Ashley Tisdale Talks SONS OF ANARCHY, How She Got Cast, the Physicality of the Role, and More

     October 2, 2012


Sons of Anarchy guest star Ashley Tisdale plays Emma Jean, a high-earning escort at Diosa International, owned and overseen by Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits).  A huge fan of the show, the former Disney star got her wish to be a part of the action when show creator Kurt Sutter offered her the guest arc as a high-priced escort who seemingly has a knack for causing trouble with SAMCRO.

During this recent interview to discuss her experience on the popular FX drama series, Ashley Tisdale talked about how the role came about, what viewers can expect from her character, how much fun she had with the more physical aspects, how she would like to continue to do more challenging and gritty roles, what was most memorable about the entire experience, and how she’d love to reappear on the show, at some point.  Check out what she had to say after the jump.

Note: Spoilers are discussed

Sons-of-Anarchy-Ashley-TisdaleQuestion:  How did you get this role?

ASHLEY TISDALE:  I didn’t audition for the role.  I actually was just a really big fan of the show.  It’s a funny story, but my dad built my house, and also actually built for Kurt Sutter and Katey Sagal.  I’ve been in love with the show, and I was always like, “Dad, you’ve got to tell Kurt that I want to be on the show.”  I’ve known Katey and Kurt, for a long time.  But, my dad is so quiet and shy, he said, “No, no, I can’t do that.”  It just so happened that Kurt was writing Emma Jean and actually asked my dad, “I’ve got a favor to ask you.  I would love for Ashley to be on the show.”  My dad was like, “Oh, my God, she’s gonna die!”  He definitely thought of me for the character.  At first, my agents were like, “I don’t know.  We have to read it,” but I was like, “I’ve got to do it because it’s one of my favorite shows.  I’ve been a big fan of it for years!”

Do you know how much the character was already laid out when it was brought to you, and did you get to provide any of your own input on it?

TISDALE:  The episode was written.  He told me that he had thought about me just because they wanted her to be this young, Disney-esque girl that you wouldn’t expect to be a high-priced escort.  He met with me right before I started shooting, just to talk about it, and it was really straightforward.  With every character, I just bring something that I can make my own.  It was definitely different from anything that I’ve ever done, and I was very nervous, but Kurt and everybody were just so cool about it.

Sons-of-Anarchy-Ashley-TisdaleBecause of your Disney past, hardcore fans are having a little trouble adjusting to the idea of you playing a bad girl.  What can viewers expect to see from Emma Jean?

TISDALE:  First of all, I love Sons of Anarchy.  I was so excited to be able to be on this show, just because I personally watch it.  Of course, I come from Disney and I have a lot of young fans, but I do have fans who have grown with me, as well.  I’m now 27, and I was just really excited to do something different, for a change.  I always want to grow, as an actress, and this was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I thought it was super exciting to do something that I haven’t done, and to have people see me in a different light.  And I had a great time doing it.  Emma Jean is a high-priced escort, but she gets into the club and they blame a couple of things on her.  She’s in trouble.  She’s high-priced because she is definitely the young high school looking girl.  There’s nothing too crazy, though.

Your role on Sons of Anarchy involves some action scenes.  Did you enjoy playing the more physical aspects?  Is that something you’d like to do, in the future?

TISDALE:  Yes, that was definitely so much fun.  I did a bit of stunt action scenes in a movie I did a long time ago, but it was nothing compared to this.  It was actually my first time ever being on a motorcycle, and Charlie Hunnam was the first person to give me a ride.  I thought that was amazing because I am a big fan of his, and I had the best time.  I don’t get starstruck because I’ve met Angelina Jolie and tons of people, but because I watch the show religiously, I just was so starstruck.  Every single time I’d be sitting in hair and make-up and somebody else would come into the room, I would freak out.  The worst was the 2nd episode that I had to do because everybody in the show was there.  I was shaking, I was so nervous, but it was the coolest thing ever.  I’d love to do more action stuff, in the future.

Sons-of-Anarchy-Ashley-TisdaleWith this role being quite different from your previous work, what did you do to prepare for the physicality and mentality of the role?

