Annaleigh Ashford has a knack for playing irrepressible blondes. She made her Broadway debut as a boy-mad bimbo in “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” originated the purpose of saucy appreciate desire Lauren in “Kinky Boots” and gained a Tony playing madcap Essie in the screwball common “You Just can’t Choose It With You.”
Now, she’s heading dark.
In “Impeachment: American Crime Tale,” the Forex series premiering Tuesday, Ashford plays Paula Jones, the (brunette) Arkansas state worker who sued President Monthly bill Clinton for alleged sexual harassment in 1994.
It is a rough purpose: Ashford’s Jones grapples with sexual trauma, psychological abuse from her partner and unrelenting ridicule from the press, who painted her as trailer trash and used her as a dimwitted pawn to try to bring down the president.
And in contrast to Monica Lewinsky — portrayed in “Crime Story” by Beanie Feldstein — the real Jones has not enjoyed a #MeToo-period reappraisal.
Nonetheless sunny Ashford felt a connection with the uncomfortable, vilified Jones.
“I knew [the role] was this kind of a match for me,” the 36-yr-previous actress instructed The Publish throughout a recent online video simply call from Los Angeles, exactly where she’s filming the 2nd time of her CBS sitcom, “B Positive.”
“There was a childlike quality about her that I identified genuinely significant,” Ashford reported. “And staying a sort-of victim of the patriarchy was an important component of her narrative that I wanted to investigate.”
However Ashford experienced a tiny position in a past time of director Ryan Murphy’s “Crime Story” sequence — about the assassination of manner designer Gianni Versace — she experienced to audition for Jones. She sprayed her hair darkish brown and even gave herself an at-house perm to glance the section.
Right after she was cast, Ashford worked with a movement coach to internalize Jones’ hunched-above, submissive gait for months even though the manufacturing was delayed owing to COVID. (Alongside with her husband, actor Joe Tapper, and 4-12 months-previous son, she invested the early pandemic strolling by Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal — “the trash river,” Ashford termed it — and walking to Red Hook for Hometown Bar B Que.)
In the sequence, Ashford athletics multiple wigs, a prosthetic nose and even braces. “I would commit 2½ to three hours in hair and makeup,” she reported. Even the garments — acid-clean jeans and white Reeboks, scrunchies and floral dresses with monumental shoulder pads — matched outfits Jones wore in actual existence.
“In the initially episode, there’s a scene exactly where I do an interview at the CPAC Conference, and we observed the serious outfit that [Jones] wore at the CPAC Conference,” Ashford mentioned. “Unfortunately, [Jones’] lawful funds were not managed properly, and at the conclude of it all, she experienced very little. And at some stage in her lifetime, she auctioned [the outfit] off and it ended up on eBay. And so I wore it on the present.”
Ashford was a child residing in suburban Denver when the Clinton impeachment scandal broke. “I keep in mind kind of listening to about it when I would look at late-night time comedy,” she mentioned. “I remember the girls [involved in the scandal] becoming made pleasurable of mercilessly.”
Back then, Ashford, who begun performing skillfully at 9, did not necessarily think about herself taking part in a tabloid fixture in the upcoming. “I used to go to Blockbuster, and I would lease out each individual one musical that they experienced,” she recalled. “I viewed ‘All That Jazz’ so lots of occasions that I wore out their duplicate.”
She moved to New York Metropolis at 17 and, after stints as a clown, a go-go dancer and a cafe hostess, obtained her 1st major crack in the touring output of “Wicked,” in 2005. Ashford manufactured her Broadway debut a calendar year later, in “Legally Blonde,” at 21. She soon started participating in the varieties of characters that delighted her as a kid: a brassy lesbian hooker in the Television set collection “Masters of Sex” an exuberant doggy (certainly, a doggy) in the stage present “Sylvia” and Dot, the mistress to Impressionist painter Georges Seurat (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal) in a revival of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George.”
Ashford went to LA about a yr back to start off taking pictures “Impeachment” and then “B Beneficial,” in which she plays a messy but huge-hearted kidney donor. In the meantime, her son was nonetheless attending his school in Brooklyn via Zoom until June. “We did not know if we had been going to be coming back again to New York I had no strategy what was gonna transpire with, you know, my daily life,” she reported.
For now she’s making the most of the West Coast lifestyle. “In LA, the deliver is two times as superior and 50 % the selling price [as it is in New York,]” she stated. “And the sunlight will come out just about every working day, so I will in no way say no to a small extra Vitamin D.”
But Ashford explained she just cannot wait around to go back to New York, especially to Broadway.
“I’d appreciate to perform Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd someday, and I’ve bought a handful of much more years remaining to do ‘Sweet Charity’ [before my hip gives out] — I just want to be in one far more dance demonstrate,” she mentioned. “And I [joke] that my husband and I should be in ‘Who’s Scared of Virginia Woolf?’ just about every time we have a great row!
“I skip Broadway. … I skip the stickiness of New York, the magic,” she mentioned, sounding wistful. “I’ve lived in New York more time than I stay any where else … I have experienced a number of residences there — multiple unfortunate apartments with no closet space. I have had a ton of roaches I have experienced a good deal of mice. I have had a child in New York. I’ve gotten caught in the rain and the snow with the stroller and groceries several occasions in New York: I’m a New Yorker!”