Unless you don’t have TikTok, or if your FYP is entirely made up of Jeffree Star’s NFL boyfriend conspiracy videos, it’s likely that you’ve come across Alyssa McKay. The 22-year-old Portland, Oregon native is huge on social media: She’s amassed over 15 million followers across her multiple platforms. On the app, you might have seen McKay’s alter-ego Lyss, a “rich, mean, dumb blonde” who writes iconic diss tracks about some of the app’s most popular creators. Or, more recently, you might know McKay from her acting and lifestyle content. No matter where you’ve seen her before, there’s no denying that McKay has made a mark on social media.
Now, McKay is taking the leap from TikTok to podcasting, but not in the way you may think. Having landed a role in the new narrative podcast series from Diversion Audio, The Royals Of Malibu, McKay stars as Ella, a girl who is taken out of poverty and brought into a life of privilege in Malibu. What follows is a whirlwind of mystery, romance, and — of course — a little bit of spice. If you know what I mean (wink).
To discuss her role and transition into the narrative podcasting world, I talked to McKay to get the scoop on The Royals Of Malibu. From the parallels to her personal life, to what it was like recording a ~spicy~ scene, here’s what McKay had to say.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Were you always interested in scripted podcasts, and why did this type of podcasting appeal to you as a form of storytelling?
When I got the audition for this project, I had never heard of a fiction podcast. It’s different from voiceover, so I wasn’t quite sure what it was. But when I got to know the character Ella a little bit more, there were a lot of parallels between me and her, and I just instantly felt connected to her as well as the story. It was history from there. I fell in love as soon as I read the character description, and I was already a hundred percent in.
I know you said that you have a lot of parallels with Ella, but in what ways do you think you’re different?
Ella’s definitely a lot tougher than I am. I admire her in a lot of ways. I think that she’s very confident and she doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. She won’t let anyone take advantage of her. And that’s something that I really admire about her. Whenever I need to ask the waiter for the check, little things like that, I’m channeling my inner Ella Sinclair.
Speaking of having that bold mindset, I saw that you moved to the East Coast. But I wanted to know what it was like for you to work in LA before the big move.
So I actually never moved to LA. But growing up, that was the ultimate dream ever since I could remember. I was like, “I’m going to move to LA and I’m going to be a famous actress.” And that’s always what I said since I was a kid. And then when I started doing social media, I went to LA a few times for work and the vibe is just not very me.
I think that in the show, you’ll see how Ella kind of struggles with being in Los Angeles and how she struggles with the lack of authenticity that there is. And that’s the reason why I never fully moved there. It was my dream but when I went there, I felt this energy — it was very draining. So, I prefer the East Coast. I feel like people are much more real. In New York, you just stay out of each other’s way and keep your head down and do what you got to do. And that’s kind of the way I operate best as well.
Was New York always a dream too?
Once I realized that LA isn’t what I thought it would be, then my sights definitely shifted to New York, even though I had never been to New York. I think LA was my initial dream just because I was in Oregon, it was so close, I had access to it. But, I hadn’t even been to the East Coast. And then I came to New York one time for a shoot … and I was like, this is the most magical place on earth. Even if the sidewalks smell like pee, I don’t care. It’s literal magic and I love it here so much.
You definitely have that East Coast, hustler mentality. Does that translate to your character, Ella, too?
Oh, 100%. At the beginning of the show she’s orphaned, so she doesn’t have anyone looking out for her. She’s only 17 and she becomes a sex worker. She’s a cam girl, and she’s hustling and she’s using her mom’s credentials to be able to do that work because it’s the only way to keep herself afloat. She doesn’t want to be taken care of by anyone. She’s very independent, which I admire.
We love that. I’ve seen on TikTok that you’ve been featuring some of the podcast’s spicier scenes, which everybody loves. But what was it like actually recording those?
It was so awkward. When you’re doing those scenes, you’re just getting right into the sexiness. Like, I was always caught off guard. Me and Reid, my scene partner, would be doing a normal scene and then all of a sudden I’m like, “Take your shirt off.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth right now.”
I didn’t want to be unprofessional, so I just kept plowing through. I channeled my inner Ella and it helped me get through it. But all the cast members were so incredible and I built such close relationships with everyone that it wasn’t a bad experience at all.
Do you have a favorite memory of working on the podcast?
Honestly, just all of it. It was so incredible. It was only four days, so we crammed a lot of recording into four days. Ella is in pretty much every single scene, so I was constantly working. But honestly, my favorite memory was just after every single time we did a really intense scene or a scene where it was like this has to be played outright to resonate with the audience, just seeing the director, Matt, and how proud they were of what was happening. It made me feel so confident and good.
How do you want audiences to feel after listening to this project?
I think that there are a lot of situations that we cover in the show, so I think that everyone who listens will find some kind of personal connection to the show. I just want to encourage everyone to take the show in and try and find connections to their own real life. I can’t divulge too much, but I just think that it’s going to be very relatable for a lot of people. I hope that everyone falls in love with Ella and falls in love with her journey throughout this season.