Within the first few minutes of our interview with Ashley Rickards, it was very clear the ‘Awkward’ star is similar to the character she plays in some ways. Like Jenna, Ashley is also a writer and she’s slightly awkward too (she tells us how she twisted her knee getting out of a car recently and how she gets really gassy during makeout scenes). But she’s also full of surprises. Not only is she a member of MENSA, she loves directing, she’s into crystals and creating her own flower bouquets and she one day hopes to design her own jewellery line. Oh, and she’s already gotten her first book published. Ambitious and driven, Ashley talks about filming the final season of ‘Awkward’, her deep love for cheese and why it’s important to make women feel good about themselves.
Taylor Magazine: Let’s talk about Awkward. It’s the fifth and final season, how do you feel about it coming out and working on it for the last time?
Ashley Rickards: I’m feeling good about it coming out and there’s a lot of fun stuff coming up. Definitely would say I’m not thinking about it being the last season because if I was, I’d be crying. Tryna save the make-up team a little bit of trouble with that. It’s like family at this point, like going back to school after summer.
Taylor Magazine: Jenna’s all grown up! She’s going into college?
Ashley Rickards: Yeah! She’s wearing some baggy clothes, a lot of sandals and baggy jeans. It’s been so nice, I can eat whatever I want and not even have to worry.
Taylor Magazine: Do you feel now at this point you have a lot in common with Jenna?
Ashley Rickards: I think I have a lot in common with her now. The writers know me, my network knows me so between the blooper reels (because that is a GREAT way to get to know me), there’s a lot of inspiration that comes from Ashley. Recently I got really excited getting out of a vehicle and twisted my knee in a very ‘Jenna’ way, so there are definitely similarities.
Taylor Magazine: What have you learnt from being on Awkward?
Ashley Rickards: If I was to say what I’ve learnt from my character on Awkward, it’s “once you put something in the microwave, take it out, stir it, put it back in and eat it… Don’t keep putting it back in, things are only good for so long.” I use that analogy with love interests, but Jenna always goes back to reheat!! But in terms of me, I definitely learnt a lot about film-making! I got to direct and I learnt about the process of production so it’s been incredibly beneficial.
Taylor Magazine: After Season 5, what’s next for you? I know you’ve got a book released too!
Ashley Rickards: It’s gonna be whatever pays the mortgage! I love writing, I love directing, I love the behind the scenes stuff and I love acting. If you’d have asked me this five years ago when the pilot got picked up, I would have said I’m only gonna be an actor but life changes and it throws you curve balls. If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work again. It just so happens that what I do for fun, turns into profit for me but I’m very lucky in that regard. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next, I do know that I’ll be having fun!
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite scene that you’ve filmed or something that stands out?
Ashley Rickards: I’ve recently put together the puzzle pieces and this is sort of weird so I wonder if it’s like a thing for actresses. Whenever I do a love scene or a make-out scene or anything, I have really weird gastrointestinal issues. I’d be like “I have to fart sooooo bad right now and it’s not happening.” It’ll be interesting to see how that looks on camera.
Taylor Magazine: I’ve never heard that before!
Ashley Rickards: I mean, maybe people just aren’t talking about it. It’s taken me four and a half years to be like “I think this might be a thing!” and maybe it’s just because you’re body conscious and you’re more aware.
Taylor Magazine: So ‘The Outskirts’ is something you filmed which is coming out this year, is this the first acting project you’ve worked on other than ‘Awkward’ in the last couple of years?
Ashley Rickards: No, I do a lot of acting around Christmas when I open up presents.
Taylor Magazine: Ohh okay…
Ashley Rickards: It’s a joke! That was a lot of fun to film in New York. It’s sort of about the outcasts of high school coming together as a whole and taking over the high school basically. It was really fun for me, I get to play this almost James Bond kind of character. She knows everything and is really tactful and inexplicably hot. Even though it’s high school and they’re like eight hours into their day, the make-up is perfect and so is everything else.
Taylor Magazine: Sounds different from Jenna who’s usually hurting herself or doing something humiliating.
