This is Me: Ashley Bell
“The Last Exorcism” was a big moment for you. How did it feel to return to the project and work on “The Last Exorcism: Part II?” What was it like returning to the character of Nell Sweetzer?
For me, “The Last Exorcism: Part I” was such an amazing film and Nell is such an amazing role; I was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an MTV Movie Award and that was such an experience. The crazy thing is, when Part I first came out, horror and thriller fans came out to see it in droves! It really was a great project to be a part of.
When I came back on for Part II, I was rebuilding the character. I needed to piece Nell back together; she was so broken at the end of Part I, and going into Part II I had to figure out what I could mend. I mean here she is in New Orleans, the city of temptation and Mardi Gras, and there are so many things going on that she has to deal with after everything she went through in the first film. So I really enjoyed working with that and figuring out how Nell would handle all of these experiences.
“The Last Exorcism” is part of a long tradition of exorcism films. What is it like working within a genre with so much cinematic history to play off of?
It was cool filming the first one because Daniel Stamm, the director, sat me down and made me watch every exorcist movie ever made. And when I was done, he said “Don’t do that.” He really wanted to reinvent the genre and do something that nobody has ever seen before. That’s one of the great things about the horror genre, there is so much potential for something new and exciting. Every horror film wants to push things in a new direction and give audiences something different.
As an actress, it’s always about doing something that has never been done. Ed Gass-Donnelly, the director for Part II, wanted the same thing so it was great for me to get that opportunity again, to really push myself and create something new.
Filming of “The Exorcist” was supposedly full of bad luck and unusual occurrences. Any spooky stories from the set of “The Last Exorcism: Part II?”
I think the creepiest part is what we’re doing in the scenes. When you’re playing the devil, evil has no limits—nothing is too much. And having to portray that kind of evil requires a lot on both an emotional and physical level—it really tests your skills since you have to work within your limits to portray something that has no limits.
But that’s what’s fun for an actor, pushing your limits and doing something outside your comfort zone.
You’ve also done a lot of voice-over work for video games. How does that experience compare to filming a movie?
Voice acting is a skill; it takes your whole body to bring the character to life. What’s great about voice-over is you can show up however you want. But it still requires work, you still have to bring that character to life. You get to be a witch, or a teeny tiny butterfly, or a giant, monstrous ogre and you have to use your whole body to express that.
My dad was actually a voice-over actor, which means I had the best bed-time stories growing up. I recently got to work with him on his project “The LeBrons” which is this series about the family of LeBron James. And I was so excited to have the chance to work with him, it was something I had never done before and it is such an amazing series. I am really glad I got to be a part of that.
Do you enjoy playing video games? If so, what are some of your own favorite video games?
I actually don’t play a lot of video games. I was a part of the game “Sorcery” and that was a great project, but I’ve never really played any myself.
My parents always wanted me outdoors as much as possible growing up. And my summers were spent watching horror movies with my dad. I saw all the classics—“The Exorcists,” “Poltergeist,” all of these amazing films.
Part of what’s so great about filming is the locations for these films. In “The Last Exorcism: Part II” we filmed in these beautiful gothic houses in New Orleans, absolutely stunning architecture and so much history. And I just finished a project, “The Marine: Homefront”, which was shot in Vancouver. It’s an action film, so we were running all over and I got to see so much. It was very cold, but such an amazing experience.
So you are very involved in Elephants in Crisis. Aside from your love of the animals, what drew you to this project?
Yes, I am! It’s such a great organization. I’m a very close friend of Davis Casselman, who is the founder of the Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary and the owner of Elephants in Crisis, and he helped me get involved. I actually knew about this problem ten years ago. I remember seeing these elephants and how they were being mistreated and there wasn’t much we could do. I feel like now we have enough evidence to really put an end to the violence and change the way people look at this issue. Our goal is to raise awareness and by doing so I feel like we really give a voice to the voiceless.
How is work on your documentary coming along?
The documentary is really incredible. Two weeks ago I was in Cambodia and I got to experience so many mazing things. We rode along the side of a helicopter, flew over Cambodia, walked elephants through the raw jungle, met monks, visited these sanctuaries, and just did so many things that I never would have imagined.
People need to be aware of the issue and see how these elephants are being treated and, more importantly, rehabilitated and given a second chance at life. I just feel like this documentary will show people the rebirth of Cambodia as the elephants are getting an opportunity at the rebirth of life.
Are there any other organizations that you support? Any other projects in the works?
There are a bunch! I’m coming out in a romantic comedy called “The Bounceback” which is premiering at South by Southwest along with an epic romance called “Chasing Shakespeare.” There is also “The Marine: Homefront,” which comes out on DVD March 5th, and “Sparks,” an action based on the comic, that comes out at the Cinequest Film Festival March 1st.
I also wanted to point out how much I appreciated the use of cruelty-free make-up at my shoot. It was Jouer, which is my favorite brand and it looked so beautiful. I am a vegetarian and a huge lover of animals, and I was really happy to use products that have not been tested on animals. I just think it is really important to use these cruelty-free products and put a stop to animal testing.