I honestly don’t recall how I connected initially with Angela Asher, but I began noticing her name pop up in my Facebook feed, and I decided to look her up. Once I investigated her impressive list of credits, I realized I had seen her in a few things, but she has been a part of practically every genre throughout her celebrated career. I reached out to her a couple months ago for an interview, and the evening in which we interacted on the phone was a delightful experience for us both. Being the genuine creative soul that she is, we discussed an ample variety of topics in addition to her notable works in the industry.
RH: It is so great to get to talk with you today, Angela.
AA: Same here, Ruth. Thank you for reaching out. I notice that you are quite a Hallmark fan.
Yes, I’m not ashamed to say so. I love the fact that Hallmark programming has become much more popular in recent years. People seem to gravitate to all the positive stuff out there. They’re tired of watching all the bad news on TV.
You know, I think that is part of the problem, especially with the mainstream media channels. From the little soundbites I hear, it’s all predictive programming, and that’s why we have a society of very angry people walking around. It’s really what we subject ourselves to, not only as far as television programming, but also what films you’re watching and what books you’re reading. Even the kind of music you’re listening to. How much time do most people actually sit in self-reflection? I don’t think a lot of people do that. They’re out there and they’re angry and they’re raging. And when you look at it as a sort of collective consciousness, it paints a pretty bleak picture.
And then you have these “lightworkers” who are trying our hardest to lead by example. If you’re going to champion a cause, I would suggest you do not do it in a very angry way. Just state it factually. There is a lot of good stuff going on in our industry. It’s not to take the focus off of or impede the issues at hand or stop the people from coming out against sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Those issues alone trigger a lot of things in a lot of people, including myself. But at the same time, you can’t get to that point where you’re just letting your emotions run wild with rage and anger because there is no solution that can come from that. If you keep ranting about the issues in a wildly emotional way, you are perpetuating the problem, at least, in my opinion.
Thank you. I also believe that the art of conversation is so lacking today with the advent of social media. People can just go and spout off on social media whenever they want, and it’s a monologue and it’s out there. It can be misconstrued because there is no energy exchanged, something which is very important in conversation. There’s also things in your tone of voice and the way you express yourself which can also be misconstrued. I feel that this is what really has pulled our society apart. It’s very detrimental to open and honest conversation and debate. You know, I don’t have to necessarily agree with someone else, but I will respect their views. That may not be the way I choose to live my life; that’s not my truth. But there’s always a mutual respect. But on social media, it’s become all about violence in most cases.
Yes, I agree with you on that. I welcome differing opinions, but I feel mutual respect should be offered. I will listen to you, and you will listen to me. Even if we don’t agree, we will respect each other. And differing opinions always seem to cause me to grow.
By listening to another person’s point of view, even though you may not agree with it, it does give you pause to think and maybe reevaluate the particular way that you are looking at a situation. If we stay with our blinders on, we are missing an opportunity for a connection. If I just dismiss that person because they don’t have the same opinion that I hold, what good have I accomplished? And I find that this can come out predominantly when discussing politics, which I don’t. And then because I don’t discuss politics, I get labeled as this or that, depending on the political beliefs of that person or group. My vote is my personal decision, and I vote my conscience. Nobody has a right to know how I voted. It’s no one’s business but mine. I think people egging others on to state their political beliefs is archaic.
I couldn’t agree more, Angela. And you have some valuable insight that I appreciate you sharing. I mean, I think you should be a motivational speaker.
Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. I was helping a friend of mine through some things recently just by conversation, and they called me the other day and said, “I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for talking to me. I have gleaned so much by what you have shared with me, and I’m in a position now where I feel empowered and strong to stand up for myself because you gave that to me.” My response was, “That was the kindest thing that you could say to me because if I were to die tomorrow, I know that I affected your life in a positive way.” And that’s it. That’s what we’re here for.
For me, it’s about integrity. I think integrity matches up when the life you’re living on the outside matches who you are on the inside. A testament to that integrity is when you choose not to do or say anything that would damage your self-respect. I think that’s key.
