The Chimaera Project had the delight of chatting with Los Angeles actress and producer Ashley Clements in the midst of her busy schedule this awards season. We were curious to learn a little more about her process and her hurdles as she has gracefully navigated a career both in front of and behind the cameras.
TCP: Thank you so much for talking with us today. We are so excited to get to finally speak with you about your story. Please dive in and tell us all about how you got here today!
AC: I grew up in the San Francsico Bay Area, and I knew I wanted to be an actor at six years old. I grew up doing theater, mostly musicals, as many young people do. I dreamed of Broadway and went to college in New York to study theater, but it snows there. Did you know?
TCP: Brrrr. Hahhaha.
AC: It’s awful. Anyway I went to grad school in San Diego at The Old Globe’s MFA program, and loved it and Southern California. I moved to LA without knowing much about on-camera acting, but knowing that I wanted to live in California and be an actor. So, I got into classes here more specifically about film & TV, and pretty quickly I booked The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which is what most people know me from. That really changed my life. It introduced me to other creators I continue to collaborate with, and to a following that was interested in what I did, and those two things have enabled me to be a part of some incredible projects and to create my own. Most recently I created and starred in a sci-fi show, SONA, which was crowdfunded and made independently before being licensed by Legendary Digital Networks for their streaming platform, Alpha.
TCP: Yes! We are big fans of SONA, so much so that we heard from a little bird that you are on the Emmy pre-nom list as Best Actress for your work – congrats! But we can imagine it wasn’t always a smooth road.
AC: It has never been a smooth road. I was always prepared for that – one thing people love to tell aspiring young actors is how hard it will be. They were right, but I was also right that I had the perseverance, passion, and to continue to be alliterative, patience, to pursue this career. This career is 90% rejection. You have to be in it for the long game. I think everyone in entertainment can relate to the struggle to care deeply about what we’re working on and then not be completely heartbroken when it’s canceled or you don’t get the part/callback/audition. It’s easy to say “you can’t dwell on it” or “try to forget about it as soon as you’ve auditioned” but it’s hard in practice, and the thing that has helped me move on from rejection the most is to create my own work. Knowing that I will have acting opportunities because I will continue to create them for myself makes it easier to let go of the jobs I don’t get. Which in turns makes me a more confident actor in the room, which is appealing to casting, so it has other benefits, too.
TCP: That is certainly true. That is a piece of wisdom we all need to tell ourselves from time to time. Do you have any other jewels you can share with us?
AC: It took me a long time to get over my resistance to make my own art. In part because I didn’t think I could do it, and in part because I didn’t think I should have to do it. I wanted to act, and only act, and why couldn’t I just get hired to do that and have my dream life? That’s an attitude I hear from people I lot. I don’t know how, or I shouldn’t have to, and to those people I say: no one asked you to be an actor. You’re here because you want to be. You knew this would be hard. If you could be happy doing anything else, by all means, do that. But if you’re inflicted with the passion that won’t let you do anything else with your life, then would you rather sit around complaining, or challenge yourself to learn something new? You might find you love writing/directing/costume designing/etc. You might meet incredible collaborators who like doing the parts you don’t. You will absolutely learn and grow, and you might end up making something you’re really proud of. You’ll never know until you try. And you definitely won’t learn anything sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.
TCP: Right! Thank you so much for the gentle reminder. We all need to hear that. It is always more about how you get back up after getting knocked down than the getting knocked down in the first place. It builds strength and pride. By this point in your career, we hope you are beaming with pride! Is there anything that helps you sit with that?
AC: I’m always incredibly proud when a fan tells me how much something I helped make meant to them. That’s a dream, as an artist. But lately perhaps I’ve been even more proud when I’ve done something I didn’t think I could do. I didn’t think I could write a script, and every one that I’ve written feels like a triumph. I didn’t think I could produce any of those scripts, and then I made a show. The exhausted, lying-on-the-floor-because-that-took-everything-out-of-me feeling of finishing something hard, whether it’s a script or a day on set. I’m proud that I did it, and I’m proud that knowing how hard it is, I’m going to get up and do it again.
TCP: Amazing. Well, thanks for taking the time to share your journey and your many wisdoms with us over here at The Chimaera Project, and we will be rooting for you! And if anyone else wants to join in the fun, they can find Ashley at @theashleyclem on twitter/Instagram or visit her website www.ashleyclements.net.