salmon and crème fraiche.

What kind of peanut butter are we talking here? Are you a classic Skippy? Are you grinding your own at Whole Foods?

No, I'm not. I wish I could get into doing my own at Whole Foods, but I love, yeah, like Skippy and Jif. I like the stuff with some sugar in it.

Allison Tolman on Emergence

Allison as police chief Jo on 'Emergence.'

And it doesn't separate!

I don't have the stomach for the separation. I'm like, "Why? Why?!" I need those preservatives, you know?

In 2019 there are about 15 different types of nut butter. What has made you stay true to the peanut instead of going to almond or macadamia or cashew?

It must be just like a connection to my childhood or something because I love cashews, like as an actual nut to eat. All I want to eat is cashews. I love cashews. But yeah, peanut butter is where it's at for me

What do you eat to de-stress from playing a police officer trying to figure out if the child she’s fostering is a supernatural being?

I have to be careful, because at craft services there will often be pasta, and I love pasta. But I cannot eat pasta with cream sauce midday because I will fall asleep! I try to redirect myself. They always have beautiful cheeses out, so I’ll just make myself a cheese platter and have a little European moment in my trailer between things. Some grapes, some crackers.

What’s your ride-or-die cheese? I love Habison from jasper Hill.

I love smoked Gouda. I love anything smoky. I like smoky flavors, but a friend of mine introduced me to Unexpected Cheddar from Trader Joe's! It’s so good.

What about the food you can never resist? Your desert island food?

I always say that my death row meal would be a cheeseburger. I just really, really love cheeseburgers. Real simple: medium-rare, cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise, a really good bun, and some shoestring fries on the side. I've been searching for my perfect burger in Jersey and I think I found my go-to over the weekend. I’m so happy. I just want everyone to know. I feel like I found my burger soulmate.

Allison Tolman on Emergence

Allison with her young costar Alexa Swinton, who plays Piper, the source of most of Jo's stress.

If you were going to throw a dinner party for friends, what’s on the menu?

When my boyfriend and I discovered how easy it was to make Cacio e Pepe, we were pretty thrilled because we love it. So we would make a giant batch of that. And I love just some really indulgent buttery, greasy garlic bread. And a good salad. All of that. And now I'm hungry.

When you are cooking with your boyfriend, is it a good collaborative process? Is there arguing? Do you have your roles when you're cooking together, or is it balanced?

It's horribly unbalanced. [Laughs] I do most of the cooking. I have somehow gotten him to do all of the grilling. Like when there's grilling I'm like, "Well I guess you have to cook tonight!” Truthfully if we had people over I probably would be like, "We're getting steaks, so you have to do half the work." But we have kind of a small kitchen. Neither of us are small people so we bump into each other a lot. I end up kicking him out of the kitchen anyway because he's just always standing where I need to stand.

How much do you cook on a regular basis, not dinner party-wise?

Before I left LA to come to Jersey to start shooting, I was cooking pretty regularly. I probably cooked maybe four or five nights a week and for a few months before we left, I was doing Weight Watchers for the first time. So I had all these Weight Watchers recipes that I loved—Asian chicken wraps and chimichangas and things I had really gotten used to making and were in my regular rotation. And then we get to Jersey, I just didn’t have the time to cook.

I’m a plus-size woman and have always appreciated that you look like a normal woman, and it’s relatable to see you onscreen. Did you start doing Weight Watchers to lose weight or just get to a place in your life where you felt comfortable with your body and used it as a guide?

I think for me, getting on Weight Watchers was the same thing as like getting a personal trainer. I didn’t have a number in mind or a goal. I worked with a trainer too and it actually didn't affect my weight or my measurements very much at all. In my profession, you fool yourself into thinking things when you see yourself onscreen, like that I look terrible or that I’ve gained weight. Our brains lie to us and the television lies to us and cameras lie to us, so I like having systems in place that make me feel like that I can check back in and be like, "Well I know that's not true. That's not reality." Reality is that here's what I ate last week, no matter what I'm feeling and this is how much I worked out last week.

You have billboards in Times Square right now. Have any women come up to you and said, "Thank you. It's so nice to see someone who looks like me who is a normal size, who doesn't adhere to Hollywood’s unrealistic standards”?

Not from this show yet, but in interviews that I do and speaking people in the industry, I do hear that a lot, which is awesome. I heard the same thing during Downward Dog. I think that leading a network comedy was one thing and leading a network drama, it feels like an entirely another thing. And it does feel like it shouldn't be as remarkable as it is to have me in a role like this, but it is and hopefully we're making improvements where this won't be something that we even notice as much in 10 or 15 years. Or sooner.