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NUNN ON ONE TV: Ashley Romans bites into juicy role on AMC series 'NOS4A2'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2020-07-26

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Based on Joe Hill's novel of the same name, the AMC series NOS4A2 spins a vampire's tale in unexpected directions.

Out actor Zachary Quinto is the ominous Charlie Manx, who battles the gifted Vic McQueen, played by Ashleigh Cummings, for children's souls that are taken to a Christmas village. Think of the show as a mix between Netflix's Stranger Things and HBO's True Blood with a pinch of holiday tidings thrown in for good measure.

On the show, Ashley Romans is Tabitha Hutter, a detective working on the case who meets Maggie Leigh, a psychic with a Scrabble bag predicting the future. For season two, Romans was is a regular cast member and is in an on-screen relationship with Maggie.

Romans identifies as queer in real life and being this open in her career has certainly paid off. She has had several recurring roles, including on Showtime's Shameless, where she had a lesbian scene with Emma Kenney ( who plays Debbie on the show ). Romans also had a short run on another Showtime series called I'm Dying Up Here, about comedians in the 1970s competing to be on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Windy City Times: Start off by telling our readers about yourself.

Ashley Romans: I am from New Jersey. I grew up with two Jamaican parents. My mom owns a couple of Jamaican/Caribbean restaurants out in New Jersey.

I grew up loving theater and acting. I was by no means the most talented in my school. I didn't get the lead in school plays, but I loved the opportunity to be part of the theater scene though. I eventually got into Pace University School of Performing Arts in New York City, so I went there. As soon as I graduate, I moved to Los Angeles. After plays, I got representation to help me find television and film roles.

Currently, I do theater in California any chance I get. It's a very strong community.

WCT: I read you did a play called Rotterdam in LA.

AR: Yes. That was an incredible play written by Jon Brittain. It is about a lesbian couple and one of them realizes they are actually a man. They start to transition and it is about the couple dealing with those changes.

I have been really lucky to work with great stories that excite me. I have been blessed to work on LGBTQ+ stories with awesome casts. I totally understand that people were protective of this trans story. I felt it was an honor and responsibility to play that role. It makes total sense that trans people should be able to tell their own stories these days.

WCT: How did you land the role in NOS4A2?

AR: Tiffany Little Canfield was the casting director. She had always been super supportive of me, my career and my growth. It is rare in Hollywood, but there are casting directors who encourage growth. When she saw me in a play, she called me in for a role on I'm Dying Up Here and several other parts.

When I read the role of Tabitha Hutter on NOS4A2, it really resonated with me. I felt really lucky to read for it. It was the kind of writing that even if I didn't get the role, it was fun to have an audition like this.

WCT: Was your character always [supposed] to have this bigger arc in the second season?

AR: I think it was part of the plan, but you never know in Hollywood. They had told me on the first season that they would want me to come back for the second season, but those promises don't always come through. I had done some television roles where it was a guest spot and was talked about as recurring then I would never hear from them about it. I didn't hope or plan for anything, but I did come back.

In the book, Tabitha Hutter is a huge character. After I read that, I realized there was a strong possibility that I would be coming back. I really like how this show takes those characters and does their own jazz riff on it.

WCT: Does the author Joe Hill or his father, Stephen King, ever come on the set?

AR: I have never met Joe Hill. He has a very supportive presence on social media, though. He's one of those social media friends that is always liking your posts and always commenting.

While I have never met Stephen King either, it's very cool to be associated with him and that family. My character has the same first name as Joe Hill's mom Tabitha King. That was not just a coincidence and came with a lot of responsibility.

WCT: Talk about the lesbian relationship between your character Tabitha and the character of Maggie on NOS4A2.

AR: I love that the show is showing two women of color in a relationship and thriving. They compliment each other so well. Tabitha's relationship with Maggie really stems from Tabitha having an encounter when she was very young with something unexplained. It qualifies her to be a part of this team of superheroes. Tabitha is very protective of Maggie because Maggie had been opening her eyes for over eight years to a world she was not familiar with.

Tabitha is an FBI agent this season. That world is about what you can see and facts and results. On this season, Tabitha must learn to trust on another level in something bigger than her. Her muscle, her gun, her cuffs and laws are not going to solve the ultimate problem. I think we are all learning that today in real life. It's an important discussion. At what point is law enforcement useless? There is a bigger power here and Charlie Manx is not going to bow down to the law.

WCT: I saw your activism on social media. Did you attend any protests?

AR: Yes. I would go a few times a week sometimes. In LA, it is probably the safest place to be. Everyone wears masks and there is hand sanitizer everywhere. It's a great vibe.

WCT: How was your Shameless experience?

AR: It was so cool! To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the show before that, like the diehard fans are, but to see the sets and how they work was awesome. I was cast because the casting director John Levey saw me in a play and called me in for the role. My scene partner, Emma Kenney, and I grew up in the same town only a few streets from each other. We went to the same high schools. It was pretty shocking actually.

It was cool to originate a character on a show that has touched so many people. I wasn't aware of the scope of how many people watch that show.

WCT: Did you film any of Shameless in Chicago?

AR: No. The interior shots are filmed in LA and the exterior shots are filmed in Chicago. I have never been to Chicago, but love so many people from there. I did a play called Charm, by Philip Dawkins, who is from there.

WCT: Do you recommend that young actors do a lot of theater?

AR: Yes. A performer should try all sorts of things, especially now during a pandemic. Instagram and TikTok posts are valid forms of art. It is about expression and reaching people. Theater is a great medium and making your own content is important too.

WCT: Are you stuck not filming currently?

AR: We just finished filming season two of NOS4A2 in February before the pandemic. We will find out if we have another season soon.

I was set to film a who-done-it mystery movie that was postponed, but I am still doing training for the stunts. I hope to maybe do a musical. This is the time to really play and explore!

NOS4A2 visits Christmasland until the second season concludes Sunday, Aug. 23, on AMC at 9 p.m. CT.


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