Ashley Rickards: Yeah! I didn’t wear a bra for that whole movie, so I guess we’ll see if it was cold or not. I felt like my character wouldn’t really wear one, so I was like “I guess I’m not going to either!”
Taylor Magazine: What is it about Jenna’s character that you think made you so relatable?
Ashley Rickards: I think what we go through in high school is still the same thing a 20-something or a professional goes through. You still have to go work, you’ll probably hate it. And you still have deadlines and you still have all the other stuff on the side and that’s really what I try to focus on, just being a person and when Jenna deals with the emotional aspects of things, it comes across more relatable. It becomes irrelevant of circumstance.
Taylor Magazine: As an actress do you have any weird rituals?
Ashley Rickards: I don’t have any weird rituals… I’m a really pleasant person, like I’m fun. There’s a lot of divas in Hollywood and I guess as a woman it gets a little more difficult to be authoritative and also perceived well but one of the things I’ve realised in terms of things I do… I don’t like showing my feet on camera and I don’t like driving. I’m a terrible driver to begin with, don’t put like 40 crew members around me and expect me to pay attention. It’s terrifying and nervewracking! And yeah, I also don’t like showing my feet on camera so I have socks! When I was younger, I broke my toe. I was five and they put my entire leg up to my thigh in a cast with the toe sticking out. The toe healed wrong and it looks like I have a nasty bunion from wearing awesome shoes. I haven’t been wearing awesome shoes, I just have a jank toe. If I did what my doctor wanted me to I’d have taken three months off work to get it fixed.
Taylor Magazine: Let’s talk a little bit about your book! What was it that inspired you to do it now?
Ashley Rickards: I was approached by a literary agent to become a writer and I had an idea for a novel. I have a lot of cool experiences and I’ve grown a lot, so I thought “Maybe what I do is try to give a bit of that to the fans and young people. I think I wanna write a self-help advice book!” It’s an interesting thing, I was driving to work and was like “I should reread my own book cos even when I was ending it and doing the final touches I was like “Oh I forgot about that, that’s really great advice!” It spurred from having a lot of life experience and I just wanna help people. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m looking sexy washing a car in a movie, what matters is that I made a difference in someone’s life and that’s what I tried to focus on with that book, and what I try to focus on at work.
Taylor Magazine: It sounds like such a great idea! Obviously you’re young and have a lot of experience but other than acting and writing, is there anything else you want to try out?
Ashley Rickards: Definitely directing, I love directing. Obviously being on the show it’s interesting for me to think about the next thing I’m gonna direct, because the next thing I won’t know like the back of my hand. The show has a standard way of doing things and as a director, you wanna bring your own signature into things so there’s a bit of that in the episode that I directed but aside from things that I’ve written, like the script that I’ve written, it’s nervewracking to think about going to another show that you haven’t been like essentially shadowing for four years before you direct. I’ve met some incredible people but it’s nervewracking to think I might have to go and work with a whole new team and get the style of that show. But yeah, directing and producing would be great. I love designing jewellery. I’d love a jewellery line at some point, that’s like the real goal for me. That’d be something that I’ve never done before but something I would love to do!
Taylor Magazine: You sound so creative! It really sounds cool that there’s so many things you want to do.
Ashley Rickards: I think this industry is a drug, and it’s my favourite. I live and breathe it. It doesn’t matter what side of the camera I’m on: if I’m acting I’m gonna try and make the scene really interesting and if I’m directing, I’m gonna try and take the viewer on a journey. If I’m designing jewellery, I wanna make women feel as valuable as they are. That’s what it’s about for me. I could be wearing sweats and sneakers but if I have my two key pieces of jewellery on, I feel different and when I walk into places I act different and I get treated different. It’s an emotional thing. It fits in really well with what I do which is empowering girls and young women to feel the best and do the best that they can. Having a jewellery line that would be affordable but also make you feel really good and powerful, that’s like a dream come true.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite piece or do you mix it up?
