Ashley Leggat, "I Like To Be Noticed."
You may not recognize the name now, but give her a few years and she may be the Canadian equivalent of Lindsay Lohan. At only 19, actress Ashley Leggat has an impressive list of credentials beside her name. She stars in the Family Channel series Life with Derek. She has appeared in several Disney movies including Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, The Music Man with Matthew Broderick, and Cadet Kelly with Hilary Duff.
So Leggat is no stranger to the spotlight - in fact, she craves attention. It's no surprise she drives a huge, in-your-face Cadillac Escalade EXT sport-utility vehicle. There's no way you'd miss it or the petite bombshell behind the wheel. "My whole life, since I was four, for some reason every time I saw a big truck, I'd be like, 'Oh wow, I want one!' Once I was able to understand the different kinds of cars, Cadillac Escalade was always my favourite. I think they're so sleek. I just love how they look. I like big cars. I like big spaces. And it's one I can actually drive! Sometimes I have to drive around the parking lot three or four times before I can find somewhere I can fit, but I think it's worth it," she says, giggling like a school girl.
"It says I have a big shiny personality because I like to be seen wherever I go. I'm not a character that's going to slip by people. I like to be noticed. I think it has the personality of an actress. You see it. After all most actors and actresses want to be noticed," says Leggat who also appeared in the TV movie, A Very Married Christmas with Joe Mantegna and Jean Smart.
The Escalade is loaded with leather seats, heated front seats, a premium stereo system, dual temperature controls, and a reverse parking sensor. "When I'm backing up, it lets me know when I'm going to hit something, which is one of the best features any car can have for me."
But the DVD player is her favourite feature. "I just love it. Whenever I'm bored, I just go sit in my car and watch it." On the downside, the Escalade is a gas guzzler, but she knew that when she bought it. So coughing up the cash to fill up constantly doesn't faze her at all. Leggat hasn't been driving very long. "I got my licence two Septembers ago. I got it on the first try. I shouldn't have, though. I thought I was a little sketchy. I had the parking brake on cause I was trying to be all professional. He came in the car and I put it in reverse, but I forgot I had it on. I'm revving the engine and it's not going anywhere and I'm like 'Oh my gosh, what's going on?' And I go, 'I think there's something wrong with the car.' He goes, 'Ah ma'am, your parking brake is on.' I go, 'Oh great, I failed it automatically!'"
She learned the rules of the road from her mother and practiced driving on a Ford Windstar in her Hamilton, Ont., neighbourhood. And when it came to car shopping, she turned to her four brothers and father for help. "They all wanted to be there. My brothers were, like, 'Get a Lamborghini!' And I'm like, 'Come on, guys, what are you saying?' Of course, they all want to drive it everyday now," says Leggat who is also an award-winning competitive dancer.
Leggat's first taste of freedom with the Escalade still sends shivers down her spine. "Oh my gosh. It was one of the most amazing things. I remember I was, like, so nervous I was going to crash it. I was driving around and people were looking at me because they could tell I was extremely new with the car. I was kind of scared because it's really big. And I didn't think it was going to be that big. It was just such an amazing feeling - I loved it!," she says, practically swallowing her words with excitement.
"The first year I was very slow and careful. Now, I kind of inherited my grandmother's lead foot. I like to speed everywhere I go. I've been pulled over. I've gotten away with it. I maybe got one ticket where he actually gave it to me. Half the time, if you get an older man and you're, like, 'I'm so sorry blah, blah, blah.' They don't mind so much. But when you get someone who is a little tighter you have to think of a good story. I guess, that's when acting comes in handy. You get tears in the eyes and it works," she laughs.
Shortly after buying the Escalade, Leggat ventured on a road trip to Corner Brook, Nfld., where she was filming the first season of Life with Derek. "It was brand new. I never would have driven if I hadn't bought the car. It's an experience that was really amazing. I got to see a whole new part of Canada and I had my two brand-new kittens with me. It was pretty exciting. My mom drove with me just in case - well, she doesn't really trust my driving sometimes," says the blue-eyed, 5-foot-5 actress.
"In Newfoundland, my mom and I were going up a really big hill and I was never used to going up such a steep hill. I'm at the top and I'm, like, 'Mom, if I take my foot off the brake I'm scared we're going to roll backwards.' And she's, like, 'Ashley you can't roll backwards. 'Yes, I can!' I was so nervous. So I take my foot off the brake and try to put on the gas and I swear I thought we were going straight down so I had to stop, get out of the car, and my mom had to come around and get us out of the hill. The other cars were not impressed they had to wait that long," says Leggat who also played the lead role in the TV movie, Ace Lightning.
"Toronto drivers are a little more fast-paced and scarier than Hamilton drivers. When I lived in Toronto for the second season I had all my friends in my car and we were going to get lunch and I go to pull out and I just froze. There were cars coming every which way and they're all stopping and waiting for me to go. I was completely frozen and I didn't know where to go and what to do. I just slowly turned around the corner and was, like, 'Guys, I can't drive!'"
Behind the wheel, Leggat has a few bad habits. "I can't drive unless I'm singing. If I'm in the car, there's got to be music and singing at the top of my lungs!" Leggat's favourite tunes include Britney Spears and the sound track to Mamma Mia. For now, the actress plans to keep the Escalade "forever." But if she could have the keys to any car, she'd pick another attention grabber: a bright-red Porsche Boxster.