Three Great Things: Zibby Allen

The actress and singer-songwriter, currently starring in Virgin River, on her true essentials in life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. Actress and singer-songwriter Zibby Allen, who is currently starring as Brie Sheridan in Netflix’s hugely popular show Virgin River, below shares some of the things that give her life true meaning. — N.D

Kona the Dog
If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “If Kona could be cloned, I would get a dog,” I’d have enough cash to buy us all a five-course meal with endless cocktails at Musso & Frank. She really is a magical, otherworldly angel cloaked in fluff. Even more spectacular, dear Kona is a rescue. I adopted her from Jimi’s Angels Rescue in Los Angeles many years ago. I’d never had a dog of my own before Kona.

To be honest, I was afraid of the responsibility, afraid I’d get it all wrong and end up a shoe-in candidate for Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer show, only to have my deepest and gnarliest character flaws revealed through the mirroring behavior of my misbehaving, anxious dog-child. Turns out, Kona was/is my mirror, but not in the scary, horrible way I feared. Just like me, she too was eager from the very start to get it right, learn the ropes and really learn me.

Zibby Allen with her dog Kona.

In our first few months together, we were just trying really hard to do right by one another. But our connection quickly grew into a kind of mutual respect, admiration and symbiosis that I didn’t know was possible between human and pooch, until her. We’ve been through so much life together now – multiple new homes, moving abroad, breakups, marriage, devastating career disappointments, exhilarating career wins. The one constant is her love. Her unconditional lovin’ is completely immutable to my ups and downs, my beautiful or ugly moments. It’s remarkable, really.

If it’s true what Millan says, “Your dog is a reflection of your energy, your behavior,” then I guess I’d like to think that Kona is simply reflecting back to me the ever-present and unyielding love within me. I often forget it’s there … until Kona comes over and puts her paw in my hand and stares into my eyeballs hard and uncomfortably long. (No joke – she does this often and it’s an equally unnerving and marvelous reminder that I will remain forever grateful for.)

Clip-On Reading Light
I just bought one (I don’t know what the hell took me so long …) and though the thrill it gives me may be slightly-to-very disproportionate to the (non-)event of a clip-on reading light, I still cannot help myself from dedicating an entire Great Things classification to it!

Personally, I prefer reading from an actual book vs. a device. Something about feeling the weight of a book in my hands, the paper pages, the novel wearing down and softening over time, just satisfies me so much. Guys. The clip-on reading light is genius! Functionally, it makes reading a book possible anytime, anywhere and completely unobtrusively to, say, your sleeping partner in the bed next to you. Mine has an amber light which is a hue that frankly feels like an eye massage compared to the blue screen-light I subject my eyes to the rest of my waking day. And – and! – it casts a really dramatic museum-like light effect upon the page, giving it an extra emphasis that tricks me into feeling like the page I’m on is the only page that has ever mattered.

Zibby Allen, reading in style.

I’m telling you, it is a thrilling way to read. This little light has seduced me into a new nighttime wind-down routine that involves less television and a genuine excitement for nightfall/bedtime. (Right now, I’m reading The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne and, oof, it’s a good one. Highly recommended.)

I love it there. I love so much of Scotland’s culture, its landscape, the food, the architecture … and perhaps, most crucially, I met my husband, Adam, there.

Adam is from Northern Ireland, but he’d been living in Scotland for several years by the time we met. He was running a Mexican restaurant, El Cartel, just up the road from the theatre where I was performing for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (I swear to you, El Cartel is some of the best Mexican food I’ve had, and I’m from California so this feels like blasphemy to admit but I’m being real you guys!) I’d walk by his restaurant on the way to my show multiple times a day, always hoping to lock eyes with the incredibly handsome man in the window.

Zibby Allen on the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Long story short, I went in for tacos one night and two weeks later we were on an impromptu road trip to the Isle of Skye together. As if that detail isn’t romantic enough, through a series of insane synchronicities, just hours after arriving in Skye, we found ourselves standing in the old ruin of a parish, at the gravesite of my great-great-grandmother Florence MacKinnon, whom I had no prior knowledge of until just hours before we found her headstone. It’s almost too overwhelming to explain, but that discovery kind of corroborated this sense of belonging I felt from the day I arrived in Scotland.

Needless to say, that moment left us both gobsmacked and wondering how we were ever going to say goodbye to each other. So, we didn’t. Instead, two years later we were back in Scotland for our wedding. Now we try to spend at least a month, if not longer, every year in Scotland. One day, perhaps we’ll stay for good.

Featured image of Zibby Allen by Kristine Cofsky.

Actor-writer-producer Zibby Allen trained at the American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) before studying with Steppenwolf West in Los Angeles. Allen can currently be seen starring in the third season of the hit Netflix show Virgin River as Brie Sheridan. Allen’s previous credits include recurring roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Nancy Drew, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and The Exorcist and guest spots on The Flash, The Twilight Zone, Bates Motel and The Good Doctor. Allen is a singer-songwriter, and one half of a musical duo Socks and Chimes. Their first album, I Love You Overall was released in 2011 and they are currently in production on their second album. Additionally, Allen is developing a podcast-for-television project with Marianna Palka (Glow) and Alyshia Ochse (True Detective). Originally from San Francisco, Allen divides her time between Los Angeles, Vancouver and Scotland, where her husband grew up. (Photo by Kristine Cofsky.)