Actress and producer Ashley James is known for her role as Lauren in the TV series Hustle. She also starred in White Elephants and appeared in Life Inside Out.
In Rebound, Ashley is Claire, a psychologically broken woman who has just been cheated by the love of her life. While travelling across the country, she encounters hostile strangers and develops debilitating anxiety along the way. In this one-on-one interview, Ashley goes into the challenges she faced in portraying a woman on the verge of collapse.
What attracted you to the role of Claire?
Ashley: I recently did a lot of short films, so I thought I could do a lot with the lead in a full-length feature. It’s interesting how Claire keeps making so many choices that seem weak or wrong to the audience, but she fights so hard. All these bad things and crazy people keep happening to her. And she never really gives up, which I think is very cool.
What did you find most challenging about the role?
Ashley: I felt that much of what Claire did, starting with her choice to leave Los Angeles, was very different from how I would react to these situations. I had to find a way to relate and to feel those same feelings. The fall shooting schedule was fast, and we were shooting a lot every night with not a lot of time off.
Are there any aspects of your persona that you imparted to Claire?
Ashley: Yes, definitely. Every role I play, I have to find something in me that may not be what I would do, but maybe in this situation, would work. I like to think of myself as a fighter, as someone who doesn’t give up. I think that really helped me, especially when she decided to leave Los Angeles and give up her acting career. I’ve been in that place, I understand that feeling, but I haven’t given up; but I could understand how she would react, and how that would be an important choice for her to make.
The cascade of negative events in Claire’s life seemed to underscore a world closing in on her. Do you ultimately see her as a survivor or victim?
Ashley: That’s a really interesting question. As an actress playing the part, I had to see her as a survivor. Because to see her as a victim meant that the story was over before it started. As an outsider looking in, it feels different to watch the movie now. I also think that one of the interesting things I noticed after I saw the completed film is that I wonder how reliable the story is, because it’s told entirely from Claire’s point of view. There’s nothing that happens that isn’t what she’s observing. The story is told from a very single and specific perspective. So is what we’re seeing as a victim really what happened to her?
That town you were in seemed like the world’s unfriendliest town? It was almost a character unto itself.
Ashley: Yeah. Like, was the bartender in on it?
Rebound is a very emotionally draining film? Was it for you?
Ashley: It was. But it was exciting to be in it. I’ve had a fairly happy life. Nothing crazy or tragic. I love playing damaged characters. I like to let myself wallow in emotions that aren’t part of my real life. As an actress, I find it really interesting to be in that place for a little while.
Do you prefer these psychological dramas that explore the inner workings of a character, their struggle to survive emotionally?
Ashley: Yes, I really do. I love comedy. I’d love to be in a sit-com, but it’s not what I get cast in. I’m working on those skills, but what comes naturally to me is anything that gives me a chance to do a character study, to explore all those emotions and actions that are different from me.
Without revealing the ending, which was a bit of a surprise, do you feel that some women could be driven so far over the edge as to do what Claire did?
Ashley: It’s hard to answer in terms of other women, but I definitely felt like when I was finding that action for myself in the role, it wasn’t completely unbelievable to me considering what she goes through and how she feels about herself. Who knows what happened in her life before this that set her up to lose confidence in herself and feel worthless. All this would allow Claire to be manipulated. So I think, it’s possible, definitely.
What’s next for you? Any TV or film projects in the works?
Ashley: Well, I have a 15-month old baby, so that has put a lot of things on hold for me. And I was travelling a lot. I’m sort of trying to figure out how to do this acting thing and mom thing together.