Well, I did start as a model. I was scouted at a very young age. I was thirteen when I started and I modeled throughout my teenage years. What was so beautiful about it was being able to get contracts in other countries and to be able to immerse yourself in the different cultures. That was incredible for me. I think that’s what instilled in me an appreciation for other people’s way of life, and that is still with me today. I think that’s why I did it. And also I made a lot of money at a very young age. But it wasn’t satisfying to me per se because it was just about having your picture taken. Now, I’m not taking anything away from people who are models because that’s the gig. But as a young kid, I was always reading books. I got bullied in school and was called fatty and four eyes. Really, I was just very shy and I would consume books like a crazy person. With the modeling, they weren’t interested in your opinion. They weren’t interested in if you were educated. It was all based on physical appearance.
While I was modeling, I did some acting gigs, but none of that is on my resume. It was just some little roles here and there where they needed some models for something. And then they would ask if you could speak. I remember one time I went in and–I was young, right? I went, “No, I’m a mute.” I was thinking, “Why are you asking me if I can speak?” I think I was always old for my age. I would always think, “Give me thirty more years and maybe I’ll be the age when I was born.”
There was another model who wanted to get into acting. I had done a ton of commercials. I think the count now is sixty plus commercials in my life. So she was really into this, and she asked me to help her learn the monologue. So she asked if I could come with her, and she asked if I would do it with her. Well, she bombed out, and I was there. So I went up and did my thing, and I got accepted. So I got into this intensive workshop with Michael Shurtleff. It’s one of the premier workshops you can take for acting. You have to be of a certain caliber to even get into the program. This was the early to mid ’90’s. So I went in there, and I remember going out into this big auditorium. There were a lot of people there, including monitors who could come in and observe. I got up there and did some thing with another actor. We had to rehearse, and it was my first time ever doing it in front of all these people. I was awestruck by all these people, but once I got out there, I just did what I did.
I remember Michael Shurtleff…and I can still see it to this day. I remember he was wearing this big, white, puffy pirate shirt, these flowing pants and purple clogs. He stood up and came up to me and went, “You.” I remember I looked around and looked at the other actor. I was thinking that he couldn’t possibly be talking to me. Then he went, “No, no, no, you.” I was like, “Me?” He asked, “Where did you come from?” I said, “From over there. They told us to come over here from that side of the stage.” I didn’t understand what he was asking. He asked again, “No, no, no, where did you come from?” And I went, “My mother’s womb. You mean, like where was I born?” I still didn’t understand the question. He said, ” I can’t decide if you’re really bad or you’re brilliant. All I know is I can’t take my eyes off you.” I went, “I’ll take that as a compliment. Thank you.” So that’s basically how it happened. He encouraged me to continue to study with him and to make the switch from modeling to acting. He told me that I had a gift, an innate instinct. And that cannot be taught.
I continued to study with him, and I started working as an actor, but I was not being taken seriously because I was still modeling. So I did have to give up the modeling in order to be taken seriously in the business at that time. They would always say, “Oh, she’s just a model.” But then I would go in, and I would feel very deeply. I always have, even from the when I was a very small child. I feel the pain of everything around me. I’ve now come to understand that means you’re an empath. So about a decade ago, I did start studying about being an empath, and I was like, “My gosh! It’s been in me my whole life, and I never understood it because I didn’t have the language to understand it.” That’s basically how the transition happened. It was just divine intervention. A lot of people were cut and not able to study with Michael Shurtleff, but I say it was the hand of God.
It sure sounds that way.
It reminds me of that Cat Stevens song “Father and Son,” which I remember hearing. Both of my parents are gone now. My dad last year, but my mom sixteen years ago. And it just reminds me that from the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen and that’s very much how I grew up. I think that there was so much inside of me that I wanted to say and needed to come out. And I believe that’s why I do what I do.
I’m hoping I don’t sound vain or narcissistic because that’s not my intention. But you know, if I can go out there and make a difference by somebody watching something I’m in…whether I’m making them laugh, making them question, making them feel, showing them, “my gosh, that’s happened to me too.” And they can identify with that too, and know that they’re not alone. I do believe energetically we are all connected. I believe if we pick up a book, watch a film, go to an art gallery and see a great work of art and it speaks to our souls… in that moment, you have clarity about your situation or about your life or about your life’s path. That’s just the way I live my life.
