Known for her solid work in a bevy of high profile supporting roles from ‘LOL’ to ‘Chronicle’ and her amazing work in the independent flick ‘About Cherry,’ Ashley Hinshaw has established herself as a young actress on the rise in Hollywood and leaves her poised become a breakout star in 2013. Hinshaw is an incredibly expressive young actress who pours her heart and soul into each and every role. Continuing her showcase her talents with captivating and highly emotional performances, her latest role teams her with director in Dennis Iliadis’ (Last House on The Left, Hardcore). This supernatural thriller focuses three college friends go to the biggest party of the year, each looking for something different: love, sex and a simple human connection. When a mysterious phenomenon disrupts the party, it lights a fuse on what will become the strangest night anyone has ever seen. As the three friends struggle to find what they’re looking for, the party quickly descends into a chaos that challenges if they can stay friends or if they can even stay alive. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon caught up with Ashley Hinshaw to discuss her role in the film, the challenges of bringing her character from script to screen, evolution as an actress and much more!
What was it about acting that intrigued you early on and made you pursue it as a career?
I have acted since a very young age in small hometown plays and things like that. It was always a dream of mine to be able to do it as a career but I grew up in a really small town in Indiana and I never really thought I would actually end up acting in Hollywood. It was something I wanted to do but there were so many other roads I expected to go down before that one. At 18, I ended up moving to New York and I fell into it! It was what I always wanted to do and I kept coming back to it. My parents would love me to be the elementary school teacher I said I was going to be when I was 14 but that didn’t happen! [laughs]
It certainly seems to be working out for you so far, so that is a plus!
So far, so good! Yeah! [laughs]
What about your influences? Who are the actors or mentors you look to for inspiration?
I actually have quite a few adult male actors I have worked with who I really respect their work ethic. I worked with Michael Kelly, who has worked for such a long period of time and is so talented. He is only now getting the recognition he so greatly deserves. There are a lot of actresses careers I would love to have. Emily Blunt has done some great stuff and has a fun career. Of course, everyone is inspired by Meryl Streep! Who couldn’t be? I guess I am just trying to pursue a diverse career, where I get to do a little bit of everything.
A perfect example of that diversity is your latest project, “Plus One.” What was it about the role that intrigued you and how did you get involved initially?
They sent me the script to read and I thought it was just awesome! It had such a high concept for a movie that was being done independently, that it was really intriguing but also incredibly intimidating! Ultimately, I guess I was intimidated by the project as a whole. Dennis Iliadis sat down with me and talked with me about his vision for it and what he wanted to do. From that point on, I was onboard and ready to go! It is definitely a film unlike any I have seen before.
Speaking of director Dennis Iliadis, he has done some very scary films in the past. Were you familiar with his work before coming aboard for this project?
I think I had seen ‘Last House On The Left’ when it came out but his name wasn’t attached to it in my mind. When I signed on to do the project, they sent me all of his films. I was like “Well! Ok now!” [laughs] The great thing about Dennis is that he is has such a strong vision. In my opinion, Dennis’ work speaks for itself. When you are watching a Dennis Iliadis movie, you know it has his stamp. You can see his way of filmmaking in his movies. When I did my homework on him, I only got more and more excited to shoot the film.
How do you typically prepare for a role when you are going into a new project and how did the process apply to this film?
I typically look for a character that is multi-dimensional, where there is more going on with the character than we will ever see. As an actor, I can build a realistic life around this person and I am not just stepping in and out of scenes playing pretend. You don’t always have a lot of time before you start a project but in the case of “Plus One,” I had about a month. I really spent a lot of time each day developing this girl’s life and where she was at in life, which the audience will never see and the film will never address. Doing that will allow me as an actor to feel like I have actually developed a multi-dimensional and whole person. I got really lucky with the actors I was working opposite with on this project. Everyone was really talented, present and so giving, especially Rhys [Wakefield]. You are following Rhys’ character in this movie and his journey to get his girlfriend back. I decided I would take a step back to react and respond and let him carry things, which I think worked out well for us.
Are there elements of in this character that ring true to the person you are in everyday life?[laughs] Some of my ex-boyfriends might tell you I am a little toxic after a breakup! [laughs] I won’t admit to that of course! This girl isn’t too far from who I could see myself being put in the situation she is put in. Thankfully, I have never walked in on a boyfriend kissing another girl, so I am not sure how the trajectory would go from there as me. However, I did try to root it in reality. This character is pretty much the same age that I am and in a different world I could be in college with a boyfriend back home. I tried to create all of her reactions very similar to what I think I would do if I was in that position.
