One On One With Ashley Leggat, Star Of Life With Derek
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
By Kenn Gold
A young actress with an amazing amount of work in film and television under her belt, Ashley Leggat is currently the star of Canada's Family Channel series Life With Derek. The show airs on Disney Channel in the United States, and has been compared to the popular Brady Bunch series of 1970's American television. Ashley's character, Casey MacDonald previously had the perfect life with her mother and younger sister, but when her mother remarries a man with three children of his own, she must change schools, move to a new house, and deal with new step siblings.
In Ashley's words, the show is something of a "Brady Bunch gone wrong." Step brother, Derek Venturi (Michael Seater), is the same age and in the same grade in school. Casey has always been the smart girl in school, and the responsible daughter, while Derek is the popular kid who pays his younger brother to do his homework, and who is constantly messing up. The interactions between the two form the basis for the comedy, which airs in more than 120 countries. Additionally, Ashley has a lead in the Canadian series 11 Cameras, which completed it's first season, and is looking into the possibility of appearing in a new movie, if the shooting schedule on Life With Derek allows. She previously appeared in the movie Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen, and has had recurring roles in other series. Currently doing public relations for Life With Derek, before season four begins filming in May, Ashley took time out between public appearances to talk about the show, and her blossoming career with MediaBlvd Magazine.
MediaBlvd Magazine> You're about to go out on a PR tour of the malls for Life With Derek, is that right?
Ashley Leggat> Yes, I am. We leave tomorrow morning. We're going to St. John's Newfoundland, then we go to Halifax maybe? Then we come home, and on Wednesday we're going to Kingston, and then I'll find out in Kingston where I go next.
MediaBlvd> Do you do that often, or have you been out to the malls before?
Ashley> No actually this is the first mall tour with them. We went last year to Edmonton and Calgary and that was really cool, because we'd gone on the Spring Break anti-bullying tour with Family (Channel) before, but never the mall tours, so that was really cool.
MediaBlvd> Are they pretty insane? Did you have a lot of fans come out?
Ashley> Oh my gosh, it's completely insane! I remember the first one in Edmonton, we were so nervous, like 'What if five people show up?' cause you never know what to expect. And we're up in a boardroom in a mall and we can just hear screaming. We're like 'What's going on out there?', and they were saying, 'well that's for you guys.' It was really cool, and we went out and peered over the little railing, and there were probably two or three thousand people there.
MediaBlvd> Did you kind of feel like you were one of the Beatles?
Ashley> I felt like someone who was really special.
MediaBlvd> How did you get started in acting?
Ashley> Well, actually I started in dancing, and went into that when I was maybe 3. And from dancing, there's a local theater which is the professional theatre in Hamilton, it's called the Theatre Aquarius. I went and did the Sound of Music there. And I did maybe nine plays there growing up, and I guess there were some agents in the show, and they saw us. And I went and signed with one of the agents, and kind of went from there.
MediaBlvd> Do you still have time to dance, or are you pretty tied up with your acting?
Ashley> It's really sad, I don't have as much time as I thought I would to dance. I always thought I'd continue on. But I danced up until maybe 17 or 18, still in competition. But with Life With Derek, it's really hard. You're busy for three months at a time and you just don't know what it's going to be, so I had to give it up, which stunk.
MediaBlvd> Actually, I guess it was Freaked Out Friday, which was on last night, and that established that Casey is also a dancer. Is there any chance that the character will get to dance?
Ashley> Yes, there are some chances that she is going to dance, and also sing coming up. We have a band episode, and we're going to be filming one that has some more singing as well. It's really cool. After you do a first season, and the producers get to know you, they know what your talents are, and what you can do outside of acting. So they kind of incorporate it into the character. So it's nice.
MediaBlvd> Are you currently in production right now?
Ashley> No, right now we're just doing the promotional things- mall tours and what not. We'll start pre-production in May, which doesn't have so much to do with us, but settings and what not. And we start shooting again in June.
MediaBlvd> Will that be season 3 or 4?
Ashley> That'll be 4.
MediaBlvd> So Season 3 is wrapped up?
Ashley> Three's wrapped up, and actually we just had ADR for it today. So we're getting all those episodes finished.
MediaBlvd> What's it like playing a younger teenager, I guess Casey is what, 5 or 6 years younger than you?
