Annaleigh Ashford has a knack for taking part in irrepressible blondes. She made her Broadway debut as a boy-crazy bimbo in “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” originated the position of saucy love curiosity Lauren in “Kinky Boots” and gained a Tony taking part in madcap Essie within the screwball traditional “You Can’t Take It With You.”
Now, she’s going darkish.
In “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” the FX collection premiering Tuesday, Ashford performs Paula Jones, the (brunette) Arkansas state worker who sued President Invoice Clinton for alleged sexual harassment in 1994.
It’s a troublesome position: Ashford’s Jones grapples with sexual trauma, emotional abuse from her husband and unrelenting ridicule from the press, who painted her as trailer trash and used her as a dimwitted pawn to attempt to deliver down the president.
But sunny Ashford felt a reference to the awkward, vilified Jones.
“I knew [the role] was such a match for me,” the 36-year-old actress advised The Publish throughout a latest video name from Los Angeles, the place she’s filming the second season of her CBS sitcom, “B Optimistic.”
“There was a childlike high quality about her that I discovered actually essential,” Ashford stated. “And being a sort-of sufferer of the patriarchy was an essential a part of her narrative that I wished to discover.”
Although Ashford had a small position in a earlier season of director Ryan Murphy’s “Crime Story” collection — concerning the assassination of designer Gianni Versace — she needed to audition for Jones. She sprayed her hair darkish brown and even gave herself an at-home perm to look the half.
After she was forged, Ashford labored with a motion coach to internalize Jones’ hunched-over, submissive gait for months whereas the manufacturing was delayed because of COVID. (Alongside together with her husband, actor Joe Tapper, and 4-year-old son, she spent the early pandemic strolling by Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal — “the trash river,” Ashford referred to as it — and strolling to Pink Hook for Hometown Bar B Que.)
Within the collection, Ashford sports activities a number of wigs, a prosthetic nostril and even braces. “I’d spend 2½ to a few hours in hair and make-up,” she stated. Even the garments — acid-wash denims and white Reeboks, scrunchies and floral clothes with huge shoulder pads — matched outfits Jones wore in actual life.
“Within the first episode, there’s a scene the place I do an interview on the CPAC Conference, and we discovered the actual outfit that [Jones] wore on the CPAC Conference,” Ashford stated. “Sadly, [Jones’] authorized funds weren’t managed appropriately, and on the finish of all of it, she had nothing. And in some unspecified time in the future in her life, she auctioned [the outfit] off and it ended up on eBay. And so I wore it on the present.”
Ashford was a child residing in suburban Denver when the Clinton impeachment scandal broke. “I bear in mind type of listening to about it after I would watch late-night comedy,” she stated. “I bear in mind the ladies [involved in the scandal] being made enjoyable of mercilessly.”
Again then, Ashford, who began performing professionally at 9, didn’t essentially think about herself taking part in a tabloid fixture sooner or later. “I used to go to Blockbuster, and I’d hire out each single musical that that they had,” she recalled. “I watched ‘All That Jazz’ so many occasions that I wore out their copy.”
She moved to New York Metropolis at 17 and, after stints as a clown, a go-go dancer and a restaurant hostess, obtained her first massive break within the touring manufacturing of “Depraved,” in 2005. Ashford made her Broadway debut a 12 months later, in “Legally Blonde,” at 21. She quickly started taking part in the sorts of characters that delighted her as a child: a brassy lesbian hooker within the TV collection “Masters of Intercourse”; an exuberant canine (sure, a canine) within the stage present “Sylvia”; and Dot, the mistress to Impressionist painter Georges Seurat (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal) in a revival of Sondheim’s “Sunday within the Park With George.”
Ashford went to LA a few 12 months in the past to start out capturing “Impeachment” after which “B Optimistic,” during which she performs a messy however big-hearted kidney donor. In the meantime, her son was nonetheless attending his college in Brooklyn through Zoom until June. “We didn’t know if we have been going to be coming again to New York; I had no concept what was gonna occur with, you recognize, my life,” she stated.
For now she’s having fun with the West Coast life-style. “In LA, the produce is twice nearly as good and half the worth [as it is in New York,]” she stated. “And the solar comes out each day, so I’ll by no means say no to a bit of extra Vitamin D.”
However Ashford stated she will’t wait to return to New York, particularly to Broadway.
“I’d like to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd sometime, and I’ve obtained just a few extra years left to do ‘Candy Charity’ [before my hip gives out] — I simply wish to be in yet one more dance present,” she stated. “And I [joke] that my husband and I must be in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ each time we now have an excellent row!
“I miss Broadway. … I miss the stickiness of New York, the magic,” she stated, sounding wistful. “I’ve lived in New York longer than I stay wherever else … I’ve had a number of residences there — a number of unhappy residences with no closet house. I’ve had a number of roaches; I’ve had a number of mice. I’ve had a toddler in New York. I’ve gotten caught within the rain and the snow with the stroller and groceries a number of occasions in New York: I’m a New Yorker!”