Actress and animal rights activist Ashley Bell spoke with us about traveling to Cambodia to save elephants, being a cruelty free ambassador and films to look out for.
Ashley Bell is not your ordinary actress. Bell has steadily risen to the top of the industry as an actress to look out for and proven herself to be loyal to the animal conservationist cause.
Bell can be seen in the IFC thriller Carnage Park – a portrayal of a series of events that occurred inside of a desolate park where a murderer has begun to kill anyone who enters into his self-proclaimed home. To her credit, Bell has a documentary surrounding her trip to Cambodia to release endangered elephants premiering soon, which she also directed and produced.
We spoke with her in-depth on her passion for animals and her film endeavors.
What attracted you to Carnage Park?
Ashley: As I was reading the script, what terrified me the most was that it was based on true events. You know, you see on the news a kidnapping or a shooting or the worst imaginable thing possible and that’s where this began – it just escalates from there. Reading the script, it completely defied my expectations. You have a strong female character and you see the mechanics of how the mind works and how she is calculating to get out of there. This thriller that she’s in.
You filmed some pretty gruesome scenes. How did you work around all of that?
Ashley: I think I need to talk to my therapist. I’ve actually just learned to embrace blood and gore. Um, when you ask for cheekbones being made out of dirt, you know you’ve gone to far! *laughs* It’s a playground. It’s so much fun, truly. I mean, Mickey Keating is the real deal.
What was the most terrifying scene for you to film?
Ashley: I remember one day when we had stuff to do in the cage, and I came in and I look at my mark and there was a rattlesnake. It was a stand-in, so I thanked him. There’s always something completely unexpected. I mean, I think I got sunstroke. Mickey got sunstroke. There were rattlesnakes. It’s a thriller!
Ashley: Yeah. There was another moment where I get shot at and I’m getting ready to do the scene and you think “Oh. I’ll get shot at. It’s CGI or something like that.” and they said “Okay Ash, we’re gonna introduce you to your sniper for the day.” and I said “Um, excuse me? What?” … And it was like, OK, we’re going there! So, there was actually someone shooting pellets at me, which made for a very fun morning.
That sounds very… interesting! And you’re also involved with a new documentary called Love and Bananas, that focuses on the rights of Asian elephants, which you directed and produced. Tell us more about that.
Ashley: Yes! This is my passion project. I’ve been working on it for three and a half years. I saw the devastation of elephants in Cambodia. The first two elephants were released onto the Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary and it broke my heart … these elephants were covered in scars, abscesses, malnutrition and dehydration. I saw this and said I have to tell this story. I have to go on a full elephant rescue and take people with me. They’ve given numbers for the predictions. People are so desensitized now. Predictions don’t matter anymore. But what matters is when you know that there 20 elephants left in parts of southern China – technically and functionally extinct. There are 75 left in Vietnam, they’ve estimated.
While filming Carnage Park, Bell received a message on Facebook from world renowned elephant conservationist Lek Chailert, telling her that they had found an elephant to rescue and asking how soon she could get over to them. “In about seven days, I arranged for a crew to fly from L.A. to Thailand.” When they arrived, they found themselves on the back of a truck, rescuing a 70-year-old, blind, elephant.” Their journey was chronicled in Love and Bananas.
Ashley: I became a Cruelty Free Ambassador for makeup with Cruelty Free International. You know, we all update our cell phones. We all update everything. But what needs to be updated is our mentality almost. There are so many options to make choices that good for the environment and good for your conscience and beautiful for your skin. It’s exciting to be able to spread that message and help to make people to be more aware by making small conscience changes.
Has your standpoint on animal rights ever determined whether or not you’ll take a role in a film?
Ashley: That’s never come up before. When taking on a character, I have no judgement towards them. It’s not my job to judge, it’s just my job to be that person. I collaborated again with Mickey Keating on his next film Psychopath. And with a character like that, I guess I’m playing a full blown psychopath. I love her so dearly! She’s just misunderstood. That’s what I love about acting. It’s never about judging. It’s kind of free falling into whatever character you’ll be lucky enough to play.
So you mentioned Psychopath as an upcoming thriller to look out for. Any other projects in the works?
Ashley: Yes! Carnage Park comes out July 1 – haunting theaters in your home. Psychopath is coming out with Mickey Keating. I did a great coming of age indie called There’s a World Somewhere with a great director, Li Lu. Then a project that I was so blessed, no pun intended, to have been able to join called Novitiate, with an absolutely phenomenal ensemble. It’s about nuns in the 1950s-60s and about young nuns running the Novitiate. I actually had the opportunity to spend some time with some cloistered nuns. You’re talking to them, getting a sense of their vocations and their sacrifice and their commitment. Being able to participate in the 24 hour prayer cycle with them was fascinating. Maggie Beth is an incredible director, who has written a beautiful script and it’s such an honor to be a part of an incredible project.