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Ashleigh Cummings Feature

Ashleigh Cummings Feature

Winner of Heath Ledger Scholarship Award winner 2016.

It is a prestigious honour to just be nominated for the Heath Ledger Scholarship Award, but to win it means not only accolades but a long list of exciting opportunities priceless to any young actor. Already established in solid film roles including Tomorrow when the War Began (2010), Galore (2013), and television success in Gallipoli, Puberty Blues and Mrs Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Ash is not only stunningly talented, she is a humble, gracious, deserved 2016 Heath Ledger Scholarship recipient and an utmost pleasure to talk with.

Shane A. Bassett – Congratultions! Do you remember first reactions the moment you were named winner?

Ashleigh Cummings – Yes vividly, cried for ten minutes. Having applied five times before then to win it with Heath’s father Kim telling me, he’s such a beautiful person. I was speechless and couldn’t stop crying.

SAB – Had you ever met Heath?

AC – Never regrettably, he seemed such an incredible person and hearing stories about him confirms that. It’s an honour receiving the award as I aspire to be like him as a person and accomplished actor.

SAB –You’re a well deserved winner Ash, all your work so far has been outstanding. I especially liked Galore.

AC – Thank you so much, that’s great to hear. It was actually a truly magical project to work on, all the creatives were phenomenal. It’s a beautiful story and script, I adored the rest of the cast. Glad you saw it.

SAB – Have you got a spot picked out to put the award?

AC – It’s practical and not a physical award, it’s more of a series of prizes to reap the benefits of. I am extremely excited to partake in the training and mentoring opportunities, etc, being offered.

SAB – Will it change the way you look for or accept roles?

AC – The experiences I have won with the scholarship with some of the best in our industry in the world may impact future decisions but not sure. I found Heath as a mentor in a way, studying his films forming a connection with people you admire, it’s the beauty of what we do, a gift.

SAB – Can you narrow down a favourite Heath role?

AC – Of course the classic Brokeback Mountain, pure brilliance. I like Candy with Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush also phenomenal in it. And obviously as The Joker (Dark Knight) really showcased his vast range.

SAB – Watching you act you seem so natural and the type of person who cares for others on set.

AC – Why thank you, I certainly like being around people. I was fortunate my whole childhood, I travelled with my parents so always in a new place, new people, an incredible training ground having to adapt to new situations all the time. This is why I am extremely comfortable slotting into variable acting environments.

SAB – You have done significant short films, award winning television and feature films. Is writing or directing something worth considering some day?

AC – I consider everything an opportunity of growth, I know many people try to mould their career a certain way but for me I get attracted to stories, the character, the people involved and whatever form that may take. Intimate shoots I adore, sometimes those short films you’re running around helping with lights or whatever is one of my favourite things. I always thought I would be a lawyer-psychologist-traveller-writer (laughs). Writing has always been a huge passion of mine so definitely want in that realm while I’ve had lots of people say get out of the director’s head, you’re meant to be acting (laughs). So my natural instincts lead to an overall picture and I am really excited to get into that creative position one day.

SAB – You proved you can sing in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

AC – Did I? Oh right that doesn’t count, it was a group Christmas Carol (laughs). My family have heard me sing in the shower with robustness and I do love playing the guitar or singing, especially growing up with a nanny who sang around the house.

SAB – Maybe you can direct a sequel to Razzle Dazzle (her first acting appearance)?

AC – Perhaps (laughs), that was so long ago. I was really only an extra but spent enough time on set to ignite my curiosity. It wasn’t until around 14 that I understood what acting really was, how it delved so deeply into psychology and storytelling. Right there are two of my greatest passions combined and changing the world hopefully (laughs). Every single person changes the world on a second by second basis but I know whatever I do, I can put in a big effort. To me it’s a beautiful gift we have as actors, those extra decibels to talk about issues that we feel are important, then offer it telling stories while getting awareness out to others.

SAB – Did the other nominees offer you congratulations on the awards night?

AC – Some I had not had the opportunity to meet but many of them dear friends, some are my idols. So many have inspired me in more than just professional ways. Personally I can’t comprehend the ranking of art forms, to win I feel simply lucky to have had the judges aligned to me. The others are equally if not more talented than me, honestly I am who I am partly because of some of those people. Runners up, Sara West / Harley Bonner are beautiful friends.

Talking with many of my actor friends, I’m told there is an insurgence of strong female roles but this is really the second time I have been abroad for acting. Recently I made a film in New Zealand, so haven’t experienced anything myself in either race or female equality in the film industry issues. I guess i have noticed fewer females involved in the filmmaking process in Australia so I would love to see more. My friend actually got an audition for a character that didn’t say male or female, just strong build, that was really cool. As much as gender is a defining part of a person, a story can still be told that doesn’t have to be gender specific if other qualities are at the forefront of the character.

SAB – What can you tell me about upcoming film Hounds of Love?

AC – It’s an independent feature we filmed in Perth. Inspired by true events although not anything specific I believe. My part is Vicki who is kidnapped. There is a different story for each character, for mine it is about appreciating the love or life she has growing up fast while going through a traumatising experience. It’s a performance based piece which is incredible because our director cared about trying various options which you don’t often get in tight schedules. There were stunts that needed to be achieved and unique camera angles, he was just so adamant it didn’t mess with our grounded performances. The story is quite horrific.

SAB – Can’t wait, anything with you in it means quality. Congratulations again, thanks for the wonderful chat.

AC – Thanks Shane (laughs), you’re too kind.

Shane A. Bassett

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