Your new webseries Casting Directors - in a few words, what is it
about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?
is a new web series documenting Cindy, the owner and
operator of Cindy Smiles Casting, and a weekend of casting her latest project.
She is working with her assistant Billy to help bring Simba’s new work off
the page. Let’s just say that while she is enthusiastic about the project
and the actors she’s brought in, not all goes according to her meticulous
Cindy is a professional, first and foremost. She is a die-hard believer in new
works for talented individuals regardless of their look or profit margin. She
is also not the best at dealing with stress, and she is under a lot of it.
What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Ashley
Rose Kaplan can we find in Cindy Smiles, actually?
I spoke with Casting Directors's creator Anthony Vander [Anthony
Vander interview - click here] a bit on Cindy’s background - her past on the other
side of the table, her relationships with the other characters - and her
enthusiasm is what really shone through to me. She wants so badly for actors
and writers to produce new work based on talent and truth, instead of “the
look” or the money. That’s something I want too. More roles need to be
written for women of any shade and shape; where we aren’t beholden to 2
dimensional stereotypes or victims of body shaming. Not every plus sized women
needs “fat” to be her story. Cindy wants it so bad, but she doesn’t
always phrase it to her advantage.
I definitely drew on some aspects of me, but Cindy is different. We both want
to be as professional as possible, but she tends to act before she’s thought
it all through. Her words don’t always reflect her intentions as clearly as
she believes. She’s also extremely self confident, which I am still learning
for myself. We do have the same taste in clothes, so far.
I'm taking a wild guess here that as an actress, you might have
attended the occasional casting yourself, right? So did any of those
remind you of the goings-on in Casting Directors, and some
of your personal worst casting experiences?
auditioning since I was around 10 years old, so I’ve run the gambit on
the best and worst things to hear. Sometimes you can have a lot of fun in
an audition, and sometimes it can be not so fun. My best auditions have been when you simply clicked with everyone in the
room, and sometimes the actresses waiting in the hall too. I’ve had auditions where people would walk into the room mid-way through
my piece on a cell phone - similar to Billy’s little chat - wondering if
I continued or start again. I’ve even had someone tell me that I acted
like a leading lady but as I didn’t look like one they would pass till I
An actor must remember that you can only really control one part of the
audition process - yourself. So prepare your work, stay adaptable, and get
comfortable with the uncomfortable. These are my mantras.
How did you
get involved with Casting Directors in the first place?
met Anthony Vander and Lawrence Watling
interview - click here] through Distortion Actors. Anthony held a Casting
Director workshop where Lawrence and I were able to work directly with a
group of actors from different training backgrounds on material and speak
directly with a casting director. It was an invaluable experience, and we
kept in touch for future workshops.
After that, Anthony contacted me to read for a project he had written - a
mockumentary where improv and comedy were essential. I loved the idea and
Cindy as a character. Though with my first read of her I was worried about
her choice of vocabulary. I sent over a tape, and kept my fingers crossed.
what extent can you relate to Casting Directors' brand of
The comedy of this piece comes from a real place.
The tension of the audition room is real, and the energy can be felt.
Simba’s bravado gets him into more trouble than he comprehends. Billy is
a sieve of private information, and Cindy is desperately holding it all
together. The brilliant actors who came in as actors, warming up, making audition
mistakes, and even bursting into someone else’s time slot was a comedic
“what not to do” as and actor. I loved it. It was like Smash and
The Office had a baby, and all you could do was
watch it and hope it did not turn into Tammy from Parks and Recreation.
What can you tell us about your director (and
co-star) Anthony Vander [Anthony
Vander interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?
as a director is extremely collaborative. No idea is too silly or small,
and everyone can be open on set to suggest ideas or play. He wrote each of
the characters, but as we improvised more and more, we all felt free to
experiment. He was never precious about the work, but open to making it
better and stronger. As a co-star, he is captivating to watch when Simba is in the room. I got
to watch all the takes for the individual interviews and I could barely
keep it together. We all trusted each other, which is vital. It made those
two days amazingly fun.
Ashley with Anthony Vander
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
atmosphere on set was two solid days of energetic joy. The time flew so
fast that I wished we had had more to shoot. I kept getting to set really
early, and it was really cold, so whenever we stopped shooting I kept
dancing around - which was great when Nick Tuck joined in. Everyone was
comfortable, and we all clicked really well.
future projects you'd like to share?
working with Anthony and Nathan for their latest feature film Scales, as a
production designer. It’s been great working with them behind the
camera. I’m also writing a web series, and hopefully that project will be ready
soon. All I will say is the same the same question that sparked this
project: “How does someone accidentally become a stalker?"
