Ashley Rickards: “I’ve Been the Bitch and the Overweight Girl”
When the MTV hit Awkward returns for part two of its fourth season tonight at 10 p.m. EST, it won’t be without the high-octane plot twists, PTSD-inducing depictions of teen bullying, and rapid fire, teen-speak dialogue. At the center of it all is Ashley Rickards, who stars as Jenna, a remarkably well-adjusted teen making her way through the pitfalls of high school life. Cosmopolitan.com spoke to Rickards about the trouble brewing at Palos Hills High, her real-life literary debut, and why she wants to help girls love themselves.
Season three left on a pretty crazy note. Can we expect to see a lot more of the madness with the Eva storyline?
I mean, we’re going to have to come to a point where either the shit comes down or the lies go on, both of which will drive either party absolutely crazy. So there’s more drama to be had there.
Phew! Is there any hope for Jenna and Luke?
You know what? I love his character. And Evan [Williams], as an actor, brought a lot of energy to the set. So, yes, there is, hopefully. And I’d really like to see [that], personally. I actually DMed him on Twitter; I’m waiting for a reply. But, anyway, we’re clearly fans of his, so he will be back.
Jenna’s getting ready to go to college. Is the show going to follow her and show her on campus?
I don’t know. This season, the show’s going to take us through spring break and into summer, so we’ll see.
It would be really fun to play her as a college student, I would imagine.
Oh, I would love that. Are you kidding? It would be so much fun.
Is it ever difficult to keep up with the abbreviation-heavy lingo on the show? Do you ever have to look up terms that are in the scripts?
Some of them. But, for the most part, I’m pretty good myself at making up words that suit a situation quite perfectly. So I get it; I get the language. That snappy, abbreviated tone is something I really love to do personally and certainly in my book [Get Your Sh!t Together, a March release from Harlequin].
Let’s talk about your book. What’s it about, exactly?
It’s a self-help/advice book for young adults anywhere from 15 to 23, and we cover everything. We cover hair, makeup, nails, styling, fashion, fitness, finance, organization, interior design, relationships, family relationships, friendships, fear, dreams, skill sets, talents. The very first chapter sets the tone: It’s about accepting yourself for who you are, [having] a deep level of self-acceptance. Because I’ve been both the bitch in the front of the class and the awkward, overweight girl in the back who has no friends, and both of those people could have gotten an instant makeover and felt good for a little bit — as I can attest to trying. But the real-life changing, the pathway to the best version of yourself, is to start from the very, very core.
It’s also pretty frickin’ funny. And I tie my own personal experiences into an essay before each chapter. I’m really proud of it; it’s my baby. I’m currently working on the web content for it, all the blogs and stuff. It’s been a journey.
What made you want to take on a project like this?
I love writing. As a teenager, it’s practically required that you write poetry, so I started off with that. [Since] then, I’ve written screenplays and hopefully those will go somewhere someday. But this book has really been an opportunity for me to go after my mission statement, which is just to inspire. To inspire women to think far, far outside what society expects of them, what society thinks of them and what society says is possible.
Do a lot of girls and young women tell you that they relate to the depictions of them on the show?
Yes, that’s the reason we’ve kept this audience. The depictions on the show are probably what parents are in denial about — but what teenagers and young adults relate to because it’s the truth. And in my book, I also don’t feel like teenagers need any more sugarcoating in their lives. They’re going to do what they’re going to do, and someone with personal experience and an outreach needs to tell them and advise them how to be the best version of themselves in this world.