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Aliquippa native gets 1st lead role in film with a message

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, July 1, 2016, 8:57 p.m.
Allison Paige in 'The Dog Lover'
ESX Entertainment
Allison Paige in 'The Dog Lover'
(From left) Annabelle Kavanagh, Allison Paige and Jayson Blair in 'The Dog Lover'
ESX Entertainment
(From left) Annabelle Kavanagh, Allison Paige and Jayson Blair in 'The Dog Lover'
Lea Thompson in 'The Dog Lover'
Lea Thompson in 'The Dog Lover'
James Remar in 'The Dog Lover'
James Remar in 'The Dog Lover'
'The Dog Lover'
'The Dog Lover'

Dogs need a voice.

They can't speak for themselves, but humans can talk for their furry friends.

Getting the word out to protect animals is the basis of the film “The Dog Lover,” which stars Aliquippa native Allison Paige, 27.

“The Dog Lover” opens July 8 and will be available on video on demand that day. The PG-rated drama is based on true events.

Paige, who lives in Los Angeles, will be in Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. showing July 10 at SouthSide Works.

Her character, Sara Gold, is a rising star at the United Animal Protection Agency, a major animal-rights organization, which conducts animal rescues and lobbies for better animal laws. Handpicked for a major assignment, Gold goes undercover as a college intern to infiltrate a suspected puppy mill run by the enigmatic Daniel Holloway, played by James Remar. Lea Thompson plays Liz Holloway and Jayson Blair is Will Holloway.

Gold integrates herself with the Holloway family and learns about the world of dog breeding, but is hard-pressed to find any sign of animal abuse. The agency teams up with local law enforcement and raids the farm, accusing Holloway of inhumane treatment of animals.

Gold finds herself torn between doing her job and doing what is right. She awakens to the moral contradictions of her work with the agency.

It's Paige's first lead role, and one she's as passionate about on-screen as off.

“I think we have a responsibility to animals,” Paige says. “What I want people to take away from this movie is to think and do your research before you donate to something or buy an animal. Sometimes things get blurred. We have to be the voice for these animals and make sure they are safe. Our No. 1 goal is education and research to fight the puppy mills and kill shelters and dog-fighting operations.”

Before buying an expensive dog, she suggests doing some research and considering a rescue animal. She adds there are responsible dog breeders and doesn't want them all lumped in as puppy mill breeders. Many of them care for animals.

Paige owns two Maltese — Bella and Boyd. Bella was a gift from a boyfriend, and Boyd is a rescue animal.

Paige says she would not have made it this far in her career without the support of her grandparents, Esther and George Kolich of Center Township, Beaver County; her parents, Judy and Allen Nist, who live in Allentown; as well as her siblings, Courtney and Allen Paul Jr.

“They have always been there for me,” Paige says. “In this business, you need that kind of family support. They saw that I loved acting and have always been confident in my abilities to perform onstage.”

The film's writer and producer, Ali Afshar, noticed those qualities in Paige. Afshar, who has a small role as a lawyer in “The Dog Lover,” says Paige was onboard with the message of the film.

It's about getting people to think before they make a move — investigate before you donate, Afshar says.

The film is directed by Alex Ranarivelo.

Afshar met Paige in an acting class. Even though they auditioned more established actresses, they chose her.

“She came in and did a great job with the audition,” Afshar says. “We thought she was breathtaking and a little too good-looking for the part, so we altered her appearance a little and she was perfect, captivating. Allison is very versatile. She can play many roles. We let her have some fun with this character.”

Paige discovered her love of the stage at age 3 as a dancer. When she was 17, she shot a pilot for Disney. She moved to California when she was 18. Her career has taken her to television and film, both comedy and drama.

She spent the past two and a half years in a recurring role as the trouble-making Bev Walters on NBC's “Days of Our Lives.” She starred in “Dragula,” an Adam Shankman short. Most recently, she was in “The Wedding Party,” a 105-minute comedy feature that was completed in one consecutive shot.

She played sassy Jenny Deluca from Jersey on ABC Family's “Baby Daddy” and the lovable Gigi Darcy in the Emmy award-winning Web series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” “Pemberly Digital: Domino” and “Welcome to Sandition.”

“I am so excited about my first lead in a movie,” says Paige, who studied under acting coaches and mentors Scott Sedita and Diana Castle. “To be able to be in Pittsburgh for a showing with my family all there, it is truly amazing.

“I am so proud to be from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a city of kind, hardworking, happy people. My parents and grandparents instilled in me a strong work ethic.

“I am so looking forward to people seeing this film. It's a moving film. Animals give unconditional love. Just look into their eyes.”

Details: thedoglovermovie.com

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7889 or jharrop@tribweb.com.

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