Chicago native Ashleigh LaThrop wasn’t always interested in pursuing acting; her first dream job was to be a doctor, then a pediatrician, a neurosurgeon, and then finally, when she turned 17, she decided to be a psychologist until she saw a play that completely changed everything for her.
The play, Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman, tells the stories of myths with one constant theme: to change, transform, or to “metamorphose”. Luckily for us, the play inspired LaThrop to change her mind from the medical field to acting which means audiences are able to see her talent shine in everything from film to her work on stage.
Every project Ashleigh works on is different than the last; last year you likely saw Ashleigh in the box office franchise Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. This year you’ll see her on the newest season of The Handmaid’s Tale and a new character on The CW hit The 100. To make her life even more full circle, she was even able to have a role in an adaption of Metamorphoses, the very play to inspire her to pursue acting. Just like the play, LaThrop’s ability to change and adapt to any genre makes her one of this generation’s young actors who should be one to watch.
1883 had a chat with LaThrop about her upcoming projects, what she learned from working with an actor like Michael Douglas, and why pursuing acting was the right decision for her.
On your website, you state you had a few other careers in mind before seeing the play Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman and you changed your mind. What was it about the play that made you decide to pursue acting?
Yeah, the play was Metamorphoses and I found it really inspiring and moving. I’ve always been drawn to things that were like a love-fantasy. I love Greek mythology and the play combined two of my favourite things: myth and fantasy. To see a play that combined things that I love gave me the realization that I could also have a career that would help do that for other people, and hopefully move them in the same way that I was.
You are vocal about your love for reading — which literary character would you like to play in a book-to-film adaptation?
My favourite book is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which, of course, is another fantasy! I would love to play any character in that book; he writes such strong, female characters. I know he is making a film adaptation and a TV adaptation as we speak with Lin-Manuel Miranda!
The 100 on The CW just came back a few weeks ago — what was it like to join this well-loved series?
I had only watched season one before I was cast in the role and I really, really enjoyed it, but I didn’t finish it because I got distracted by other things! So when I got cast, I binge-watched the entire 5 seasons. It was really wonderful joining it. I didn’t really understand the fanbase until the episodes started airing; the fans of the show are incredible, and the show has such a large following of people who love it. They all have very strong opinions about things! The cast and the crew are so kind and so lovely; everyone was really generous, and I made a lot of really great friends on that show.
On June 5th, we’ll see you in season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale. The show tackles important issues impacting women. What are some social causes you’re passionate about?
One of my biggest and favourite volunteer organizations is NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. I’m really passionate about it and I try to volunteer a lot; I’m doing a walk for the organization in a few months to raise money. For women’s causes, in particular, I’ll support anything that supports women’s rights.
What was it like joining The Handmaid’s Tale? Did you read the book beforehand?
I had read that book about four times in my lifetime before they had even decided they were going to make another adaptation of it. I had seen the movie back when I was in high school, so I was a huge fan of the book. The first time I read it I was 14. When they announced that they were doing another adaptation, I immediately begged for an audition because it’s something I’m very, very passionate about. Joining the project was actually a big dream come true.
Although you’re still early on in your career, you’ve worked on some amazing shows with some really iconic actors like Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. Have you been given any career advice from them?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been given career advice because I’m a little too shy to ask for it! Instead, I’m someone who tends to soak in things that I’ve learned. I would say one of the biggest things I’ve learned from just watching someone like Michael Douglas, and watching how he behaves as a human being, is just to be gracious. He’s one of the most gracious people I have ever encountered. Despite his name, fame and power, he’s just so kind to everyone and incredibly gracious. I would say watching people and learning from their examples has been helpful for me.
You’re currently filming Utopia, created by the great Gillian Flynn. Can you talk to us about the show and your character?
It’s based on a British television show that came out a few years ago and only had a few seasons. Gillian took that source material and made an American adaptation of it. It’s set in Chicago and it’s basically about a graphic novel called ‘Utopia’ that everyone wants to get a hold of. There are many, many reasons why people love this graphic novel and want to have it; some of them are good and some of them are for very sinister purposes. I play a character named Becky who is like this mega-nerd and has her own reasons for wanting to get the novel. She believes that by getting this novel, there could be a way for it to save her life. That’s all I can say about it right now!
And you’re from Chicago, too!
I am, I am!
What’s it like being able to film on your own turf?
I love filming here — I lived here my whole life — but I still have been getting lost! I just moved three years ago, and I come home for holidays, but I don’t explore the city since holidays mean family time. It’s interesting being back because I feel like everything is the same, the streets are the same, but there is just so much going on in the city that it’s very different as well. If you ask my castmates, I got lost on the third day of shooting in a neighbourhood that I know very well!
What are some of your favourite things to do in Chicago?
Besides getting lost… I love Chicago in the summertime. People come outside and Chicago is so diverse! There are so many great neighbourhoods that each has different cultural offerings. One of my favourite things to do is pick a different area in the city and play in that neighbourhood all day because there will always be a festival with different food, different cultures, and different environments with different types of people. Basically, I just run around and explore the city! We also have the lakefront which is gorgeous in the summertime.
Lastly, where do you hope to see yourself and your career in ten years?
I would like to see myself choosing roles that are meaningful to me. I want to do things that are impactful, like The Handmaid’s Tale, because it is quite telling about what’s going on in the world and the current environment that we’re in. I would also like to envision myself working with Meryl Streep because she’s one of my idols; doing anything with her would be incredible.