Award winning and multi-award nominated actress Angela Asher began her career in the entertainment industry working internationally as a model before leaping into acting, performing both on the small and big screens.
Angela Asher in the CSA Nominated Series ‘Inhuman Condition’ ft. Torri Higginson
10 QUESTIONS WITH ANGELA ASHER
1. WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ACTOR? WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
Do we become actors? Hum…I believe you either have a strong need/desire to communicate, to be heard, to be understood and express yourself or you don’t. I grew up in a family where that wasn’t encouraged. Perhaps my need/desire to do so came from that experience of being shut down during my childhood…always an upside to ones upbringing. You work with what you got!
I started out as a model in this business. Then one day, I found myself helping another model with an audition for a pre-screen to get into a Michael Shurtleff intensive eight- week scene study program. Suffice to say, she did not make the cut and I did. That was the end of a friendship and the start of what would be my second career.
My boyfriend at the time told me I had more to offer than being a model and to go for it. So I did, not knowing a damn thing about acting! What I did know was, I had a rich supressed inner life that was unapologetically ready to burst open.
Looking back now…I think it was my ignorance of what it was to be an actor and all that it takes to do the work, that gave my younger self the confidence to just be who I was/am.
2. WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
I can honestly say that I am proud of each and every one of the projects I have had the great fortune to be involved in.
The series work I have been doing the past few years on Hard Rock Medical, Workin’ Moms and Inhuman Condition are all block shot and face paced. You shoot top to bottom in one particular location/locations where all the scenes through out the series will take place. Being in every scene makes for an incredibly long day. Not to mention, you are jumping all over the place from episode to episode on the same day. Sometimes working with multiple directors on the same day. You have to be on it and map it out to know where you are in the story arc of your character. The prep work you have to put in prior to starting these types of series is an absolute must. It’s an endurance test of your physical energy, your mental focus and concentration. At the same time, it’s exhausting and rewarding.
These are the projects I am most proud of as I am always amazed by the final product.
I seriously always fear the worse. By the time you finish shooting, it just becomes all a blur and you have no idea what you did until you go into ADR. I have never been disappointed to date. Thankfully.
3. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING ACTORS?
Get out of your own way! By that I mean, get out of your head. The moment you start over thinking it is the moment you stop trusting your instincts.
The beautiful thing about acting is being able to share your personal life experience. Which I consider to be our unique gifts that we have to offer. You have to own your emotions, feelings and those messy ugly parts of yourself you don’t like. Those parts of yourself you keep hidden away from others. When we share those unapologetically we connect. Acting is all about honest connection. That’s what binds us to one another, our shared human experience. When we can see ourselves in the eyes of a character, we feel less alone in the world. At least that is how I feel when I watch a great series or film. We get invested in characters because they show us who we are/what we hide.
I would say that it is very important to have other interests and not be defined by ‘being an actor’. You an actor or you’re not. You are only as interesting as your life experiences. Have as many of those as you possibly can. That is what you have to work with. That’s your tool-box, so to speak.
Personal integrity has always been important to me. Know your deal breakers. Know what your values are. You have to know who you are and never compromise that. This business will test your convictions. See clearly what kind of life you want, because that is what you really are creating. This is a marathon not a sprint, if you want a long career.
Lastly and more importantly, never let your ego get in the way of your confidence.
4. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ASPIRING ACTORS FOR PREPARING FOR AN AUDITION? (E.G. DO YOU STUDY WITH A PRIVATE COACH?)
Read the material on fist pass as you would a novel. Have that private readers moment and let your imagination run wild with possibility. Then go back and take a second pass as the actor. First pass is the emotional life. Second pass are the technicalities. It’s important to know how and why your character pushes the story forward. This is a story telling medium. I can’t express how important it is to read novels. Within these stories the writer always leaves you with a piece of there soul. That to me is what acting is…baring your soul.
I never personally get coached for an audition. I don’t want another persons voice in my head. I am the one bringing this character to life not someone else. I did use to get coached when I was younger and found that it just confused me. I was always nervous/stressed in the audition room about what the coaches’ interpretation of the scene/character was. Once I trusted in my own instincts I never experienced that stress again.
