Valerie Azlynn will join her castmates from the TBS sitcom "Sullivan & Son" when they bring their comedy tour to Comix at Foxwoods Saturday. But don't — do NOT — expect her to do any standup.
She says emphatically, "It is not my thing. No, no, no."
(It's not that she's not funny, as Betty White can attest. More on that later.)
Azlynn will be in the audience at Foxwoods, supporting the gang. And she will be surrounded by her friends and family who are welcoming her back to the region for a quick stay.
Azlynn has been building a strong career over the past few years as supporting and guesting characters. She played small roles in movies like "Tropic Thunder" and guest shots on TV shows like "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Castle."
"Sullivan & Son" is a chance for her to be a series regular. (She also starred in the short-lived CBS sitcom "Welcome to the Captain.")
On "Sullivan & Son," which was just picked up for a second season, Steve Byrne plays a corporate attorney who leaves the Big Apple to run his family's bar in Pittsburgh. Azlynn plays Melanie, who works as a paramedic and finds a family of sorts at the bar. She's also a possible love interest for Byrne's character.
Byrne and his co-stars — and fellow stand-up comics — Roy Wood Jr., Owen Benjamin and Ahmed Ahmed have been on their "Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour" since July 17.
Azlynn, who is endearingly bubbly and outgoing, chats happily about the show and about her life in southeastern Connecticut.
She talks about performing as a high-school student at the Williams School "and learning from Jane Martineau. That area is so lucky to have some of the best teachers around." She mentions, too, the late acting teacher Lynn Britt.
Azlynn did a lot of theater around here. (If theatergoers with good memories are wondering, yes, her last name was spelled Asselin then.) She laughs about the little age disparity that existed when she was playing the lead role in "Mame" during a Waterford Week production. The character's supposed to be around 40 years old — and Azlynn was 16. But, she says, "It gave me so much confidence in being able to carry a show. ... That was right before I went to film school when I was 17. So I pretty much did 'Mame' one summer, and then the next summer I was off to Manhattan."
She talks about her friends here, too. Her pal Erin Sousa sang at Azlynn's wedding a year ago, and Azlynn proudly recalls how some guests who had performed on Broadway raved about how talented Sousa is.
Now, more from Azlynn ...
Azlynn was actually the one who suggested the "Sullivan & Son" tour stop at Foxwoods:
"When they were starting up their tour, we were shooting, and I said to Steve (Byrne), 'Oh, my gosh, you can't be going to New York and Boston and not stop at Foxwoods! Are you out of your mind? You HAVE to stop at Foxwoods! It's my hometown, come on! My dad works there.' ... He's a dealer in the high-rollers pit. He's been so cute and sweet, putting up, like, little signs saying, 'Watch my daughter's show.' It's so cool."
Azlynn dyed her hair from blonde to brunette — and it wasn't long after that change that she was hired to play Melanie on "Sullivan & Son":
"This is a different character. It's a lot stronger than the characters I used to play. It's so funny — I dyed my hair, and then all of a sudden, I'm just cop after cop after paramedic. It's like, oh my gosh, I guess if you're blonde you can't do that! It was really funny. I'm not kidding you — I dyed my hair, and three weeks later I booked the part. ...
"I wanted to be playing stronger characters, women who are a little bit more tough and taking charge, as opposed to being lighter. I still love doing lighter characters, but I wanted to challenge myself a little bit more. I thought this (changing my hair color) would be a good little game changer, and it was."
Azlynn really appreciates her "Sullivan & Son" role:
"I love her. I admire Melanie. (She laughs.) She's so cool. She's really got it together. She doesn't really have her problems (like other characters do) at the bar. She's really independent, very strong, stubborn. It reminds me of such an East Coast mentality, which I love, obviously, being from there. You don't always get to play that. I just love her. She's just kind of like the Angelina Jolie of sitcoms. (She laughs.) People are going to read that and be like, 'Oh, who does she think she is?' I'm not saying I look like her. I'm just saying (the character) is tough — she's a tough cookie."
Melanie is a paramedic, and Azlynn didn't have to go far for research. Her best friend since childhood — Amanda Costanzo, who lives in Stonington — in studying to be a paramedic:
"I definitely probed her with questions. We have an episode coming up where I used the paddles. I think I called her, like, four times in one day, just going, 'Now, hey, if I'm doing this, am I doing it right if I ... ?"
Azlynn has acted with all sorts of famous performers. But she really geeked out at meeting Betty White when guesting on "Hot in Cleveland":
"I spent a ton of time with my grandmother when I was little, and 'Golden Girls' was like religion. Do not call when 'Murder She Wrote' or 'Golden Girls' are on. ... When I got to work with Betty White, it's actually the only autograph I've ever asked for in my life — out of meeting all the people that I've met. I couldn't contain myself. I was like, 'I loooooove you!' I brought her an orchid, which turned out to be her favorite flower. I was like, 'Ooo, hello, lucky!'
"Of course, like a loyal Goldies fans, I have the boxed set of the entire series. I had her sign the first season to me and had her sign the seventh season to my cousin, who is an equally big fan ....
"(White) is so funny on set. I did a joke, and all of a sudden, I hear this little laugh from the sidelines. I looked at her, and she said, 'Oh, you really crack me up.' I was like (she does a sharp intake of breath), 'You just made my life!'"