Starburst caught up with actress Ashley Bell to talk about her starring role in The Last Exorcism Part II and more...
Starburst: What was your childhood like?
Ashley Bell: I was born in Santa Monica, California, but grew up in San Fernando Valley. Both my parents were actors. My father moved into doing voiceovers for the animated films such as Transformers and G.I. Joe and my mother is a Groundlings comedy group alumni. As a kid, we’d play in the backyard with Nerf guns, running around having fun. We’d have all kinds of pretend adventures and I could play a different character each time. I always knew I wanted to be an actress and my parents were very supportive of it.
My dad would take me to see all kinds of horror films such as Poltergeist, Susperia and my favorite; Pumpkinhead. I loved that film! When the special effects team was fitting my fingers for the prosthetics from the first film I had to go down to their studio. They gave me a tour and there in the corner was the creature Pumpkinhead! It was exciting to see something from my childhood that scared me.
I’d also watch a lot of the classic films with Bettie Davis, James Dean, Judy Garland. It’s important to know where you come from to know where you’re going as an actress. My parents encouraged me to pursue my dream and I enrolled at New York University to study drama.
What can you tell Starburst about Last Exorcism Part II?
Part II continues the very moment after the first one ended. It’s a continuation of the story. Nell doesn’t remember what happened to her and doesn’t know where she is. The film takes place in New Orleans and she’s trapped in the middle of choosing between good and evil during a decadent time.
How did you prepare for your character, Nell Sweetzer?
I did a lot of research through books and the internet to see what happened to people who encountered possession. Nell’s character has basically a love affair with the devil possessing her soul manipulating her actions. I also took cotillion lessons from a school in San Fernando Valley with the encouragement of my parents at a young age and that helped form Nell’s character having that Southern grace the women have there.
What kind of character would you like to play someday?
I’d like to explore a period piece film. It would be interesting to play a character in a film like that.
What’s up next?
I did a post apocalyptic film where I performed my own stunts called The Day. I have The Marine: Homefront coming out with Neal O’Donough , a romantic comedy called Bounceback, the graphic novel film adaptation of Sparks where I got to play a superhero. That was a lot of fun! I got to study muay thai martial arts and that was the best workout I ever had.
I’m also behind the camera too. I completed a documentary called Love and Bananas about the plight of Cambodian logging elephants being rescued and taken to a sanctuary. A lot of elephants were mistreated in the past with bull hooks (which are now outlawed) being used by their owners forcing them to work. Elephants are very intelligent and emotional creatures. You can teach an elephant to do the same things with love and bananas rather than using forceful methods, hence the title.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II hits US cinemas March 1st, and in the UK on June 7th.