I’d never seen Ashley in anything other than the Twilight films so I was curious to see her in this while I was at SXSW. She plays a totally different character and she was great!
Ashley was incredibly sweet, I loved talking to her and if you’re a young actor you’ll love her answers.
Tell me about Skateland and your character in the film.
Ashley Greene: I play Michelle Burkham, and she is a bit of a love interest, really best friend to Richie Wheeler, and who is [played by] Shiloh Fernandez. And Brent Burkham [Heath Freeman] is my brother, and we’re all this kind of trio in the film. And it’s the 1980s small-town Texas. And basically, it’s kind of this girl and this coming of age film and everyone’s trying to figure out who they are and what they’re doing, and I’m certainly one of those people. But, I’m also one of the people that pushes Richie to find himself and grasp for higher things and she’s a great character to play. She’s very vulnerable, very strong. A lot of emotional ups and downs.
When you first look at a script and decide you want to do the part, how do you go about approaching a role?
Ashley: The first thing is, of course, reading the script and seeing if the script holds my attention and then more importantly, does the character… is it something I haven’t played before, and something that I actually care about and I’m passionate about. I feel like if you’re reading a script and it doesn’t hold your attention and you don’t care about where these characters are going next and what they’re doing and you don’t care what they’re thinking and how they’re affected, then it really shouldn’t be something you’re doing because never ever doing I want to be in a film where I don’t care. And so, I think that’s the biggest thing. I think it’s kind of a gut thing and follow your heart and it works out.
You’ve already had a ton of success. You said you were from Florida. How did you get your start?
Ashley: I was really lucky. I mean, I guess as we all need to be in this industry, but I started out in Jacksonville when I was about 15 because I wasn’t really aware that I could be an actress. That option wasn’t really thrown out there in Jacksonville, Florida. I fell into modeling, and I took a commercial class. And I was like hey, this is fun. So I took an acting class. An after that I was full steam ahead. Went to New York, found Ryan Daly who’s my agent that I’m still with today. Got a manager and convinced my parents to let me graduate early and move to L.A. And they did, you know, which they’re incredible, is the thing. They’re so supportive. And I couldn’t have done it without them. And they shipped me out there, put me up for a year. And I hit the ground running.
Did they come out with you?
Ashley: My mom came out with me for 10 days, set me up with an apartment, water, power, all these things that I had absolutely no idea about. And then she left (laughter). The first year was a lot of acting classes and a lot of me figuring out who I was.
So, what was your first big role in L.A.?
Ashley: Honestly, Twilight was the big, huge lucky break. The first year was tons of classes and me figuring out myself. The second year was lots of auditions and a lot of people saying, ‘We like her, but she doesn’t have a lot on her resume.’ But I just kept feeding myself and learning. And then finally, a little into the second year, I would get small [parts] like Punked and Crossing Jordan, small TV roles and really small roles in films because the directors liked me but I wasn’t a name. And then you know, Twilight came along and I auditioned five times and forced them to put me in the movie.
You’ve worked with a lot of really great, smart actors. When you work with people like that, do you take anything from them?
Ashley: Absolutely, I think that part of being a good actor is, most of being a good actor is listening and life experience. I can’t tell you how many times that something will happen to me and I’m like you know what, this sucks right now, but I can use this one day. And it’s the same thing on set. I worked with Michael Sheen, and I just was sitting there staring at him like who is this man? Because he’s so incredible. And so yeah, I definitely sit down and pick their brain. A lot of stuff I learn is honestly just sitting down and chatting with people, not even about acting necessarily, just about life and their experiences and how they deal with them.
What’s your advice to actors?
Ashley: My advice to actors is if your heart’s not in it, then you need to go home because it’s a tough industry. I absolutely love it, and I wouldn’t do anything else, but I will tell you, that there are times when I go, ‘Why in the heck am I doing this to myself.’ You know, it’s a lot of work. But I mean, if you love it, there’s nothing better in the world. You just have to keep working at it. I think the biggest thing is believing in yourself because no matter how much anybody else believes in you, if you don’t have that confidence in yourself, it’s going to be really tough to make it.