As you mentioned, you have some terrific cast mates on this project. What did you learn from your time working alongside them?
I wasn’t familiar with anyone in the cast when we first started working. I was really pleasantly surprised with what everyone contributed. I think Logan Miller and Natalie Hall are so funny in this movie, Logan especially. My favorite part of the movie is the scene the two of them have because it so funny. It brings a shift in tone in the movie when things are getting a little heavy. I think Logan’s comedy is terrific. I really love comedy and I was paying close attention to what he does. We all bonded and really got along. We were down in Atlanta for six weeks, shooting all night. We basically became a little group of best friends. I have never worked on a project before where I keep in such close contact with so many of the people over a year later. It was a terrific experience!
Looking back on the entire process, what do you consider the biggest challenge of this role?
I would say the biggest challenge of this role is there are two versions of my character. When one version eventually takes back her boyfriend, so much has happened up until then, as an audience member, you almost are annoyed by that decision! You have been with her for the majority of the movie and her decision to tell him to get a new girlfriend and be done with her, when she finally gives him a second chance; it is a lot to take on as an audience member. That is because you have to change your opinion of this relationship. I think that is the biggest challenge. I have seen the movie twice now. After seeing it, I think we accomplished the goal. It is quite the ride that the audience takes in the course of these two hours.
Looking at your career so far, it parallels this film in a way, as neither are easy put in one genre. How do you feel you have evolved as an actress over the years? Do you ever take time to reflect on your journey?
Oh yeah, all the time. I still think of myself as a redneck Hoosier. I don’t know how I am working in this business but I am lucky to be doing it! I have been so lucky to do so many different projects and have my hand in a lot of different pots. I definitely want to continue in that way. I love comedy, drama, sci-fi and the thrillers are very exciting. I hope I will be able to continue that diversity in my career. You spend three or four months doing comedy and you get a little tired of being funny all the time! [laughs] I definitely enjoying the diversity and trying my hand at new things.
Is there particular role or genre you are anxious to tackle in the short term?
Yeah. I haven’t set my sights on anything in particular. However, I have been really excited, since I started acting, to do a real period piece. I recently did a movie set in the 1960s and 1970s, which was really exciting. That helped to fuel the desire to do something that might be early 1900s or even before. I am drawn to amazing costumes and it such different world that it really forces you to come out of your reality and take on this completely different life and lifestyle. I think that is really exciting and challenging. I think that would be really fun to do!
Obviously, you are still honing you skills as an actor but do you have any aspirations to explore the world behind the camera as a writer or director some day?
At this point, I have so many things I want to do on the acting side that I haven’t really put too much thought into it. There are definitely projects and characters I have in my mind that I would love to explore and one day develop. I am not sure what my role would be in that but it is exciting in this day and age that so many people are doing so many different things. It is very inspiring to see people crossing the lines from being actors to being writers, directors and producers. I definitely think at some point the door will be open to experimenting with something else.
You serve as a great inspiration to young people. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to aspiring actors?
I would say what I see as most important is to continue to develop yourself as a person as a diverse person and not put all of your interests and hope in the acting business. I say that because it is amazing to be ambitious and too focused on the career you want. At the same time, there are so many people who get caught up in it in this business, especially in this town, who lose their interests as a person because their whole world becomes the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry, while it is important to those of us who are in it, is truly not the whole world! [laughs] I think people pick up on that in this industry. When you have more interest and interesting things going on in your life, it is more appealing and helps you grow as a person.
Are you involved in any charity work we can help spread the word on?
I would love that! I work very closely with the Art of Elysium. It is a charity which working people in the entertainment business, on all sides, go to children’s hospitals and developmental challenged schools to put on plays, do improv workshops and bring the arts to these kids. It is an amazing organization! Of all the things I have done in the entertainment industry, working with this charity is in the top one or two experiences I have had. At the end of the day, we make movies or television and that is great but we are artists and when you can have a direct influence on somebody who is struggling, that is what is most important — the Art of Elysium does that in a way unlike any other!
We look forward to spreading the word and thank you for your time, Ashley! You are the best.
Thank you so much, Jason. Talk to you again soon!
Be sure to check out ‘Plus One’ when opens in select theaters and becomes available on-demand on September 20th, 2013.