I think that’s a wonderful way to live. And you don’t need to worry about sounding narcissistic. You can always tell when you’re speaking with those actors who have big egos. They’re in the business for different reasons than you expressed. They talk about themselves. You talked about affecting others.
I do a lot of comedy and heavy drama, and I find both equally satisfying because it’s different facets of myself that I can bring. With comedy, I’ve gone through some very dark nights of the soul, and what got me through was watching comedy. The ability to laugh when you’re in those emotional states where it’s just so heavy and you can’t see your way out…I remember I would always watch a comedy and laugh and laugh and laugh, and then all of a sudden, I’m out of that state that I put myself in. You know, that loop constantly keeps you going over and over something in your head, but comedy has a way of breaking that cycle. The laugh is a relief. You can laugh till you cry. That is really one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve been given is watching comedy and laughing until I’m crying and then the pain has somehow diminished.
I’m right with you there. Now, a lot of the works you’ve done, I’m familiar with but haven’t gotten a chance to see because several of these shows are Canadian and hard to come by. But because I have so many friends in Canada, I am familiar with the shows. So why don’t you tell me what your first significant role in film or TV was?
Okay, it was Interstate 60. It was Bob Gale that did that. And I was so blessed to work with Gary Oldman on that. That is a terrific film with a beautiful message. I think a lot of Hallmark fans, including you, would like that film. It was incredible, and oh my gosh! There were so many people in that film that I didn’t get to work with, but the list of actors is incredible. Let’s see, Kurt Russell and just so many more. Look it up for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Jimmy Mardsen, who was just a lovely person. They had the most beautiful sets, and those sets were calm, beautiful and lovely. And to work with Gary, who was just so giving and so incredible to work with…what an amazing experience.
I remember this funny story from that time. When I was at TIFF, I went to this gala, and I was sitting outside on the side of this fountain next to Philip Seymour Hoffman all night, and he was just great. So we got to talking, and he asked what I was doing. And I told him I was about to be working with Gary Oldman. He was interested and wanted to know if I had met Gary, and I said I had at the table read. And Philip said, “Oh, that’s great. I really want to work with him.” And that’s from an actor who was starting to hit it really big. And you know what? I think we’re all like that.
Like, I did The Path to 9/11, this mini-series, opposite Harvey Keitel, and I was just about freaking out to be working with the Harvey Keitel! And that’s the beauty of it. You work with these people, and then you find out that they want to work with somebody too. I worked twelve days with Harvey. He wanted to discuss things about the union and whatnot, and I told him that he knew much more than I did. But his response was, “No, no, no, we’re the same.”
You know, I worked with Tom Berenger, and he was great to work with; what a lovely man. And going back to what you said about actor’s motives for being in this business and narcissists…those people are mostly malignant and have very dark personalities. But Tom was definitely not one of those kinds of people; he was fantastic.
Anyway, I find when I got out onto sets and there are these Academy Award winners, they are so down-to-earth and lovely. They walk the walk. They’re there, and they’re not like these other types. People will ask, “Were you nervous?” And my response is, “No. I’m thrilled because I admire their work.” But they are the nicest people. Judy Davis, one of the nicest people. Paul Mazursky was just the most amazing director to work with. And I sit here and go, “That’s what it’s about.” These people are coming to work in sweatpants and they’re not all decked out in their designer duds. You see the ones that covet attention are those narcissistic types who are in the business for the wrong reasons. But these other ones are there to do the work. There’s a respect for my opinion with these good people, but when you’re on set with the other types, they’re not even present. When it swings around to your close-up, they are not doing or giving you anything. Reactionary-wise, they’re not crying in the big, emotional scenes. They’re standing there, basically reading it to you. And I’ve never found that with these veteran actors. They’ve been the most generous to me. It has been a serious privilege for me to be around those sorts of people ’cause they’re so open, giving and compassionate. And here’s the thing. Because they have empathy and compassion, that is why they are considered the best actors in our industry.