What got you into
acting to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the
I started acting around age 15, but before then I
was studying opera and musical theatre since 1994. It was a total accident
that I was cast in my first straight play - BJ Steele in A Piece of My
Heart by Shirley Lauro. I was convinced that without my singing voice I
would be no good on stage, but my cast and I worked really hard. I loved
every second of it and I even won an award for best supporting actress. My
time at Stagedoor Manor meant the world to me, and I love seeing my
camp-mates' successful careers popping up all over the industry. I split my last 2 years of high school at 3 schools - in the morning
academic school and in the afternoon I attended the Long Island High
School of the Arts [LIHSA]. From there, I got my BFA in Theatre performance from Adelphi University in
NY. During my junior year, I studied for a year in London at the London Dramatic
Academy [LDA], where I fell in love with London’s theatre
scene. I knew I wanted to perform from the age of 4, but after I broke my foot at
20, musical theatre was no longer a full option. It has taken a lot of time, but I feel like I’ve found a new avenue
forward in my career.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
to Casting Directors?
Directors, I have worked both on and off camera.
My first professional film project was
Mina Martin, written and directed
by Anthony Petrucci. I worked as the special FX makeup department, boom
operator for 1 day, & an actor. I was still recovering from foot
surgery so I was hobbling on crutches in the scene, and then painting
Scott Kalberer ’s face with a paint brush covered in blood. I loved
every minute of it. After I settled in London, I worked as the art director on
Future Got No Past, written and directed by David Cordon [& Annabel Bates]. I had
experience in the prop department and set construction before, but
building all the sets from scratch was amazing. I learned so much about
film, and had a brilliant time with all the cast and crew. So much so that when Kjetil Alexander Gudmestad needed some actors for a
music video, I jumped at working with him again. I had never worked on a
music video before, and Dance to Death by Gaygirl was stuck in my head for
weeks after. That project was brilliant - dancing over and over again in a
damp basement, surrounded by lights, wires, and a group of energetically
possessed actors. Acting can take you to strange but really memorable
How would you describe
yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your
characters to life?
I do not follow one method of acting technique. When I was training I took
everything as gospel, which did not help me. I realized that if I cherry-picked what worked for me, and harnessed
that into my own techniques I
could find a more truthful place for myself and the character. I actually
write down any technique I find useful, helpful, or even difficult, in a
notebook I dubbed my “Actor’s Toolbox”. I don’t leave home without
it. I try to find the truth of their world, their physicality, and their
language to let them use me as a vessel. the best example I can give was
something a great tutor of mine once said. “Juliette is quicksilver, a
puff of smoke. let her fill you for a time, walk through you, and then let
her go. You will never be Juliette, but she can be you.”
Actresses (and indeed actors) who
I have a lot of people in this industry who
have inspired me over the years. Robbin Williams has always been a touch
stone for joy and depth, for example. Recently I have been cultivating my own path outside the existing routes
in the performance world. The artists I aspire to be like are Rachel
Bloom, Whitney Avalon, Kathryn Hahn, John C Reilly, Nick Offerman, Tara P
Henson and Donna Lynne Champlin. Long list, I know - and yet what connects
them is their drive and creativity. These individuals honed their craft,
created new & captivating work, and their performances are
simply beautiful. The range of projects each have under their belts, and
their approach to life inspires me to be myself through this world and
through my art.
Your favourite movies?
that’s too hard! I watch tons of movies, but if I had to hall of fame my
go to choices? They'd would have to be:
Walk Hard or The Goods - for when I need a really, really good laugh.
America’s Sweethearts - I seem to watch it at least once a year. If it
is on TV, I’m planted to the channel.
The Birdcage - the comedic, farcical nature mixed with really true moments
of vulnerability and love. Who could ever get tired of this film?
Repo! The Genetic Opera - For when you want some horror gore with your
And lastly, Funny Girl. Classic Streisand.
of course, films you really deplore?
I don’t hate it, but
I can never seem to get through the Fugitive. I’ve tried for years, but
I always fall asleep before the midway mark.
Facebook, whatever else?
Casting Call Pro:
Anything else you're dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
You can watch season one of Casting Directors here: