It's Show Business, Not Show Talent
A Q&A with Avery Ashton on Acting, moving, and redefining success.
For my first newsletter of 2022, Avery Ashton an actress from Los Angeles, answered a few questions about acting and the pursuit of her dreams. I met her while we both were working at an Urban Outfitters on fifth avenue. Through shared misery we plotted and planned our future careers. In the years since she’s done an amazing job at making moves, taking leaps of faith, and kickstarting the life we planned together. I’m happy to share her process, influences, and advice for any artists pursuing their dream careers.
Ava Williams: What’s your name?
Avery Ashton: Avery Ashton
AW: Can you tell everyone a little about yourself?
AA: I'm a 24 year old actor living in Los Angeles working, studying, and chasing that dream.
AW: How did you get into acting?
AA: I started when I was young. I was 5 and had lead roles in local plays. I constantly wanted to perform. Singing, acting, playing piano, You couldn’t get me to shut up. Then as I got older I became incredibly shy. In middle school I was in the stage crew for drama club. I saw all the lead actors in the plays and I saw how extroverted they were and I thought to myself: “ohhh that’s how actors are. That’s not me. I can’t be an actor because I'm too shy.” I really avoided it. Fast forward I moved to NYC and did some commercial modeling and got sent to an audition. They handed me a script and i thought fuck no. I have to speak? I ended up getting a callback and getting the job and then decided fuck it! Let me try. And the worst part is that once I got back into it I realized that this is what I was supposed to be doing this whole time. I would leave auditions and classes feeling like I was floating. I wasted all those years and avoided acting based on insecurity. But oh well, you live and you learn!
AW: Are there any actors that have influenced you? They can be dead or alive. I am not picky.
AA: Ahhh. so many. Hmmm. I’m obsessed with Issa Rae. Reese Whitherspoon comes to mind. I watched a lot of her movies growing up with my parents. Michael C. Hall is an amazing actor that I really admire. Just finished the new dexter. No comment on the ending. Lol. Emila Clarke. Daniel Kaluuya. I love them all and there are really too many to name. It also kinda depends on what i'm currently watching. Like right now it’s the cast of Search Party. Last month it was the entire Succession cast. (They’re all incredible)
AW: How do you prep for a role or audition? What types of things do you consider?
AA: I start off by establishing the genre, given circumstances, and relationship of the scene. All of these things vastly affect the scene. How you talk to your boss is different than how you talk to your friend. Acting in a sitcom is much different from acting in a drama. Ultimately every scene is written for a reason, so why was this scene written? What is the purpose of the scene. How does it move the story along. From there I like to develop my stakes. What does my character want and who/what is preventing them from getting what they want? How can I make my stakes higher so the scene is more interesting to watch. Then from there it could get even more specific depending on who the writer is, what network the audition is for, the punctuation written within the script, monologues, etc. I could go on and on and on. But ultimately the goal is to have a very specific point of view while also being present and listening. Something I'm currently working on a lot in rehearsals.
AW: What is your dream role and why?
AA: Growing up my mom and I watched Pride & Prejudice all the time. Looking back it feels like it was every Sunday night (attempting to combat the Sunday scaries). We also watched a lot of Downton Abbey, Little Women, Emma, and my most recent obsession: Poldark. My dream has always been to be in a period piece like that. I think they’re so beautifully done and to be a part of that world and all of the dedication that goes into just building the set and the costumes would be an absolute dream. Along with the scripts, the language is so beautifully written. It would be a challenge and a lot of work because with those pieces you definitely have to be word perfect but ugh it would be so so fun. Also would LOVE to be in a western or something really gritty. I don’t know, this question is always tough because I’d love the opportunity to do it all.
AW: You’ve said to me that you don’t care how successful you get, as long as you’re acting you’re happy, can you expand on that idea? I know being successful is the goal but I loved what you said to me about idea of success.
AA: My mom loves to watch hallmark Christmas movies but all year long. Lol. Once she was watching and my brother was jokingly mocking it and asked me if I would ever do one of those films. I looked at him like he was crazy. Are you kidding? I’d fucking love to! Success to me would be to be able to financially support myself off of acting alone. That is my dream, so whether that be hallmark, lifetime, HBO, or off broadway shows, I would be so happy.
AW: You moved from NYC to LA during the pandemic to pursue acting, that’s a big change, how did it feel?
AA: Absolutely terrifying. I’m lucky because I moved here with a support system but it is still really difficult for me to be so far away from home.