You know, before I started interacting with actors like I’ve been doing the past few years, I would have thought that most actors were divas and craved attention. But I have since discovered exactly what you’re telling me, and I want to bring all the positive stuff about the people in the business to my readers.
That is magnificent. Most actors that are really great in this business do keep to themselves. They aren’t running around, craving attention. But it’s true that we do have a culture of Kardashians. And in today’s society, you’re hard-pressed to have a conversation with these celebrity-types because they’re very superficial. They’re all into what label they’re wearing, their designer handbag…and look, I’m a girl that likes to shop. But I’m not traipsing around in high heels and some fancy dress and handbag on a daily basis. I’m in running shoes! To do what the Kardashians do on a daily basis, I cannot think of something more vacuous, and what a non-contribution to society. I know that’s harsh coming from me, but I have no time for that. And when I have been around that type of actor, you cannot have a meaningful conversation with them. In fact, sometimes when I listen to all this chatter that means nothing, I feel like all I am hearing is what you hear in “Charlie Brown”: “Mwah, mwah, mwah….” Because they’re not saying anything of substance! I personally don’t choose to be around those people because I find it very toxic and negative. And what it reminds me of is a Bible verse, 2 Peter 2:3, that says, “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” That’s a verse that always stuck out to me. A lot of people in this business and elsewhere do covet. They’ll say, “I’m so happy for you,” but you know that person is not happy for you. That person is casting shade on you. You need to extricate yourself from those types of relationships because that will be your downfall. If you cannot be happy for someone else who is following their path, that is their path. And if someone succeeds and I know them and/or respect them–even if I was up for the same role–I am so happy for that person because it’s like it happened to me. There is enough to go around, and what is yours can never be taken from you.
So I believe your first Hallmark movie was last year’s I’ll Be Home For Christmas.
That is correct! All this time, I had never done a Hallmark movie till last year. And here’s a fantastic story. I got this audition, and it was just two scenes. I actually auditioned for a different part in that movie. So my father was in the hospital, and my best friend came up from the Island because my father was essentially living on what people would call “borrowed time.” He’s outlived his doctor’s prognosis. I was his primary caregiver.
So I got this audition, and I’m trying to explain to my agent about my dad. But my agent insisted that they really wanted to see me for the role. So I was like, “Okay.” So my dad’s friend was up here, and I went to the hospital in the morning–I took my dad there. His friend met us there. As my dad is getting wheeled in, I told them I’d be right back. I was trying to learn the lines en route to the audition. My dad had had a horrible night the night before as they were trying to get him ready for the pre-op. So I ran to the audition that is out in the east end of the city. They were running a little bit behind, and I was getting worried about getting back to my dad. Finally, they called my name.
When I went into the room, it was packed with the producers, the writers, and James Brolin. I looked around, and couldn’t believe there’s so many there. I asked the casting director, “Why didn’t you tell me we were having company today?” And James Brolin was giggling–he’s so beautiful. He said, “I’m James.” And I said, “Yeah, I know who you are.” He asked if I wanted to do the scene, and I was like, “Yes.” So I went through the first scene, and I messed up. He was like, “Oh, that was great.” And I said, “Yeah, I kinda messed up a little bit there.” He said, “Oh, so you had a real moment?” And I said, “Oh, yeah, I have many real moments.” And he started laughing.
We went on to the second scene, and he was like, “That was great.” And he came up to me and said, “You’re really good.” And I went, “Thank you, James Brolin.” So he went back to the desk, and he asked me to try it a different way. So I agreed and did it. And he’s going, “You are just so good.” So as I was going out of the room, we’re having a little bit of a laugh. And he’s so beautiful and so tall, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s what a real man looks like. Who have I been dating?”
Now, I had met the producer, David Anselmo.when I was doing Hard Rock Medical, a show I’ve been a part of. I had met him up in North Bay during that time. Well, David was in the room, and I was walking by, mesmerized by James Brolin’s beauty. But then I saw him and went, “Hey, I know you.’ And David was like, “Yeah, I was wondering when you were going to get to me. I know he’s a bit good-looking.” And I said, “Heck, no, have you looked at the man?”