I would also say, do not be overly concerned with the words on the page. I am very loose with my dialogue and prefer to know it, but not know it verbatim. This allows me the freedom to really live in the moment. I never plan anything, but I accept everything as it comes. Just like in life! What you do with what comes at you is a personal choice.
The only thing you have to figure out in the audition room is the technical aspect of the eye lines for the camera.
Trust your instincts. I can’t say that enough. If you don’t trust them why should a Director? Nobody wants to work with someone they have to babysit.
Stand in your power. Own who you are in that room and do it for you.
… and another thing, don’t be one of those actors who treats the waiting room like they’re at a social gathering. You end up looking needy and piss the rest of us off! Harsh I know, but it’s the truth. You’re welcome.
5. WHICH ACTING TEACHER/COACH/SCHOOL PLAYED THE BIGGEST ROLE IN YOUR CAREER?
That would be Michael Shurtleff. He changed the trajectory of my life. He challenged me to do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing and to feel my feelings and not be afraid of them. He took me under his wing and encouraged me to leave modelling and pursue acting. Michael is the reason I am here answering these questions today. God rest his soul.
6. DO YOU FEEL IT IS NECESSARY FOR PERFORMERS TO PROMOTE THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS? (E.G. USING SOCIAL MEDIA)
This whole self-promotion on social media is unfortunately a necessary evil and one that is so beyond ridiculous to me.
Yes, I post when a series or movie I am in is coming out or airing, because it’s part of the deal I signed.
I find that social media has created a culture of narcissism that I find utterly insipid.
I mean if it all had to do with how many followers you have in order to work in this industry, wouldn’t porn stars who have the most followers be starring in all of our films and television series??
I suppose if you have the energy to self promote daily and want to spend your time/money on a publicist and getting followers knock yourself out. I do not believe it will make one bit of difference. Talent is talent. Followers’ does not equal talent.
So back to the question after my little rant there… Do I feel it’s necessary?
I feel that focusing on bettering yourself as a human being and learning new things are necessary. Being confident and happy in your life is necessary. Raising your bar of personal excellence is necessary. The rest of it is all smoke and mirrors. Do not look for your worth in what is a transient business. Although it can be very rewarding at times, it will not sustain you in the end.
Do you want to be respected for your work or do you just want attention? There’s an honest question to ask…
7. WHAT IS THE HARDEST ROLE/CHARACTER YOU’VE EVER PLAYED?
Every character comes with their unique set of challenges and problems. It’s up to you to overcome them and find solutions.
If I had to choose one, it would be the character I played in season one of This Is Wonderland. That particular character was a drug addicted mother who was busted by the RCMP with her husband for smuggling several tons cocaine back into Canada from the Islands. Her two small children are taken away by Child Services. She ends up being convicted and sentenced to a long prison term for trafficking drugs.
I come from an affluent background and had absolutely no frame of reference to draw upon from my own life. I had to do a great deal of research and preparation for this role. I spent a lot of time talking and observing the women around the Dundas and Sherbourne area in the east end of Toronto. At that time it was a very sketchy neighbourhood. I needed to find something of myself in the character to work with. Spending time with these women, I came to the understanding of the difficult choices they had to make on a daily basis in order to survive. I wanted to tell their story truthfully and with dignity. We all have difficult choices in life to make. That’s where I found the way in to the character. Our socio-economical backgrounds may be very different, but that’s where we share our humanity.
It always comes down to, what would you do if those were your circumstances and your life choices were dependant on your survival?
The research aspect paid off for me with a guest star in a drama nomination.
I believe we as actors have a responsibility to a character that you must always honour without judgement. You have to sometimes dig deep to find something of yourself in some of the characters you will portray. That digging is where the pay off is.
8. IF YOU COULD TURN BACK TIME AND APPEAR IN ANY FILM MADE IN THE PAST 20 YEARS, WHICH FILM AND CHARACTER WOULD YOU CHOOSE … AND WHY?