AW: I think moving to a new city or to a city that can really push your career goals forward is an incredibly brave thing most artists have to do. Do you think that was an important part of you taking your career seriously or feeling like you were on track?
AA: Yeah. Ultimately there are acting opportunities in NYC but for tv/film LA just has the most. And right now I'm focused on building up my tv and film credits. So I do feel like being here makes me feel so much more motivated and on track. Also something about LA you just meet people in the industry kinda everywhere. It’s a strange thing that I’m still not used to. Also west coast people are very chill compared to the ‘rise and grind’ mindset that New Yorkers have. So coming from the east coast, when you have that drive and motivation people out here are kinda like oh shit and really admire it.
AW: How do you feel about the industry today? There’s a lot of nepotism babies really taking over in acting especially. I imagine it can be frustrating.
AA: It can be frustrating. I’m currently in classes that have requirements of rehearsing every day and we really dive deep into these scenes, line for line. So to turn on the tv and see nepotism can be tough but also I don’t know that’s just how life is, It’s not fair. And if my parents had the connections, I know they would help me and I would absolutely take that help as well. So I can't blame them. I also think there’s something to be said for having to work extra hard and do it on your own. It’s more admirable. So I don’t really let it get to me because that’s how life is: It’s who you know. A casting director I worked with a lot last year said once: There’s a reason it’s called show business, not show talent.
AW: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from acting?
AA: I’m so introverted and shy. Acting has completely torn me away from my comfort zone. It’s taught me that life is short and to not take myself so seriously.
AW: In your mind, what is the key to being a successful actor? That is such a loaded question I know, but I know what I think being a successful photographer entails and I think people have…severely lowered their standards in terms of art.
AA: I read something recently from Acting for the Camera by Tony Barr. He says: on the stage you can give a performance. In front of a camera, you’d better have an experience. I thought that was really interesting. I think being able to move people and allow them to escape their world for a bit and immerse themselves into the story is what being a successful actor is. To be honest, I don’t know if this answers that question. It’s tough because it’s so subjective.
AW: How does acting give you an outlet? I think most people pick the art form they do because it makes them release a sort of anxiety or anger or emotion that they can’t express otherwise. Does acting do that for you?
AA: This past week I had been bottling up these emotions and then in rehearsal we were working on a very intense scene and during the last monologue I just broke down and cried and it worked for the scene. I was able to just release everything I was feeling into the scene and it felt so fucking good and therapeutic. So yes it does that for me!
AW: How do you think pursuing this big dream has changed you as a person, when I met you you were in a very different spot. Has it made you more confident? Does it just feel right for you?
AA: It has definitely made me more confident and I feel so so so much more fulfilled. I feel like I’m on the right path but of course we all have our insecurities. I worked with a casting director a lot last year and she was always so inspiring. She’d say: there’s always gonna be obstacles but as long as you have a good mindset, you’ve got half the battle right there.
AW: What are your future goals as an actress?
AA: There are so many obstacles actors face as I know all different careers face. In one of my classes we talked about setting realistic goals for a year. I lucked out and have a really awesome manager. So my next goal is to get a few costar credits and to become SAG eligible. It’s such a mountain to climb and i’ve been trying. Everyone has different stories how they got into sag, I’m still waiting for mine to reveal itself. I’m hoping it’s fairly simple or a bit comedic. Fingers crossed.
AW: Besides acting what other things do you do to stay creative? Or what other mediums do you enjoy consuming? I think the best ways I stay inspired happen to not be photo related at all.
AA: Music. I took voice/piano lessons from the age of 5-20 and a few years of guitar as well. I love going to shows and all things music. I can kinda actually be a bit pretentious about it. Its my toxic trait lol. Also fashion. I also like to read and binge tv. Honestly it’s lame but binging good tv or film keeps me motivated to see amazing performances from actors. I don’t know, it’s lame but it gets me kinda giddy and motivates me to get better.
AW: What is your hope for the future industry? How do you hope it changes or stays the same, what inspires you to keep going?
AA: I wish it wasn’t so much about numbers. Then we wouldn't have tiktok stars who have never acted a day in their life getting roles, but like I said earlier there's a reason it's called show business. I hope for the future that crews are treated better and get the pay and benefits that they deserve. I think they deserve a million times more recognition than what they currently get. I think casting could be a lot more diverse. The acting community that I've surrounded myself with is what inspires me to keep going.
Be kind to yourself, don’t worry so much about being good or right.
This Newsletter is Brought to You By:
1. My Mom
2. My friends
3. The Metro North for its many trips to NYC
4. Breakfast Burritos
5. My HBO subscription