The show follows the adventures of Gortimer and his two best friends, Ranger, and Mel, as they navigate growing up. I had the opportunity to talk with Ashley, who plays Mel. After one conversation, you’d never guess her young age, as her demeanor and insights are like those of a seasoned actress.
Why do you think this show, and your character, is so important for kids and families to see?
I feel like these days, especially in kids programming, the characters are kind of outlandish and they don’t really have respect for authority and for adults, and that’s what’s different about the kids on Gortimer. All of the characters are really grounded, and each episode has a moral to the story, and they’re close with their parents. I think that’s what makes it different from normal kid’s shows, as far as character-wise.
How do you think the loss of Mel’s mom is going to influence her going forward? Is she going to change at all? What kind of differences are we going to see, if any?
Well, the loss of a parent is very detrimental. And I feel like Mel is, yes going to change, but she’s going to be stronger than before. It’s going to be hard for her, and that’s what we deal with a little bit in the next season is just her getting over it and trying to move on with her life because it’s hard. It’s a big chunk of her life just taken away from her and in the beginning, she will do anything to get that back. She wants her mom back. But, she’s going to have to get over it and she grows and matures, and she realizes that her mom would want her to continue to live her life, and not get hung up on that.
In the episode where Mel does lose her mom, obviously, it’s a very emotional episode. You had some great scenes with Bart Johnson in there. How did you dig into those emotions of what she might be going through at that time?
It was hard. I know a lot of people from ‘Gortimer’ have lost parents when they were kids so it was really cool to talk to them. We had a doctor who deals with loss come onto the set as they were writing it, and he got to make sure the character was reacting appropriately. My mom actually wasn’t allowed to come on set because, I didn’t want to go ALL method obviously, but I felt like that detachment away from her would help me make those emotions genuine. It was tough. I hope I did an accurate portrayal because I know that’s also something that a lot of kid’s shows, and TV in general, doesn’t really deal with. And I hope that kids going through those things, or even kids that have friends that are going through those things, can understand it more and be better because of it.
What’s your favorite part of portraying Mel? What do you love about the character?
Mel is me, and I am Mel. (laughs). It’s so much fun to portray her because there’re not really many things that are different. I get to be myself on camera. I mean some of the things she has to say, like quad nitrotoluene, are so much fun. Those long paragraphs and learning about science and building a time machine was really cool (laughs). So, yeah, that’s what I love about her. She’s artistic, yet science-y and down to earth, and she loves her friends. I like to think that’s what we have in common.
So when we see Mel, we’re really seeing a little bit of Ashley on the screen.
Yeah. A lot of Ashley actually (laughs).
What’s the dynamic like on set? Was it different after the first season?
We’re all like a family. The dynamic, I guess you could say changed between the first and second season because there was a break in between and we each went our separate ways and then came back together. Although, when we came back together, it was like nothing had really changed, except we were taller and a little older. (laughs). But, we’re like a family. Families have their ups and downs and in-betweens and in the end you work through it because you’re a family and you love each other and you want the best for one another.
Do you have a favorite episode so far? Or one we haven’t seen yet?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I love all of the episodes. Obviously, future Mel is one that I’m very proud of and that I stand behind, and I would say that’s my favorite from that season. But there are a few really cool episodes coming up that I’m very excited to share, that I won’t dive into too much. But I will say this: horses.
That sounds like an adventure.
You were talking about future Mel, and you got to work with Elizabeth Mitchell on that episode. And you’ve worked with some other impressive stars on this show: Robyn Lively, Paula Marshall, Bart Johnson. How have they influenced you and your acting?
They’re incredible. They have taught me so much, both as far as acting and just being good people. Robyn and Bart are very big inspirations to me and I love them very much. And like you said, I got to work with so many great people on this show, and it was such an honor. It’s just, it’s impossible to put into words how much those experiences meant to me, because they helped me grow as an actor in so many ways and, yeah, I’m getting emotional now. I miss them. (laughs).
Well, then we’ll get onto a little bit lighter topic. I understand you’re a Harry Potter fan, a fairly large one. So if you had to sort Mel, Gortimer and Ranger into Hogwarts houses, who would be where?
Okay, I think Mel would be a Ravenclaw. Gortimer is a tough one because he is kind, he is loyal, he’s compassionate, which would be Hufflepuff. He’s also brave and courageous at times. So I would lean more toward Hufflepuff for him, just because he’s so loyal. I think Ranger would definitely be a Gryffindor.
Moving a little bit away from Normal Street and Gortimer Gibbon, if you could be any character in any of your favorite movies or books, who would you be and why?
That is so hard. (laughs). I would say I’d love to be Hermione Granger, but Emma Watson is the perfect Hermione Granger so I don’t even want to mess with that. I’d love to be a Doctor Who companion, I think that would be really fun. I’d love to be Cass from The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, just because I love Pseudonymous Bosch’s work and writing style, I’m very excited for his upcoming books. It’s so hard for me.
You have a lot to choose from!
It’s true. Obviously, I’d love to be in Star Wars, literally anything in Star Wars. I will dress up as a droid. Just being in Star Wars would be amazing!
I think I could see you as C3PO or maybe R2D2. If you’re really lucky you could be Chewbacca. You might need to be a little bit taller.
Yeah you know, maybe a foot or two taller. Some stilts, maybe I could climb on someone’s back. We could make it work. (laughs).
So your Twitter bio says you’re an aspiring director. What attracts you to directing?
I’ve wanted to become a director ever since I was two and a half, which was the same age that I got into acting. I love filmmaking. I could do anything in filmmaking and be happy. Writing is another thing that I love to dabble in, and acting obviously. But for me, directing helps me put my vision into the world. It helps me take the words off a page, and bring them to life and show other people the story that I see in my mind. And that’s what I love about directing. That’s what I hope to become one day, after acting, or maybe do both!
You mentioned you’ve wanted to do this since you were two and a half, you have over a decade of experience in the industry already. How do you manage growing up in the industry?
It’s hard. It all comes back to my parents. We have such an open relationship and communication, and they help me through so many things. My mom is incredible and so is my dad, and without them I wouldn’t be here and I would be a very, very different person. The industry has a way of changing people and I feel like it’s changed me for the better.
In that sense, do you have any advice for young actors in the industry, anyone that’s just starting out?
Acting is hard. You’re going to get rejected. A lot. It’s going to be for things you can’t control and it’s going to be hard because you’re going to want to try and fix it. You’re going to want to try and fit into other people’s molds and opinions of you for that role or for that audition. People in the industry can be competitive and vicious and ruthless and I would just say be close with your parents. Have that strong foundation with them, because if you have that strong foundation you can’t be shaken. Know that the rejection isn’t your fault, it’s nothing that you can do. It’s just that you weren’t right for that particular project and bigger and better things are coming for you. As far as the people go, you’re going to find those people everywhere. Whether it’s in high school or in an audition waiting room or anywhere in life. Just know that it’s just because they’re jealous or because they have their own problems they need to work with and as many as there are bad people, there are also good people. And once you find those people, hold onto them and don’t let them go because they’ll help you through a lot too.
Just one more thing, you posted on Instagram what looked like you were in a studio. Can you tease a little bit about that project coming up?
(laughs). I wish I could! I will say I am very excited for this project. There’s not really much I can say about it just because it’s not time yet. But, it’s something I’m very passionate about, it’s something that I’m very excited for and I really hope everybody will love it just as much as I do!
Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street returns with new episodes on July 15th. You can stream seasons 1 and 2 with an Amazon Prime account.