Ashley> I think we just had my 16th birthday on one of the episodes in season 3. So she's 5 years younger. It's different, I guess when I started the show I was only 17 anyway, but now when I go back, you go into pre-teenish clothes, and no big hair and makeup. It's kind of nice. It's different to play younger, but I look young so I guess it works.
MediaBlvd> What are you currently working on besides Life With Derek, or does that pretty much take your full time? Are you just promoting that now, or do you have other things that you are working on?
Ashley> Well, I'm promoting that. I also just got back from LA where I had a couple of meetings about a movie that I might be thinking of doing. It's all really up in the air right now. It depends more on when Life With Derek assigns the date that we're starting, then I'll know if I have time to do it in-between.
MediaBlvd> Looking at your filmography on IMDB, it looks like you've done a lot of things concurrently. Like 11 cameras, is that still in production?
Ashley> No, actually I don't know when we are coming back to do more episodes of that. But I actually started that the day after I finished Life With Derek. So after doing 26 episodes of that, then I think we did 23 episodes of 11 cameras, by the end I was ready for a break.
MediaBlvd> When you're working, is it pretty much an all day thing? Is it like 10 hour days?
Ashley> I'm always the first in and last out. I guess I start at maybe 6, and I'm usually done at maybe 8:30 at night. So it's a really long day, and that's 5 days a week.
MediaBlvd> Then like 3 months is a season?
Ashley> We have a little hiatus in the middle, but the thing is, that's just the hours we work, then you get home and you have seven scenes to memorize. So its kind of like I'm Casey MacDonald for 3 months of my life, and that's it.
MediaBlvd> Are you anything like Casey in your real life?
Ashley> You know, I'm not really like Casey. She's a little more high-strung, and very organized, which I'm working on, but unfortunately that wasn't one of the traits I was blessed with. I guess in some sense, we're kind of both tough about things. If she feels strongly about something, she'll go and get it, and that's the same as me in my life.
MediaBlvd> Where do you see yourself being in 10 years from now?
Ashley> Well if I still love acting as much as I do now, definitely I'll still be acting. There's a bunch of things I want to get involved with before I'm done with everything. I want to get a degree in maybe English, and continue charity work. I always feel like there's so much more to life, and I want to do more than I'm doing.
MediaBlvd> What charities are you most interested in, or what do you really want to support?
Ashley> Well, I'm going to be part of the Garth Brooks foundation. My boyfriend actually plays hockey, and he introduced me to the whole thing. So I'm going to be helping out with that foundation. Also, I feel really strongly about animals. So I'll do whatever I can - maybe start up a foundation for animals.
MediaBlvd> You have, what is it, 3 cats?
Ashley> Yeah, I have 3 cats of my own. And it's always fun when I come back home because my parents have a couple of cats and a dog. So it's a full house of animals and I love it.
MediaBlvd> So do the cats and dog get along?
Ashley> Yeah, because my dog actually thinks he's a cat. They just hang out and get along. I actually can't get him to eat dog food. He will only eat cat food, so it's very strange.
MediaBlvd> Who do you think the target audience is for Life With Derek? I've seen it described as a kid show and a sitcom. Do you see it kind of falling into one or the other?
Ashley> Well, I think when we started, they thought the target age would be maybe 9 to 14. But I think everyone is really surprised that it's got a much older audience as well. And I think it's just because we have older jokes in there as well, which people can relate to. Maybe it's the fact of Mike and I both being 20 years old, someone who's 17 doesn't look at us, and say, 'Oh they're 12, I don't want to watch it'. I think we have enough people in the family that everyone can find someone to relate to. So it's got a huge varying age of audience.
MediaBlvd> Are you and Mike dating, or just friends?
Ashley> No, we are not dating. I think a lot of people would love it if we did date.
MediaBlvd> What's your relationship with Mike like off the set? On the show you seem to kind of care about each other, but there's a lot of rivalry. Do you have that same interaction when you appear together off the set?
Ashley> Honestly, we are like an old married couple. We're the best friends that anyone could ever be, and we fight like brother and sister. We have a really special relationship, and I'm just so lucky to have a co-star like him.
MediaBlvd> What do you like to do in your spare time, or do you have any spare time?
Ashley> Well, when I do have spare time, seeing my family and friends is my priority. I love to shop, I love to travel, playing with animals at any time of the day or night. Reading - that's about it. I can't remember what I do in my spare time.