Hands down, the character of Aileen Wournos that Charlize Theron portrayed in the film Monster.
These are the types of roles I personally salivate over. I have always been drawn to the darker side of the human psyche. The shadow self that people keep hidden away from others. That’s fascinating to me. What drives them to commit unspeakable acts? Who were they before the shadow took over? The mind is such a complex machine in the way it justifies behaviour and choice to survive.
We don’t get to see the dark sadistic side of women portrayed very often in film or television. I think because as a society we choose to focus on women as nurturers and mothers. Men do evil deeds women do not, is the old adage. We don’t seem to want to entertain the fact that a woman can be as ruthless as a man can be. To find the humanity and the nurturing mother in what society deems a monster would be the ultimate challenge for me as an actress.
I believe we are all capable of murder under certain circumstances. It’s in our DNA, the will to survive at all costs. Some just bury that urge and others act on it. I suppose that’s my own shadow talking and wanting to come out to play …Jesus, I’m sounding very serial killer-ish at the moment. I assure you I am not, but if I were you would never find the bodies! Haha
9. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE CANADIAN FILM/TV INDUSTRY CAN DO DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER TO GROW?
First and foremost, stop casting non Canadian actors/actresses as leads in our Canadian films and television series.
I find it to be a slap in the face to all of the exceptional talent that we have in this country.
The rest of the industry could learn a thing or two from Quebec. They have huge support for their French language films and television series. Why is that? Simply put, they nurture and support their own talent. They have a star system. We do not and that’s a problem.
If things continue the way they are going, acting will not be a viable vocation it will only be a hobby. Those who have money will be able to act. The majority will need to have a full time job. We can’t allow our industry to become that elitist. Think of all of the future talent and visionaries we will be deprived of.
We need to maintain our identity as Canadians and tell our stories as Canadians.
We need to stop looking outside of the country to be validated by America and the rest of the world. This whole inferiority complex we have is not working. We are in desperate need of a change.
10 out of 10 I say to the CRTC. 6 out of 10 has to be challenged by all of us. It’s Canadian content after all we are talking about here!
10. WE ALL HAVE MENTORS. THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE US THE HOPE, INSPIRATION, AND THE DRIVE TO KEEP GOING … IN THE INDUSTRY, WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MENTORS AND WHY?
The word ‘hope’ to me is rooted in lack-based thinking. It’s passive. The people I surround myself with are action driven. As Yoda says, “ Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Yes. I just quoted Yoda from Star Wars! Bang on if you think of it.
The great friends I have made over the years who have become my family are the ones that keep me going. I am blessed beyond words where these beautiful souls are concerned. Choose very wisely the company you keep for what you surround yourself with you become by default.
In as far as mentors are concerned, I have had many and will most certainly continue to have for the rest of my life. Everyone you meet has something to teach. Stay teachable! Life is all about resiprocity.
When I first started out, I was fortunate to be around “the bad boys of acting’. Nicholas Campbell, Louis Ferreria and Callum Rennie. Their approach and rawness really shaped me as an actress. I would go to their sets and watch them do their thing. I would listen and observe. I am naturally a curious person and I would ask a lot of questions. The best acting classes for me were on those sets watching them work. I suppose in a way that’s why I have a balls to the wall approach. I don’t fear looking like the fool and I am not afraid to get down and dirty. I will always be eternally grateful to those men for what they taught me.
Another mentor for me was Harvey Keitel. We did a mini-series together called The Path To 9/11 and spent time together out side of work. He instilled the impotence of taking your time and letting it wash over you. The camera waits to see you. Let it!
Jason Priestly has been an inspiration to me over the years. He personifies grace and I believe a little of that has rubbed of on me. I pray it has anyway. Anyone who gets to work and be around him by default becomes a better human. He has that effect on people.
What inspires me personally is passion. If you have that you have it all. Now figuring out how to direct that passion…therein lies the rub!
ANGELA’S DEMO REELS: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0038851/videogallery
AGENT: Andrea Britton – The Characters