I ran out of the audition and back to the hospital. My dad was still in surgery. The next morning, I got a call, “They love you.” I was like, “Great, do I get the part?” And they were like, “No, they want you to read this other part.” They sent me the part, and the character was in her sixties! I didn’t understand why they wanted me for the role. I was assured, “No, trust me, Angela. Just go in.”
So Friday morning, I went into a new audition with new lines learned. I did the same thing with my dad I had previously. This time, nobody but the casting director was there. I was like, “What’s going on?” And the casting director said, “They love you, and they want to give you this, but you have to get it on tape.” I was protesting about the age of the character and all that, but he said not to worry about that. By Monday afternoon, I had the role.
James Brolin tailored that part for me. He changed the age because she had a son, and the son would have been in his thirties. So he dropped the age, and the guy who played my son turned eighteen while we were shooting. I am ever so grateful. That man is a gem. He directed it. He acted with me. I had so much fun, even when we had long days. I would be sitting on the curb outside of the restaurant where we shot that served as my bar in the film, and he would come and sit beside me. We had wonderful conversations. We would eat lunch together. And he is very much like myself in that if someone says something that he doesn’t know, he has to research it. And I go on like that too! I actually said, “I swear that I could actually do brain surgery if I wanted to.” And he said, “I could do brain surgery too.” We got along like a house on fire. He was a gentleman and was just so giving and compassionate. He could tell when I wasn’t happy with something, and he would ask if I wanted another take. And I would say, “I do.” And he would say, “You take it.” He has just the most generous spirit. You know, if he said, “I need you to come in and not say anything and be an extra for sixty days,” I’d go, “I’m there, James.” He is a beautiful soul, and I am blessed for having that experience. This role came at a time when I needed a break from being my dad’s primary caregiver. That will always be a blessing in my life. It was a beautiful set and a beautiful film. And I was in a lot of the reviews of that film. I never pay attention to those things. But I found out they had singled me out in a good way, which was a “wow” moment for me. And it’s nice to know that James Brolin, this legend, is such a great person. My mother had the biggest crush on him. To me, James Brolin is the personification of grace.
That is such a lovely story! I am so glad when these legends in the business and the people you have looked up to turn out to be such great people.
You know, I just finished doing a second season of Workin’ Moms, and now I’m unemployed. I mean, that’s the way it always is when you’re a working actor. And during those times, you can tend to get a wee bit depressed and think that maybe you’re never gonna work again. But just reiterating this story to you as it happened reminds me there is magic everywhere, and that was a magical moment for me. Later on, I wondered how I may have reacted if I had known he was gonna be in the room that first time. Would that have freaked me out? I don’t know. But it just happened the way it happened. I was free and open, and he thought it was great and wanted to work with me. We had a similar energy, and at the end of the day, I think that’s what we do. We work with people who are on our same frequency.
Workin’ Moms, and that is one of those shows I haven’t been able to see because it’s a Canadian show only. In fact, I have lots of friends on that show. I know Dani Kind is in that show, right?
I love Dani! She is a love muffin! She is one of the loveliest actresses out there and down-to-earth as all of them are. The first day I walked onto the set, it was just wonderful to see women in all key positions. My eyes filled with tears. I thought, “Yes, it’s happened!” Females grips, camera operators, women just everywhere. And the energy is very different when it’s a female energy. It feels so much safer to me too. I’m telling you, we’re making headway most definitely. I think also in light of this huge scandal with Harvey Weinstein, it’s good that these women are becoming more empowered in the business. And I think this is gonna shine a light on the issues we face as actresses in this business. Times are definitely changing. There’s a high demand to see more female directors.