MediaBlvd> It seems like you interact with your fans quite a bit on your MySpace page. Why do you do that?
Ashley> Yeah, I interact with everybody. They're the people that support your show and make it what it is, so you've got to be thankful for them. I love talking to them, and hearing what they have to say about the show. And any comments they make, I definitely tell the producers if there are things they like or things they don't like so much. Everyone can always use the feedback.
MediaBlvd> What was it like growing up as the youngest sibling, with four older brothers, are they very over protective of you?
Ashley> Yes, they are. They are very over protective. When you're growing up - when there are five, it's kind of like there is two against two, and four against me. Because I was the only girl, but when it came down to it, if anyone even looked at me the wrong way, all four of them would be lined up in front of me. It's really sweet. And now that we're older, we're all really close. It's great. When I grow up, I want to have four boys and a girl. I love the way it went.
MediaBlvd> Is there anybody in particular you'd like to work with?
Ashley> Johhny Depp, not only because he's gorgeous, but he's just so talented, everything he does is like a masterpiece. And Nicole Kidman, I love her. I think she's such a great actress as well. So those two, right now, would be my ideal people to work with.
MediaBlvd> Do you do most of your work then in the Toronto area, or have you gotten to LA or Vancouver or any of those places?
Ashley> Well, we shoot in Toronto, and most of the shows I've done before are in Toronto, or actually every show I've done is in Toronto. And then, when we filmed Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen, we were all over the place with that. Then when I go to LA, that's where this movie is, so if I do end up doing that I'll be in LA for a few months, then back to Toronto for Life With Derek.
MediaBlvd> Is it difficult as a Canadian to come to LA, with all of the tightened security, and to get a work visa?
Ashley> You know I'm really lucky that I have a resume to begin with. Life With Derek is really big down there, so it makes it a lot easier to get in and get accepted as a Canadian actress. But I know for a lot of my friends who haven't done too much, it's almost impossible to get a manager down there, just because that's where everybody goes. There are so many actors and actresses there. It's really tough, but luckily Life With Derek is really popular down there, so it opens a lot of doors.
MediaBlvd> Do you get recognized on the streets when you go out, or do you still have some privacy?
Ashley> It's not gotten to the point where I dislike it. It's seems to be that I only get recognized when I've just gotten out of bed or just had a shower, and I have no makeup on and my hair is a mess. Maybe, that's just how I look in the show. But everyone's like, 'Oh, can I get a picture with you?", and I'm like, 'Sure,' then these pictures make their way on to the Internet with me just looking as scraggily as can be. And then there'll be nights where I just get all dressed up, and someone will come up to me and say, 'Oh my gosh, you look just like this girl on TV,' then walk away. So I'm like, 'Take my picture anyway, please!'. It's funny.
MediaBlvd> It sounds like you're having fun with the whole thing?
Ashley> I am, it's so cool. I think this is the perfect amount of...celebrity I guess you could say. Because I can still go out and do my own thing, and not have cameras following me. But it's also nice to go out and meet fans as well. So I have the best of both worlds right now.
MediaBlvd> Do you consider yourself a role model for anyone, or have you reached that point yet?
Ashley> I don't know, it's kind of hard to think of yourself as a role model. But I try to do the right thing, and if people follow that, that's really great. I think there's a few kids on the myspace that have said to me, you're my role model. That's a huge responsibility! But it's really special, and really sweet that they would look up to me like that. I don't think I deserve it, but it's nice.
MediaBlvd> You worked with Lindsay Lohan in Confessions, and I noticed you mentioned Britney on your MySpace when you were talking about music. Those two have been in the news a lot lately. Do you think there's just something about the overwhelming crush of being a celebrity that contributes to those problems, and how do you keep yourself grounded?
Ashley> I think the problem is that everything is in excess when you're a celebrity. You have way too much money, you have way too much power. And you kind of just want the things that other people can't get, and it just hooks them on to this crazy partying life style. And it's really hard to get away from that. But luckily for me, my family would just slap me in the face if I was ever doing anything like that. Not literally, but they would be there to support me, and tell me 'Ashley, you're acting like an idiot'. So I think I'm really lucky, because if I ever did get into that sort of life, which I really don't think I ever would, they're there for me.