You think you’re busy? Actress Ashley Bell has got, oh, a few things going on. She’s in the play Machinal, which just opened on Broadway; she’s got a fun rom-com on the way next month; and she’s directing a documentary about her passion project, informing people about cruelty toward animals. We chatted with her to understand how she gets it all done! You can get more involved with her film Love and Bananas by donating here.
OK!: What is the story of Machinal?
Ashley Bell: The story is based on the execution of Ruth Snyder, by the electric chair. That role is played by Rebecca Hall, so brilliantly. It’s based on that story, but it goes more in-depth to say what happens with a woman that’s not quite tough enough or fast enough or fitting in right with society—what happens to a woman like that?
OK!: What work did you do for a character like this?
AB: I love the character I play. It’s an expressionistic work, so none of the characters have names. My character is “telephone girl,” known as the gateway drug for the Rebecca Hall character. She rings me up and we go to a speakeasy and I introduce her to this illicit lifestyle. I studied prohibition style and Charleston dancing, to get a flair for the movement of the time.
OK!: You’re also in a movie with the best title I’ve heard in a while. Can you please explain?
AB: Love and Air Sex. This was such a fun film to do. It’s almost a six-person love triangle, so what, a love pentagon? There are three couples in it, and I’m going to Austin to meet up with my best friend, played by Sara Paxton. It’s this big love mess. And throughout all of it, there’s this thing, “air sex.” It’s pantomimed sexual fantasies, completely clothed, scored, and judged.
OK!: How did you guys get over any awkwardness as a cast? Or is that part of the fun?
AB: It is absolutely part of the fun. Our wonderful producers were like, let’s jump in, let’s do ice breakers. We’re in Austin, where it gets weird. Let’s get weird! It was all in the spirit of things.
OK!: You’re also working on a documentary. Can you explain how you became interested in the topic of animal testing and cruelty?
AB: I was born and raised a vegetarian, so I grew up in that world, knowing and respecting animals and being conscious of what you eat. A close family friend is the leader of the Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary, and they’ve been looking for a rescue for about 10 years. Last Christmas, I got an email saying, ‘We found the elephants! We’re going to Cambodia.’ I pitched the project to Change For Balance Productions, and they said, we’re coming with you to film it. There are no more wild Asian elephants left in Cambodia. And I said, this has to be a film. This could be the end of this species. The project is called Love & Bananas, because Lek Chailert, the woman who rescues elephants, believes you can guide elephants with love and bananas. We’re launching an Indiegogo to begin funding. We want to document a full rescue.
OK!: Are there things you wish everyone understood about animal cruelty?
AB: In terms of elephants, every single elephant in captivity has one thing in common. They’ve all had to be broken, and the breaking of an elephant is a 24-hour process, beaten straight for 24 hours. They will follow any human, out of fear. When I learned that in Cambodia, that was when I thought, if I didn’t know this, I have to make it known. Lately I’ve had the incredible honor of working with Cruelty Free International to ask people to not use makeup tested on animals. We have all the technology at our disposal, and testing on animals does not equate testing on humans. You can’t compare the two.
OK!: Are there brands of makeup that are safe and cruelty-free?
AB: Yes, absolutely! I use Arbonne, which is a wonderful makeup brand, completely cruelty free. The products are available. Burt’s Bees! Those are my go-tos.
OK!: How do you balance all this, acting and directing? How do you schedule it?
AB: That’s exactly what I do, I schedule it. I’m a nut for my schedule. It’s colored and organized and in a grid. I love keeping busy. I so love my job. To be creative is a heavenspace for me. What’s been so fun about Love & Bananas, if I have ever down time, it’s nice to have something I’m always thinking about. Researching, or designing t-shirts, and the Indiegogo campaign, color palettes!
Do you think you’re very informed about animal cruelty issues? What’s the last Broadway show you saw? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @OKMagazine.