The Knockturnal was able to chat with the multitalented Erica Ash who strives to bring the unique aspects of life into her characters, especially into her most recent one from hit show “Survivor’s Remorse.”
I just wanted to start out by saying congrats on the show and all of its success!
Erica Ash: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that.
I was interested in what brought you to this character. I read that initially you auditioned for another character, but what attracted you to this one?
Ash: Well I’ll be honest with you, it was the offer. No! I like both characters a lot, but I was actually afraid of the M-Chuck character. I was afraid because I wasn’t sure if I could authentically pull off the lesbian character. It’s different when you’re a guest star because there’s an end game you know what I mean? There’s only so far they could go with it, but committing to a gay character is something else. There’s so much more growth and multiple layers I just wasn’t sure if I could authentically pull it off, but I was actually drawn to the challenge of that. I wanted to step in those shoes and really own that and sell that. I wanted to honor this character and all aspects of her. What’s interesting is, as much as I was afraid I couldn’t pull that off, the character doesn’t really focus on that. The writers don’t focus on that. She’s just a damn good character with so many layers. She’s got her tough side and her vulnerable side and I think you’ll see more of that vulnerable side this season. That to me is one of the most beautiful things about her. She is tough as nails but you see the humanity and this really really deep-rooted sensitive and soft side of her that you would not have assumed she had knowing her season one.
I was just wondering, with a character with so many facets, where do you go to draw inspiration? I know every scene will require a different emotion or aspect of a character, so where do you usually go to draw inspiration for your characters?
Ash: I gotta be honest with you, I usually go from within, and the reason why is because I don’t want my characters to ever be a reproduction of someone else’s character. I don’t want my choices to be a reproduction of someone else’s choices. If that makes sense. I think for me it’s not my favorite compliment for someone to say ‘you know your character is just like such and such in such and such tv show!’ I don’t like that. I like to hear ‘wow how did you think of that? How did you come up with that kind of thing.’
I’m sure that whether I know it or not, currently I’m employed by everything. What I like to do is I just like to be out and about, I like to be around people. I’m an adventure seeker and so with every one of those situations I’m always meeting people or bumping into someone, or seeing a situation between two people that don’t even know I’m watching. I see how people, who I don’t know, handle situations. For instance I just came back from New York, as I said, and whenever I go to New York I make it a point to ride the subway. You know the subway is everything you need on one ride. You’ve got people from virtually all walks of life all there together and to see how a strict Muslim will deal with an atheist. It’s not even about religion, just certain things they think are morally correct. It might be a look that I’ve never seen someone give to someone else cause I’m not familiar with that. What does that mean? I kinda like that look, maybe he means one thing by it. But I like that look for this thing. I wanna use that look when I do this. It’s like that when I say I’m subconsciously thinking about it, I remember looks I’ve seen and try that. I would never try to pattern myself after anything but subconsciously I just allow everything in. When I’m doing my scene, I’ll read through them and I like to sleep on them. I like to leave them and see what inspiration comes to me when I sleep on them. I usually wake up knowing how I want to do that scene or how to portray that character. So that quiet time helps.
Interesting! I’m wondering all these practices and the ways you go about finding these characters or finding yourself in these characters, do you really feel like you’ve been influenced by MadTv or The Big Gay Sketch Show or any of the previous projects that you’ve come from? Or do you feel like you’ve always built your characters like this?
I’ve always built my characters like this. You know even with The Big Gay Sketch Show or MadTv, most of those characters I created. Some of them I created and wrote, and they were all a result of either a subconscious moment or a dream I had. My quiet moments are very powerful for me. I go into my meditation and things just become very clear to me. But I think that across the board if you’re in the sense that you’re supposed to be and do the things you’re supposed to do then it all comes organically.
I agree, so you really like combining these subconscious elements and anything else you can think of once you find that element and making the characters as real as possible. Especially with the people that you see on the subway, that’s real people right there. So you’re really drawing from as many realistic points as possible?
