Ashley Romans As She Finds The Perfect Balance
Starring in FX on Hulu’s “Y: The Last Man,” Ashley Romans spoke with us at BELLO about her time filming, finding the balance between seeing acting as a passion and as a career, the challenges she faces, and more. Bold and beautiful, the talented actress has never given up on her dream which she is now living every day. With hard work, dedication, and a lot of love, Ashley has already overcome so much up until and continues to do so with grace. Hoping to tackle on more plays as well, Ashley Romans continues to find the perfect balance in her life and inspires us to do so as well!
How has acting changed your life? The way you are?
Acting has deepened how I listen and experience with other human experiences. Acting has been the vehicle through which explore and cultivate curiosity about my own expansiveness. Acting gives me the space to become increasingly suspicious of my own perceived limitations for myself.
You star in FX on Hulu’s “Y: The Last Man” as “Agent 355.” What drew you to the role originally?
First and foremost the writing really drew me into this role. When I finally read the pilot I could feel that all these different characters were really just the same person experiencing the world through different bodies. I was also drawn to the role for all the colors and contradictions that exist inside Agent 355 and all the characters that she puts on. I was excited because I understood that this role and project serve as a vehicle for my own personal growth. This character requires me to step into a different and more disciplined version of myself to truly understand her thoughts and actions. Agent 355 is a person who really has her shit together in a lot of ways. She is focused, driven leader and trusts herself and abilities a lot. And at the same time, she has a lot of areas of personal growth in the areas of love, relationships, healing. As an actor, in order to not play adjacent to that experience, I had to really commit to some of 355’s personal mental and daily habits I think she has. Such as journaling, exercise, meditation, reading and language study etc. I also had to really take stock in my own personal life how I am driven and where I can be a better leader and my areas of growth.
On set, what was an advice given to you by the director that had a strong impact on you?
Episode 5 Director Mairzee Almas was so clever in her vision for the fight sequence between Agent 525 and Agent 355. Mairzee told us about how Muhammad Ali described the fist boxing in the ring as a form of intimacy. She couldn’t find the specific quote but sent me this: To fight is to be completely naked and exposed to your opponent- I share more intimacy with my opponent than even my wife. You share everything you really are…strengths & fears. You are completely exposed.
Mairzee really aimed to elevate the fight scene from cool action stuff but to a moment where we can learn more about the characters. 355’s level of exposure during the fight for example…but then the mask slips back on….but is there a pull to align with 525? What has changed with your relationship by the end of the fight, beyond recognizing the training etc. Always seeking the strongest choice.
She even found ways to make a story out of a couple looks and props in a scene with Yorick and 355 but no dialogue. I am very blown away by her level of specificity.
Who did you connect with the most? Any fun story you would like to share?
I connected with everyone equally and in our own special way. But one specific moment I remember at this time is with Destiny, the director of episodes 4 &6. During an overnight shoot, production ordered these fancy super decadent donuts for cast and crew. Someone asked her if she wanted them to bring her back a donut and she said something along the lines of “Yeah just a plain glaze donut. NO TRICKS!” She’s English and for some reason that made it all the more funny and adorable to me. But now when I’m tempted to over complicate something I think to myself “NO TRICKS!”
What were some challenge you knew you would have to tackle on the show and how did you overcome them?
I’ve always been pretty shy and quiet but during the course of the pandemic and quarantine I became increasingly more shy and often experienced almost crippling social and mental anxiety and spiraling thoughts of insecurity around multiple areas of life. I knew the biggest challenge I would have to face would be to finding the courage in myself to voice my opinions, questions, and concerns as a creative peer to my co workers and collaborators. I overcame these moments of anxiety with the help of my life partner, and exercise, meditation, and the community we cultivated on set. Through listening and trust I realized that there is so much evidence and community around me that confirms I am indeed capable and trustworthy. So I would say the process of overcome was less of a painful climbing experience and more of getting quiet and listening and trusting experience.
I made an extra effort to put myself out there and reach out to people with my enthusiasm. I told myself every day that I would rather risk looking silly or new than risk sharing only a fraction of my potential out of fear. After a while I realized that my peers, directors, writers, producers welcomed and were hungry for my thoughts and input. They trusted me for being an authority of this character.
I was able to use any anxiety and insecurity present to feed my performance. Because even as confident as Agent 355 comes off, she’s never done any of this before especially to the scale that we see her doing it. This is her first apocalypse so its okay for her not be certain about what she’s doing the same way it’s okay for me to feel uncertain about what I’m doing in some moments because that’s an authentic, valid human experience as well.
In what ways did you know you acting would become your career?
Honestly it’s delicate mental balancing act for me to accept that acting is my career and means of income and still keep a healthy boundary between my passion for the craft and my relationship with money. I still have trouble accepting that acting is my career. I still experience that faint nagging voice in the back of my head that says I should learn how to bartend or take up a catering shift just in case I need something to “fall back on.”
But I knew I loved acting and that I wanted to do it throughout my life when I watch incredible, fun and moving performances, either in television, film, animation, dance etc. I felt acting is what I was meant to do when I desired to give other people the same moving experience and deeper knowledge of self that I received.
In 2016 I was doing a play in a Los Angeles Non Union 50 seat theatre. At the time it was the most fulfilling acting experience I had since I graduated undergrad the year before. To be part of this ensemble of actors and the director and performing the material we were doing was so spiritually and creatively nourishing for me although we didn’t get paid much of anything. I had left early from our premiere night of the play and rushed over to the overnight shift of the waitressing job I had at the time. I knew I loved acting because I continued to do it even when I felt like I was losing and facing rejection and way before I ever thought it could be a profitable career.
How did other projects influence who you are as an actress?
Other projects stretch the range of my human experience and help me know myself deeper.
What are some obstacles you have had to face in the industry? What kind of change still needs to be done?
I don’t think I can say much else other than the obvious racism, classism, colorism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy. Our industry exists in the world and is subject to all the obstacles that exist in the world. The only obstacle I can control is making sure I don’t internalize those forms of oppression and I actively work to dismantle them within myself and my area of reach.
When you aren’t acting, who are you?
When I’m not acting, I’m journaling, listening to music, dancing. Doing yoga, going on long walks and long drives while listening to audio books that move me. If I’m at my best I’m practicing kicking drills for CSE STUNTS which is a Black owned martial arts London based school I’ve been training with 3 times a week since March 2020. This training program really helped me get into the physicality of Agent 355.
Where do you hope to find yourself next?
I hope to do a classical comedy play with really amazing actors that help me grow and learn. I think handling Shakespeare or Chekov text and story would help me expand as an artist. I would love to do a musical too. I’m grateful that my jobs have given me a chance to travel and see different parts of the country. In the next year I’ll be working on set in a French speaking country where I can work as an actor, become more fluent in the language and spend my days doing all the activities that feed me.
Talent ASHLEY ROMANS @romansash
Photography DAMARKO GIANCARLO @damarkogiancarlo
Styling PIERRE-ROCCO GIOVANNI @pierregiovanni
Hair SOPHIA PORTER @thesophiaporter for Exclusive Artists using Entwine
Makeup AGOSTINA LOMBARDO @agostinamakeup for Exclusive Artists using Tarte”
Interview ALEXANDRA BONNET @alexbonnetwrites
Production @bellomediagroup x @maisonpriveepr_la x @alexbonnetwrites
Wardrobe Fairfax Copenhagen@fairfaxcopenhagen