In a quest to redefine the essence of creativity and community involvement in the entertainment industry, Ashlei Foushee‘s story is a vivid tapestry of passion, resilience, and purposeful artistry. From the disciplined stages of classical ballet in St. Louis to the dynamic world of film and television in Hollywood, Foushee’s journey mirrors a commitment to sustainable art that resonates with her audience and goes beyond the screen.
Embarking on her artistic voyage with a background in ballet and significant contributions to the St. Louis International Film Festival, Ashlei’s roots in performance and arts advocacy set the tone for her multifaceted career. Her move to Southern California was not just a geographical shift but a broadening of her artistic horizon. She earned a B.F.A in Theatre Performance and a B.A in Screenwriting from Chapman University, laying a foundation for her future endeavors.
Her roles in award-winning films like ‘Jinn’ and ‘Bad Ass’, and TV series such as HBO’s ‘Ballers’ and CBS’s ‘SWAT’, not only highlight her versatility as an actress but also her commitment to meaningful storytelling. Her recent work in the dark comedy ‘A Little White Lie’ and the upcoming gritty drama ‘On Fire’ further cements her place in the industry as a dynamic performer. Beyond her on-screen achievements, Ashlei’s dedication to social causes shines through her involvement with Kids In The Spotlight, empowering foster children through film and arts education, and her regular volunteering efforts at local soup kitchens and with Habitat Against Humanity.
The Untitled Magazine caught up with Ashlei to chat about her artistic journey, the interplay of her roles as an actress, writer, and producer, and her deep-rooted commitment to using her talents for social good.
Tell us about your childhood in St. Louis, Missouri – what was it like growing up there?
When I was a kid, I was so ready to grow up and move to the big city! I think now that I’m an adult, I have such love for my hometown. St. Louis is my home, and I grew up with such a community there. My family and friends there are very colorful people so I think that sparked a lot of my creativity early on.
You trained in classical ballet and performed professionally with the Moscow Ballet Theatre – how did you get into dance and performing?
I had a lot of energy as a child. I was always dancing around and putting on shows for whoever would watch. Lucky for me, I have the best parents in the world. They recognized that early passion for creativity and put me in dance. I loved it!
What eventually drew you to acting in TV and film? Did you always know that was where you wanted to end up?
I used to watch the 1980s version of Annie with Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters on repeat. I would sing and dance along to all of the songs. I was prepping for my first audition, and I didn’t know it! I got involved in the theater department in High School. I did all the plays and musicals, and it just became more and more apparent that I wanted to continue to pursue acting after graduation.
You studied theatre and screenplay writing at Chapman University – what were some of your most memorable experiences there?
Chapman was such a great college experience. I learned so much and met my best friend. I’d have to say the best memories came from being a part of all the shows our theater department put on. On the film side, my mentorship with Cathy Schulman will always be a cherished memory for me.
How did studying at Chapman inform your career as an actress?
It informed nearly everything! I wouldn’t be the actor I am today had I not gone to school.
Can you tell us about your role as Kayla in the new movie ‘On Fire’?
Yes! Kayla is a young and somewhat naive 9-11 operator. It’s only her second week on the job when a catastrophic forest fire breaks out. It was the most adult role I’ve played thus far in my career. I felt such a responsibility to honor the real-life first responders Kayla is based on.
How did you prepare for the role?
I did a lot of research on emergency call centers and first responders. I have a very dear friend who used to be a 9-11 operator so I spoke at length with her about the experience as well.
You also recently had a role in the dark comedy “A Little White Lie” starring Michael Shannon and Kate Hudson – can you tell us about your role in that film?
I play a college student at the university Michael Shannon’s character comes to speak at. That was such a fun experience because I got to watch Michael in action. He’s so brilliant and it was like a masterclass I got paid to be a part of!
What was it like working with such a notable cast?
Enlightening and inspiring. The type of thing you only dreamed about as a kid. I feel so blessed to call the people I grew up watching my colleagues now.
You have been on a number of TV shows from HBO’s Ballers, CBS’s SWAT, and Jane The Virgin! What are some highlights that you can share from working on these productions?
Whenever I’m on set I feel like a kid in a candy store, so it’s one long highlight reel to me! I would say working with Russell Brand on Ballers was a special experience. He’s such a fun guy and the way he goes in and out of character is an amazing thing to witness.
You have quite a varied resume of genres and characters you have played – do you prefer comedy or drama?
Both! I’m here for all of it!
You work with the nonprofit organization, Kids In The Spotlight – can you tell us about their mission and how you got involved?
Kids In The Spotlight provides art development for foster youth, particularly in the film realm. We work with the kids to help them make their own short films from the ground up and through every stage: writing, pre-production, casting, production and post. I originally was involved in the acting department. I have to say, I learned far more from the kids than they did from me!
You also support Habit For Humanity – can you tell us about their program and why it resonates with you?
Honestly, it’s an opportunity to help people and that’s what resonates with me. When it boils down to it, if I can be of service to others I’m down to be a part of it.
As a Los Angeles resident, what are some of your favorite things to do when you have downtime?
I’m an outdoorsy, active girlie. I love going on different hikes or to the beach. California has endless sunshine and I’m trying to soak up every last drop!
What’s next for you? Do you have anything else coming up that you are excited about? New roles or performances?
We’re just out of the strike so I’m excited to get back out there and start auditioning again. We’ll see what happens! I’m also finishing up my first feature script which I am going to produce in the new year. I’m very interested in getting into production and starting to flex my writing skills.
What would be your dream gig? Favorite actors or directors you would love to work with?
My dream gig is definitely to play Storm in an XMen movie. As far as actors, it’s a no-brainer – Denzel Washington.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Playing all the great roles and being a happy human!
Do you have a motto or words of wisdom you live by to stay inspired?
“I trust magic is unfolding”.
For more from Ashlei Foushee, follow her on Instagram.