Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut can next be seen starring as Ashley Wallis in Cruel Summer. Currently airing in its debut season, the hit psychological thriller series from Freeform has fans buzzing across social media.
We spoke with Ashlei about all the twists and turns ahead for viewers, the motivation behind her character Ashley’s decisions, and the reveal that had viewers shocked and excited for what’s next.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut below:
What would you say initially motivated you to go into acting? Was there anyone who inspired you?
My origin story, if you will, for acting according to my Mother: while I was watching “Barney & Friends” at 3 years old I turned to her and told her “I want[ed] to be inside the TV”. I found inspiration through a lot of different people on and off screen. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly one person, but growing up my Mother and I went to the movies every Saturday- that was our thing, and I know through watching hundreds of movies I’ve taken nuggets from each performance that I’ve seen.
Can you talk a little about your character Ashley on Cruel Summer and what viewers can expect from her? What attracted you to the role?
For sure, Ashley Wallis is Kate’s polished, intelligent and cool step-sister. When we first meet Ashley in 1993 you get a chance to see her playful side and sense of humor with her interactions between her Dad and D.T. but you also see her emotionally detached side when she’s around Kate.
In Episode 4 after Kate’s kidnapping you see Ashley shift; Kate and Ashley kind of switch emotions- Ashley is now yearning for that sisterly bond with Kate. Ashley’s transitioned into a gentle- loving older sister because of how horrible she feels when she thinks her actions might have contributed to Kate’s ordeal. You can expect to see Ashley try to prove herself to Kate to regain the trust that was lost. I was initially attracted to the character 1, because we both have the same name haha! And 2, I was really excited that it took place in the 90s AND the fact that the script was great.
Cruel Summer takes place over three different summers in 1993, 1994, and 1995. What was it like to essentially travel back in time and play a character growing up in the 90s? What was your favorite part about filming for the time period? I love seeing all the references and props I grew up with.
Same! I remember being on set and seeing the cars and immediately being transported back to my childhood. I mean, the Wallis’ own a Bronco, you can’t get anymore 90s than that. I just LOVE the 90s. I’m a 90s baby so I’m already biased. I was talking to someone the other day about how it’s kind of cool to relive this era because this is when technology officially changes. There are things that you could get away with in the 90s that you can’t really do now, hence, Ashley creating another alias “Berenice IV” and catfishing Kate.
The episodes seem to show different points of view throughout the season. At the end of episode 4, we see Ashley is revealed to be the person Kate has been opening herself up to online. Can you talk a little about what is motivating Ashley to be there for Kate during this time?
Surprise! I loved that moment, when I first read that Ashley was the other person in the chatroom I was thrilled. Ashley seems to be motivated by genuine care. She sees Kate going through a really hard time and she feels the only safe way to reach out is through a chatroom. Now, does Ashley have malicious intent? Maybe, maybe not. Tune in to find out 😉
Ashley’s relationship with her stepsister takes a dramatic shift during the different time periods. Will we see a little more about how this might affect her relationship with Kate moving forward?
I’d say so, yes. You’ll soon get a glimpse into Ashley’s personal life which may give more answers to many fan theories on social media.
There are so many twists and turns already on Cruel Summer and as a psychological thriller, I can’t wait to see how the episodes play out. What can you tease about what viewers can look forward to in these upcoming episodes? What are you most excited for them to see?
There are so many twists and turns! I’m excited for fans to see episode seven. Let’s just say I will be grilled to my twitter reading the tweets on the Cruel Summer hashtag that night haha!
What else are you working on? What can your audience look forward to from you next?
I just returned to the states from filming “National Parks” a pilot for ABC’s network. And I’m also working on getting one of my screenplays off the ground. Lots of excited things on the rise!
Thank you so much to Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut for taking the time to speak with us!
Tune in to Cruel Summer airing Tuesdays on Freeform.
For more interviews from Freeform, check out our interview with Shelby Surdam from the new Freeform series Cruel Summer.