Ashley Rickards: I wish as an actress I could have a favourite piece but we have to show up with no jewellery on so in terms of favourite pieces, it’s hard. I have so many things that I’ve designed in my head but I think a good pair of diamond studs. It literally doesn’t matter the size, what matters is the cut and the clarity so that it sparkles when you’re in the light. A good pair of earrings really draws light to your eyes and that’s what you want people to look at.
Taylor Magazine: Yeah definitely. It’s a good way to feel empowered and good about yourself.
Ashley Rickards: Yeah and I feel like there are two different sides of fashion. One is “What’s hot right now? I’m gonna wear it!” and there’s another one that’s like “I have style and taste but I know my body and I’m proud of what I put on it.” I’m definitely more of the second one. I wear things that bring out the best part of me. For instance, this weekend, I ate cheese and crackers. It’s not gonna feel great to go out in a midriff top. Maybe today the best version of myself is sweatpants and a really cute sweatshirt. It doesn’t matter, as long as you can be the best version of yourself and make yourself feel good.
Taylor Magazine: Very true. Everyone has a cheese and crackers day, it’s nothing to feel bad about.
Ashley Rickards: Not if you eat as much cheese as I do which is admittedly too much! I actually spoke to one of the people I work with in production and was like “Do I come in every Monday complaining about how much cheese I eat over the weekend? and they’re like “Like clockwork you do.”
Taylor Magazine: It’s good! People always say actresses in LA just eating salad and drink juice…
Ashley Rickards: Yeah, juice cleanses… If you’re actually doing it for maybe a kidney failure, maybe you have an actual legitimate medical problem, but unless you have an issue I wouldn’t recommend doing it because you’re hungry the whole time. Sure, you lose the weight but it’s not a long-term thing and it makes you psycho once you come off of it. I eat food, I love food. Food is your friend.
Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite unhealthy snack?
Ashley Rickards: I’m gonna answer that in two parts. One: when I’m hungry and want exactly what I’m craving, usually it’s something terrible like me microwaving something with cheese on it. But if I’m starving and have a bikini shoot tomorrow, I’m gonna go hard on the vegetables. I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore, for some reason after 17 and a half my sweet tooth turned off. I would say my thing right now is cutting up raw bell peppers and putting salt on them. I get my salt fix, I get my fibre and it makes you feel full. I’ve been told by people who’ve been snacking with me recently that it’s not great. Maybe it’s cos I’m exhausted but I think it’s a great snack!
Taylor Magazine: I’m gonna try it!
Ashley Rickards: Don’t try the green peppers, they’re boring. Try the yellow or the orange ones.
Taylor Magazine: New snack. Maybe the next step for you is a cookbook, who knows?
Ashley Rickards: Oh god! It could be.. I don’t cook much but when I do it’s gotta be under 20 minutes, it’s gotta be organic and healthy and something I can make after I work out and still go to sleep on time. I don’t wanna be there for four hours roasting whatever. Sometimes I get home from set and I’m starving and I just don’t even have enough energy to put something in the microwave!
Taylor Magazine: You’re a member of MENSA… Is there anything else about you that not many people know?
Ashley Rickards: I’m tryna think of something fun… I love flowers. I like doing bouquets.. That’s a really zen experience for me, after a hard day having delivered a bunch of different flowers to me. Coming home, and cutting them, making a little bouquet, and then going to sleep. Flowers have an incredible healing energy to them, the vibration and the healing energy is very high. Roses are the best in terms of that so I try to always have at least two dozen white roses in my house. Wait, that sounds super diva. But it makes me feel better. At the end of the day, if you can go and spend a few bucks for two weeks of feeling better, that’s great! Interesting fact: tulips do not age well. When they die, they die and leave the most rank smell and texture. It almost made me vomit one time, I don’t really work much with tulips anymore… But yeah, I love flowers. Other things that are surprising… I’m very into crystals and anything hippy dippy witchy poo. Like saging and all of that new age stuff, I’m very into that.
Taylor Magazine: If you had a day off, how would you spend it?
