Name: Ashley En-fu Matthews
50% Han Chinese. My mother’s family is 100% Han Chinese with ancient roots. She was born in Taiwan but, as like most people of her generation, her parents and grandparents escaped Mainland China to Taiwan during the mass political exodus. Her family is very proud of their Chinese roots and often refer to themselves as Chinese rather than Taiwanese. Her favorite motto is “I am 100% Chinese made in Taiwan.” I’m also 50% Caucasian (Anglo-Saxon), specifically English and Scottish on my father’s side. My father and his family were born and raised Canadian with Scottish and English roots that date back to the revolutionary war in North America, and even further back to King Henry VIII. Because their ancestors were English Royalists, after the war they migrated to Canada, as it was still under British rule. My sister and I were born in Canada and grew up between there and America, so I often say I’m Chinese-Canadian (Canasian) or half Chinese half white.
Hometown: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada but grew up primarily in Irvine, in Southern California
Current City: My home base is NYC but I also have a home in Las Vegas
I’m currently in the 10th Anniversary Revival Production of the Tony Nominated Broadway musical Rock of Ages. Our show, like every other show in NYC, is currently dark due to the Covid-19 crisis as of this writing, but it has been running in NYC since July ’19. So, much like the rest of the entertainment industry, I’m waiting until we can get back to work, while keeping myself occupied with creative projects and lots of Zoom meetings and Netflix!
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
I’ve been lucky enough to be in 2 productions of Rock of Ages – the Las Vegas company where I got to play Waitress #1 and Sherrie Christian, and now the 10th anniversary revival where I play Reporter Constance Sack. ROA is such a family and an important part of my life – not to mention the show is the most FUN a job could ever be! I’ve also been really lucky to get to travel the country and even to Asia to perform. I was in a production of Miss Saigon that toured to Macau, and it was such a special experience to get to share that opportunity with an incredible cast that was mostly Asian. We felt very honored to bring that story to Asia and explore Macau and Hong Kong together.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I was born in Canada
I’m a self defined Cat Lady
For a while I was a professional Fire Eater and a live mermaid for parties and events
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
I’ve been really lucky to have been able to meet Asian audience members at the stage door of Rock of Ages who waited for me to ask if I was Asian and say how excited they were to see Asian talent on a Broadway stage, and how much that inspired them. One of those moments really stuck with me and moved me, I was in tears – my mother happened to be at that show and saw the whole exchange. That was pretty special.
In terms of acting highlights – I got to play Cassie in A Chorus Line when I was very young, and I will always treasure being able to step into that iconic red skirt and dance the infamous 5 minute mile! I only hope I’ll get a chance to revisit that again in the future.
And most recently I was lucky enough to be featured as a campaign model for CHICAGO on Broadway (though I am not currently with the show) for their advertisements and “Broadway will be back!” social media campaign, which is SUCH an incredible honor!
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Adaptability is key. Learn to roll with any and all punches. Don’t take anything seriously and don’t let anyone put you in a box – even yourself. That also means don’t get into a place where you aren’t willing to try new things. (i.e. “I’ll only take lead roles because I’m too good for the chorus.”) You’ll miss out on so much and so many opportunities and experiences and people. The biggest advice I can give is surround yourself with a supportive team and support group – this business takes a lot. You’ll have moments that are harder than others, and the more support, the better.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I’ve always wanted to be in the arts. I don’t ever recall wanting to do anything else…I have a knack for event planning, but performing was always on the mind, whether it was dance or theatre or specialty gigs.
When did you know you wanted to have a career as a performer?
I think as soon as I realized I was capable. I was always a dancer for fun without much training in Musical Theatre but lots of exposure to it, thanks to my dad who loves musicals and exposed my sister and I at a young age. When I was in middle school I was told by a music teacher that I could sing, and sing well – so I realized I was actually capable of doing the art form I really loved. I’ve always been a natural actor so it was the perfect storm. As soon as the realization dawned on me I knew it was the only career I wanted to focus my energy on if I could. After getting a job at Disneyland as a performer in my senior year of high school and simultaneously getting cast in regional shows, I knew my energy hadn’t been misplaced, and I could make a career work.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you’d like to highlight?
My close friends Mark Shunock and Cheryl Daro run an amazing non profit in Las Vegas called Mondays Dark that highlights local performers and local charities every month. They take on a lot and do incredible work. As always, I would also like to give a shout out to the Actors Fund who, even outside of a global health crisis, are a lifeline for actors and artists year round!
Who do you admire?
I admire anyone who wants to chase this dream, but speaking as an Asian woman – Gemma Chan is an idol of mine, I have a soft spot for fellow Hapa/foodie/and activist Chrissy Tiegan, and the incomparable Jon Jon Briones is not only an incredible actor and colleague, but an incredible human who is a huge inspiration for me as an Asian performer in this business!
To find out more about Ashley, please visit her at:
Twitter: @ ashleyematthews
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