Interviews / Movies

Ashley Versher Feels the Love in “This Is Me…Now”

Ashley Versher lives for the strength of a powerful narrative, both as an actress and as a filmmaker. Everything is a culmination of heart.”Being in front of the camera, you get to experience these really truthful moments for your character between you and another actor,” she reflects. “There’s this unique, beautiful connection that takes place while you are telling a story that really means something to you and that will mean something to other people. I love working with other actors in terms of being behind the camera. It’s a little different. I really enjoy pulling the whole story together from every vantage point, from set design and wardrobe to makeup and hair and location, all of those things. I love being able to pull all of that together. All of those components go into play when you are telling a story. And they all help to tell the story, which is extremely challenging to do, but really fascinating. I take a lot of pleasure in that. And working with an actor as a director is different than working with another actor as an actor. I like that collaborative effort also. You still are looking for the truth of the moment, but that truth can be found and developed and nurtured from all of those other departments.”

Appropriately for the season, Ashley’s new film, Jennifer Lopez’s This Is Me…Now, will awaken the romantic within you. However, finding love isn’t always about seeking out a significant other. “It is a love story that encourages people to believe in eternal love. It exists and they can find it and they can have it. It also touches on the importance of self-love and healing the self and how that’s part of the process of finding that forever love. So that in and of itself is a beautiful message to share with the world.” Playing an optimist was gleeful for Ashley. “I have the privilege of playing one of Jennifer Lopez’s best friends. My character is the Idealist, so she’s a very hopeful person. She has a very hopeful perspective, always about what could or should be – maybe not so much about what is. That’s really fun because it’s very different from who I am. I think I am probably much more of a realist in some ways. I’m a bit of a romanticist too, though.” The role offered her the surreal experience of collaborating with her childhood icon. “I was grateful to work with Jennifer so closely and to be a part of telling her story that is obviously deeply personal and very intimate. I don’t think I ever imagined anything like this. It’s wild to think back on watching Maid in Manhattan over and over again and then standing in front of Jennifer Lopez and getting ready to shoot this film with her. She is lovely and supportive and kind and incredibly talented, and her work ethic is just something to aspire to.”

The journey of being a self taught filmmaker has been one of discovery. “I know that you can make a film using your iPhone and it can look incredible. I also know that some people are in really wonderful situations where they’re either in grad school and they have that extra support there, or they have a lot of friends that they know who are in the industry and who have a lot of access to equipment or more knowledge. I think it’s very challenging to make any art, but I found it incredibly rewarding to do so and to go through the film festival circuit and to meet other filmmakers. I felt so empowered and so incredibly supported. I would say it’s been really, really empowering. I feel like there’s a real community of self-taught or trial and error filmmakers that are on the rise. I’m thrilled to have the privilege to be in their company.” Ashley’s debut project, Brief Exchanges, depicts an occurrence that’s all too common for Black women. “It’s a day in the life of a young Black woman navigating New York City microaggressions intertwined with a budding new romance. I made it for me, but it is a pretty poignant piece. Microaggressions are really at the center of it, and it’s very New York. I have a lifelong love affair with that city and it made me who I am. It’s a really special piece for me.” The themes of everyday racial bias resonated with some viewers and exposed others to an uncomfortable reality. “It’s very inspired by things that have happened to me and things that I’ve seen happen to other people. Many people who have watched this film have felt seen by the vignettes of microaggressions. And also on the other side, there’s a lot of people who’ve seen the film who have said, ‘Is this really a thing? Does this really happen?’ And it does. This and so much more.” To the proud director, the most moving impact was witnessing the sheer delight of visibility. “One of the things that really just brought me so much joy was older Black women in their sixties and early seventies who saw this film and felt so seen. That’s why diversity is so important. It’s important for us to feel seen and important for us to feel. I think I saw something the other day that Viola Davis said about how it’s important for us to see the manifestation of our dreams so that we can believe that they can be true and they can be ours. It’s important to see the manifestation of our experiences so we don’t also feel alone. Feeling seen is so beyond important. It can change someone’s life.” That sense of validation is irreplaceable. This Is Me…Now premieres on Amazon Prime on February 16th. 

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Ashley Versher Feels the Love in “This Is Me…Now.” Photo Credit: Jared Schlachet.

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