It's safe to say Ashley Liao is having an incredible year — from starring as Clemensia Dovecote in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, the prequel to The Hunger Games, to playing Ever Wong in Love in Tapei, the actress is on top of the world.
"When I think back to my time in Berlin when I filmed The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, it made me realize that these renowned fantastic larger than life actors are so kind in real life and always gave me the time of day. We always had great conversations. Peter Dinklage is one of the funniest people I've ever met and Jason Schwartzman would always chat while getting coffee. I look up to these actors so much, and I am grateful for who they are as people. That is something I will always keep with me — you have to keep kindness at the center of it all because it definitely trickles down from the top," the 22-year-old exclusively tells Morning Honey.
When the brunette beauty first discovered she scored the role in the prequel, it was a dream come true — especially since she's been a fan of the franchise since the first one came out in 2012.
"I remember watching the movie over and over again at sleepovers with my friends in middle school. So, when the audition hit my inbox, I was really nervous. I was like, 'There's no way they're going to pick me.' I got a call back and they booked me two weeks later for this role. After I posted about it on social media, the entire fandom was so welcoming. When it came to filming with the cast and crew, it was fantastic, even though I wasn't in Berlin filming for very long," she shares.
Funny enough, in order to get into character, Liao admits she was easily reminded of her cat. "They have that same boldness and confidence about them — that 'it' girl factor. I do think about my cat a lot more than I probably should for character inspiration," she quips.
When the directors would call "action," Liao notes "getting those red nails done" impacted the way she played her. "I think if I had just had a regular manicure, I wouldn't have been so flirty or confident, but those red nails gave me a lot of confidence," she admits. "In general, I am usually listening to music right before I am filming, depending on what kind of energy I need. If I need to be sad, I am listening to sad music for at least 10 minutes before we start filming."
The rising star still has to pinch herself that her role is so pivotal. "It's insane to me — and what an honor to get to be a part of that!" she says. "I have so many people DMing me being like, 'I watched you in Fuller House and now I am watching you in The Hunger Games.' I cannot believe so many people have been along for the ride. I think I did freak out, to be honest. I tried to keep my cool on the outside, but internally I am panicking!"
After the movie released on November 17, it received rave reviews. "The one thing I've always admired about The Hunger Games franchise is how fan driven it is, and I think that the fans really fall in love with every single character regardless of how much screen time they have. We are so lucky to have such great fans," she says.
Additionally, it's not lost on Liao how fortunate she is to be alongside other actors her age. "We really got to know each other quite well," she notes of the cast. "On my first day, I was really nervous about making friends but then it happened so organically and quickly. I am really lucky and grateful to have had that friendship and companionship, especially being abroad."
And not to mention she got to work alongside Viola Davis and Rachel Zegler — two powerhouses in their own right. "I didn't have a ton of scenes with Rachel, but I've been a fan of hers since she was uploading covers on YouTube and have admired her voice and how successful she's been in this industry," she gushes. "Viola gave me a lot of advice and we talked about her time at Juilliard. I'll always remember what it was like on that first day when she walked on set and she came into character and everyone looked at her. It's really hard to quiet down a set of people, but as soon as she walked in, it was silent. I admire that."
Meanwhile, the Fuller House alum has been fortunate to find success in the young adult genre, too, especially when she scored the lead in Love in Tapei, a rom-com featuring Ever (Liao) finding love in Taiwan. "I see a lot of myself in Ever. The hardest part about becoming Ever was the physicality of it because I have not been in a dance class in a minute," she says of her character. "When I found out Ever does ballet, I immediately threw myself into ballet intensives, and when it was time to actually film, there were some things I was learning 10 minutes before we started rolling. I am so incredibly thankful I got to learn that skillset."
"I was also so blessed to work opposite of Ross Butler, Nico Hiraga and Chelsea Zhang. We had the most fantastic time getting to explore Taiwan. We also spent the holidays there. I am so thankful to have these great friendships," she says.
While filming Love in Tapei — which is available on Paramount+ — Liao was number one on the call sheet — something she is still getting used to. "It was so much more work than I ever thought it would be, but I am incredibly grateful that I understand that now because when I look at someone like Rachel Zegler, who is number one on a call sheet, I can't imagine how much pressure and how much stress she's under because of that. It gave me a lot of insight into other actors and what it's like for them to be number one and how to be a better costar because of that," she states. "I couldn't believe it was real and happening, especially as someone who is Taiwanese American. Getting to be number one on the call sheet is one of the highlights of my career."
"I want my legacy to be kindness and that is something I've been thinking about this year as a lot as I've been doing larger projects," she adds.
As for what the future holds, Liao is finishing out her undergraduate degree. "I am incredibly grateful I get to do both school and focus on my work at the same time, and that's finally coming to a close at the end of the year. I can't wait to see what happens when everything starts to pick up! I am so ready," she concludes.