Exclusive Interview: MTV AWKWARD’s Ashley Rickards Talks Love Triangle, Emotional Truth and Kissing

AWKWARD (MTV) Episode 1

Tonight, you are in for a treat as MTV rolls out the new summer series, AWKWARD, which tells the story of 15-year-old Jenna Hamilton, played by Ashley Rickards (“Fly Away,” “One Tree Hill”), whose life takes an interesting turn when an accident leads to a big misunderstanding for her family and friends.

Daemon’s TV had a chance to chat with the fascinating Ashley Rickards about her role and what viewers can expect from the upcoming twelve episodes. Check out our chat below and don’t forget to tune in for the premiere episode of Awkward which airs tonight Tuesday, July 19 at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
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I haven’t seen the first episode, but have seen the promos. It looks really funny.

Ashley Rickards: Oh, good, yeah. It’s sort of a dark comedy, coming of age story. We’ve got a pretty wide target age range as well, and so that’s great, too.

How did you get the part of Jenna?

Ashley Rickards: My manager sent me over the script and I just fell in love with Lauren Iungerich’s writing. He has a wonderful way of justifying every character’s actions. I fell in love with the writing, had a meeting and then I met with Lauren. It just all worked out and I’m so happy that it did. It was such a fun experience.

Talk about your character.

Ashley Rickards: Jenna is this sort of awkward wallflower. She’s very smart. Also, pretty intuitive. She’s not judgmental at all which you see because there’s sort of this bully and Jenna is actually one of the few people who doesn’t really hate the bully because he’s trying to see where Sadie is coming from when she says those mean things to her. She’s just sort of a very wise for her age character.

Would you say that this more of a comedy than a drama, or is it more of a dramedy?

Ashley Rickards: Well, I think one of the best parts of Lauren’s writing is that every single joke in our show comes from an emotional truth. It comes from something that’s real and it starts from something that’s from a real situation, a real dramatic situation, a very dark situation, either or and you can spin it around with a joke. That’s not to say that we make light of things that are not in good taste to make light of. But all of our jokes come from an emotional truth. So, I would say that I guess it’s more of a comedy, but we definitely have episodes where it’s pretty dramatic. Still, it’s a comedy tinged with drama.

When you’re looking at a serious topic like bullying, how do you make Jenna deal with the heaviness?

Ashley Rickards: It’s important to separate Ashley from Jenna, and I just try to build as much of Jenna as I can from her life experiences or her hobbies to what she likes to eat. I’m pretty specific with all of that. Once you build the circumstances and are very concrete on the relationships and your opinions of people or what you hope, what you want, what you dream of, then sort of the reaction to the circumstances and the behaviors that Jenna would naturally have just come up. It’s just sort of spontaneous once the foundation has been laid.

As the lead you’re probably in the majority of scenes. Is that exciting or challenging?

Ashley Rickards: I love it. I’m a workaholic. I don’t know what to do with myself when I have nothing going on. I find things to do. I will clean my entire house from top to bottom. I’ll read a book from start to finish. I’m a big Carl Sagan fan. So, I’ll read any of his books, but I’m pretty busy most of the time. So, I love being on set for fourteen hours a day. I love that.

How many episodes have you shot so far?

Ashley Rickards: We’ve shot twelve episodes.

It appears from the promo that there’s a love triangle between your character, Jake and Matty.

Ashley Rickards: Yeah. It’s fun to be me. I got two hot guys that I get to act against. I don’t have it too bad. They’re both great, great actors to work with. It’s definitely a tough spot for Jenna because at a certain point it’s a battle between emotional connection and physical connection, which chemistry is more powerful, do you need both, do you need one or the other, does one come second or should you just trust that because one is there other one will be?

What can viewers expect from the show in the twelve episodes coming up?

Ashley Rickards: I think they can expect very relatable characters with a lot of depth, with some laughs. I think they’ll find that this is a heartwarming show. And I hope that they’ll be empowered by it. I hope that they’ll learn something from Jenna and the other characters, what they go through.

I hope that kids, young adults, adults are less judgmental towards the people around them and sort of follow Jenna on that path. Also, one of the major themes of the show is that you can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control the way that you feel about them. So, I think that’s a wonderful statement and if more people realized that I think they’d be a lot happier. So, that’s what they can expect.

So, fictional gun to your head, Jake or Matty?

Ashley Rickards: Team Switzerland over here. I’m not. I’m hoping that we get some diehard fans and there are definitely Team Matty and Team Jake shirts, but I’m not revealing. Also, as Jenna and as Ashley, like either one, I’m not sure who she belongs with, but I do know who the better kisser is and that is never ever going to be revealed. Never.

You can’t bring that up and not follow up.

Ashley Rickards: I just did and I’m never revealing it.

Is there something about the show or your character that you haven’t been asked about?

Ashley Rickards: One of the best parts about that show is that I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I didn’t wear mascara. No eye shadow. Nothing. It was just concealer and powder and that was great. There we go.

Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?

Ashley Rickards: Yeah. I’m actually on set right now at a camera test for a new movie called ‘Struck By Lightning’. Chris Colfer wrote it and Brian Dannelly is going to direct it. It’s really funny. It’s a really great script, and Dermot Mulroney is in it. Christina Hendricks. Chris Colfer. It’s going to be a good one. I can’t wait.

If you could guest star on any TV show that you want which one would it be?

Ashley Rickards: 24. I’m obsessed because my parents used to deprive me of it. When it first came on I was too young to stay up that late, and I remember hiding down and watching between the stair banisters, watching Jack Bauer save the day. Now that I have Netflix since then I can watch it whenever. I’m on season five now. I’m obsessed. I’ve been watching it for about three weeks now and I would love to guest star on that show if it was still on.

They’re thinking of doing a movie. Fingers crossed for you, right?

Ashley Rickards: Oh, yeah, I’m there.