I’ve worked with some terrific female producers up here in Canada too. I’ve worked with Virginia Rankin. There’s a wonderful show up here that you don’t get down there where I play the lawyer to the mob, and the show is called Bad Blood. That’s opposite Anthony LaPaglia and Kim Coates. The show will probably go to the States before too long. And Virginia is a powerhouse on that show. I worked with her on 18 To Life as well. That one was a CBC/ABC co-production so it should have been available in the States. We did the pilot, but then ABC passed on it and picked up Modern Family instead. Then the CW picked it up, I believe. And then I am on a critically-acclaimed show here called Hard Rock Medical. We just did the fourth season. So many females in key roles there too. Virginia was one of the producers on that when I screen-tested. Same with Bad Blood. Virginia is a go-getter like so many female producers up here who are so amazing. Also, amazing female writers and directors are coming out now.
Oh, Bad Blood is heavy! It’s awesome. It’s about Vito Rizzuto, who ran Montreal and was in a feud with the Bonannos out of New York. And then they all were taken out. His son, his father and him. Based on a real story. It is very graphic and violent, and while I’m not a fan of violence–it really upsets me–but in this show, that is what happens, and it’s required to tell the story. This thing is blown up up here. It’s great.
I had a recurring role on Private Eyes. I came back this season. My character is Maggie Melroy, and the show is on Ion Network. It’s Jason Priestley’s show, and he is a lovely person, a beautiful human being. I recommend that you watch this show.
Then on YouTube, there is a beautiful show that got nominated for an award up here in Canada–a Canadian Screen Award. The show is called Inhuman Condition. It is so extraordinarily written. The work on this show is incredible. It’s a web series, and they want to bring it back, but they also want it to go to a full TV series. Last I heard, they were very close to getting a TV deal for it. The other woman on the show is another spirit of generosity, Tori Higginson. She’s from Stargate: Atlantis. I recommend you checking out episode thirty-two, and you’ll get a flavor of what our writing is up here and how deep it is and how deep you can go as an actor on the web. When network broadcasters do shows, they tend to saccharine-coat everything, but the web is not doing that. I was incredibly proud of that show. When they offered me this role, I was scared to do it because I didn’t think I could do it justice. It’s sort of a hidden gem, and it has been reviewed very well. A lot of people are turning away from mainstream television. And I can’t say that I blame them. I enjoy binging on Netflix.
Me too. There are so many choices out there. And hopefully, we’ll continue to see you in even more amazing things. And maybe Hallmark will bring you back eventually. But for now, we’ll enjoy your Christmas movie from last year.
Oh, I hope you do. Indeed one of my favorites.
Thank you so much for chatting with me about so much tonight, Angela. You truly are a kindred spirit.
Ruth, I feel the exact same way. Thank you for creating a safe environment where I could speak so honestly. It was lovely.
One of the things I value in my interviews is permitting the interviewee to take the lead in the discussion if they so desire. And in the case of Angela, that is precisely what she did, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the authentic and unrestricted way in which she shared her life. Perhaps the interview is a bit nontraditional, but because she and I were amenable to fostering a relaxed atmosphere that enabled the conversation to chart its own course, I believe she and I were able to communicate on a profound level. While I like to think I have the ability to connect with everyone I interview, people like Angela are somewhat rare in society today. She is not afraid of hard work, opposition, or even controversy. She places others first, and the values with which she was reared are still embedded deep within the core of who she is. She is not interested in mere superficial relationships and discussions–those are of no value. She longs to know who the person genuinely is, and I believe it is those attachments within the industry as well as her thought-provoking analyses and experiences that have molded her into the woman and professional with whom I had the honor of speaking.
As Christmas is about a week away, if you have not seen I’ll Be Home For Christmas, check it out before it’s too late on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. While you cannot go wrong with James Brolin and the other exceptional actors in the cast, keep your eyes peeled for this phenomenal woman who had the opportunity to create a memorable character as well as to interact with an absolute legend in the business. Those kinds of encounters are ones that I know Angela holds dear to her heart, and I have no doubt the best is yet to come for this industry treasure. If you are so inclined, also consider checking out her links below and following her where applicable. She recommended several of her works to examine, and I plan to do so as soon as possible. For if there’s one thing I know about Angela, if she is in the production, it is bound to be worth watching because she is not a mediocre sort of person. Her suggestions and works are always the best in the business, and I hope that one day I will have the chance to thank her in person for her intensely motivational and sincerely inspirational life and outlook in this sometimes dark and foreboding world.