Ashley Rickards: Okay so again, I’ll give you two answers. One: Ideally, work out, make some food, clean, return some emails and some phone calls, post something cool on Instagram and then do something fun like dinner or go a hike or whatever. In reality, on my days off from Awkward it’s: wake up at 9, cancel my trainer, sleep all day, eat some cheese and go back to bed. That’s pretty much it right now. Some days I get a burst of energy but as of late it’s been mostly how much cheese can we eat while laying horizontal? A good day off.
Taylor Magazine: You and cheese and your romantic night in after long days of shooting sounds fine!
Ashley Rickards: It’s true, but I’ve made this whole interview about cheese. I love cheese, it does not love me. It doesn’t.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a celebrity crush?
Ashley Rickards: People always ask me this… Bruno Mars. But actual celebrity crushes like “Let’s presume that my random celebrity crush sees this interview and contacts my manager for a date”… James Franco. He does so much! He’s so busy, he acts, he went to college, and he’s just a go-getter. He’s hot. He’s talented at everything he does and that kind of intellectual stimulation is really attractive to me! Anybody who can have eight careers and still have a social life is a role model to me.
Taylor Magazine: What’s been the highlight of 2015 for you so far?
Ashley Rickards: I would say probably the end of 2014. It was a pretty long year for me personally and I actually wasn’t even paying attention… I was at a party when the ball dropped but I was with my friends and I was holding a cute little puppy and it was just fun. We just hung out in Orange County. If you’d have asked me 8 months before the end of 2014, I would have been spending it in a much different way. It was probably the first New Years where I didn’t know what to expect, so it’s very liberating. The best thing that’s happened to me this year? That’s a great question. Probably the moment I looked at my assistant and was like “Oh my god. We have 12 days until filming, I need to start working out again.” And then, calling my trainer. He’s the best thing that happened to me.
Taylor Magazine: Are you a yoga person?
Ashley Rickards: I love kick boxing and I do hot yoga. I see my trainer Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday because those are the days I can guarantee I can make it. In between then, I do hot yoga. I love hiking and paddle boarding! I just like doing things that are cathartic as well as good for your fitness.
Taylor Magazine: You’re obviously now a recognizable face and must have other famous friends. How hard do you find it making genuine friends in the industry?
Ashley Rickards: I don’t really think of people as like… oh I totally think of people as famous or not famous. But I know a lot of people and all of them seem like real people to me. I don’t follow them on Instagram and I don’t watch their news from the news, I watch their news through what they tell me. They’re just real people to me. I think it’s dangerous to think otherwise, because there are a lot of people who wanna be friends for like an Instagram shout out and that’s just the weird world that we live in. Having real friends and then having friends on Facebook is different.
Taylor Magazine: It must get weird when people know you as Jenna from Awkward but you’re like “okay, I’m not gonna put you on my Instagram, there’s more to being friends than that!”
Ashley Rickards: Yeah, for sure. People tell you little snippets, and you could go on Google and get the “story” but it’s never the full story and if they do open up to you, it’s not nice to think you’ve just read up on it anyway on a gossip column. My friendships are more valuable than my informational leads.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite social media platform?
Ashley Rickards: I have my Instagram and my Twitter! My Twitter is more for when it’s early in the morning or late at night when I’m not camera ready, Instagram is when I’m like “this is the moment!” I love Instagram because a picture says a thousand words and all you have to do is a cute little hashtag. Especially being into jewellery, I would say a good 40% of people I follow are jewellery people.
Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite place to go on vacation?
Ashley Rickards: On vacation my favourite place is my couch! But I used to summer in Maine and I’ve been dying to go back, I have soo many fond memories there and that was just an incredible experience.
Taylor Magazine: Have you ever been to London before? Is it a place of interest to you?
Ashley Rickards: Oh my god, yeah! Any place that’s new for me is exciting and I definitely want to. When I went to Ireland years ago, it was exciting and so different. Europe is so different and so invigorating. To anyone, I would say go to college, get a job… (but we live in an age where you can freeze your eggs and focus on your work)… Travel the world and see what’s going on. That’s something I hope to really do more of.