Yeah! I’m definitely drawing from real experiences and I think that’s where my stockpile comes from. Then in my quiet moments maybe my spirit is going through these orders and thinking ok ‘we got this gotta fill this order what is my character going to do?’ because really people are buying my acting services right? Just like with any other business, if I were a caterer and someone said ‘hey I’m throwing a party its gonna be busy and this is the food that I want’ the caterer would go through and say ‘ok this is what we have and don’t have. This is what we can create.’ They create these wonderful dishes and trays and what not. Mine is more emoting, I’ll go through my emotional stockpile or my experience stockpile and see what works the best. But again the quiet moments are what help me do that.
With all the characters that you’ve worked with, and written for as well, what would you say has been your favorite character?
Oooh, honestly I would say M-Chuck is my favorite, and I’m not being cheeky. I feel like she’s a culmination of all the characters that I’ve played thus far. She’s got elements of “Grandma Bell” sort of that dry, sort of sarcastic older mindset type of things. Especially when you deal with her mom, kind of like I’ve been there done that thing. That was from my first tv show, she’s got a little bit of dimwit from the character I did from MadTv. She’s got a little bit of sass and heart from one of my other characters. I feel like there’s so many layers to her and this is the first time I’ve gotten to play such a layered character. I’ve never gotten to be so vulnerable in a character. Comedy is my default; it’s what I’ve always grown up with. Even my brother is so funny, but playing this type of character is new to me.
Do you ever see yourself stepping into a different genre? You’ve already stepped into Broadway which is a completely different venue than Tv, do you see yourself in a new genre than comedy?
Definitely, definitely I’m looking into getting into more films and more dramatic roles in film. I think there’s something untapped in me that’s literally roaring to get out. I’ll say this because of my personal interpretation I will always bring comedy into everything that I do, that’s just gonna be a natural thing that I do. But I think that having the opportunity to show and flex that muscle and show my dramatic side will be amazing. It’s one of the biggest gifts an actress or actor can have.
I think any genre would be lucky to have someone who understands who they are and where their strengths come from, which leads me to ask this. Like I said you’ve done Broadway, you’ve done TV, what audience do you like better? Do you prefer the live audience from Broadway or the audience from behind the camera?
In terms of my ego the live audience, and not even in terms of my ego but in terms of myself, I am a brutally honest person. Some people will ask ‘did you really need to say that?’ and it’s like yeah I have diarrhea of the mouth! But also I like people being brutally honest with me and I think that in a Broadway show you actually get that. Now they’re kind enough not to boo but they will hold their applause. If you’re not really as fun as you think they are, they will let you know because you will hear crickets! They will give you this outward energy, which makes you want to do more. I’m huge into communicating with people and that to me is such a blessing with my job and not too many get to say they do that. Yeah there are aspects with Broadway that TV and film don’t have and vice versa. For instance you’re doing that but you’re also working on the weekend. You’re always working. When you’re not working you’re promoting the Broadway show. Now Broadway is definitely starting to come back but there was a period where I was actually scared of Broadway. We had a lot of promotions and things like that but with TV and film you certainly have to be really good with your money. There’s also a sense of security with TV and film because you know that you’ll be coming back, unless of course you’re on Game of Thrones. But you usually have this set time and you know kind of what your schedule will look like.
To bring it back to Survivor’s Remorse, there are so many similarities from the passion I hear from you and the passion in your character so where do you see M-Chuck going from here? Where do you see her going in the new season?
Well I think for her, because she’s starting to really open up and be way more vulnerable this year and she’s on this path of self discovery, I hope you know for a fourth season that people see more. I’m hoping to see a complete overhaul with her. I hope all the work that she’s been doing this season paying her, paying her personally and her career objectives. Maybe even changing her personal life, or her position in the family and how they see her. I think next season will be a super overhaul for M-Chuck, maybe in terms of her looks or her career. I just really want the audience to get that sense from her.
Great, I wish you the best of luck with the show and the character!