TISDALE:  I feel like it’s so funny because, before Disney, I did tons of stuff.  I did network shows.  I had done Donnie Darko.  I had done a bunch of stuff, before I even went to Disney.  I’m so grateful for what Disney gave me and the experiences that I got, but at the end of the day, I can do so much more than what I did on that channel and in those movies.  It takes just one person to give you that chance.  When I was asked to do the show, I was just so excited.  I think this is the transition time for me, as an actress.  I always joke around that Sons of Anarchy took my acting virginity.  But, I’m doing Scary Movie 5 right now, and I’m doing a lot of stuff that’s completely out of my comfort zone.  I think that’s the key.  I used to want to make sure that every step was thought out.  With every project I did, I had to make sure I was comfortable.  But, when you’re growing, even as a person, you have to just get out there.  The only way to grow, is to challenge yourself.

sons-of-anarchy-season-5-posterCan your fans expect more gritty, hardcore roles, like the one on Sons of Anarchy, to come?

TISDALE:  Yes, I definitely think that there is that part of me.  I did a pilot this year for CBS, but it didn’t go.  The character that I played was this raunchy, edgy character, and I just loved showing that other side of me.  I got to do that with Sons of Anarchy.  With Scary Movie 5, I get to play all the characters that I’ve created, in the past, and do new things with them.  It is definitely where I’m headed.  Right now, I like to do things that I think people don’t expect, and I want to keep challenging myself.

You were on set for two crucial episodes, with Opie’s death, and then the funeral.  Even though you weren’t in those scenes, what was the atmosphere like, on set?  Did you feel the weight of what the guys were having to act out?

TISDALE:  I wasn’t actually on set for those scenes, like you said, but I was reading the script in my trailer.  I had only read my part, and then I was reading the full script, and just being a big fan of it, I was completely shocked.  I was sad and thinking it was crazy.  I could not believe it.  And the worst part of it was that I couldn’t even talk to anybody about it because you can’t say anything.  I can’t say how it was with those scenes, but I have heard that it was definitely really hard.  But, I think the episode came out great.

Sons-of-Anarchy-Ashley-TisdaleEmma Jean is young and beautiful and, typically, when someone who has those traits turns to a life of prostitution, it’s due to something dark that normally happened in their life, or out of necessity.  Will viewers learn any of that backstory?

TISDALE:  I have no idea.  She doesn’t die.  I think there’s a chance that I could come back, so that’s definitely a possibility.  But, right now, it’s just her causing trouble with the club.

What could you say about Emma Jean’s relationship with Jax (Charlie Hunnam)?

TISDALE:  Jax really comes through for her, but she’s just there to do her job.  She’s a worker and an earner.  Because of what happened, in the last episode, we don’t know who told on the club, and she is definitely a candidate for being one of the people who might have.  She doesn’t trust everybody, but Jax comes through for her, in a way.

Sons-of-Anarchy-Katey-SagalWhat was the fight preparation like, between you and Katey Sagal?  Did they have you go through any training to do that scene?

TISDALE:  No, they pretty much just threw us in there.  We had a set choreographer, and they went over exactly what we were going to do.  I have done that, in the past, so it wasn’t to scary, but I was really freaked out.  I was like, “Oh, my God, is she really going to hit me?”  But, no, she’s the nicest person in the entire world, so it was just really funny.  We had a great time doing it.

What was the most memorable part of working on the show?

TISDALE:  Every single moment I was there, I was just so excited to be with a cast that is extremely talented, extremely grounded, and so nice.  I just learned so much from being around them, with Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam.  They are also a really tight-knit group.  It was so great to see that they actually are like all the guys.  I think they had gone camping that weekend, which I thought was so cool.  I had the best time on the show.  It was such a great experience.

Why do you think the show resonates so well with viewers?

TISDALE:  I just think Kurt is just such a great writer.  I watch the show and just cannot turn it off.  I remember getting into it, a couple of years ago.  I actually had downloaded it on Apple TV, and then I had to download the rest of the season.  I would just sit there and watch each episode.  The actors are so close-knit, they are really these guys that actually hang out with each other.  That reminds me of when I did High School Musical.  We all hung out together, and we all are really good friends.  I think that definitely resonates, and you see that in the show.

ashley-tisdaleWhen you were growing up, did you always want to work in this industry, or did you have other professions in mind?

TISDALE:  I always did.  I’ve been in the business for so long, since I was a baby.  I had the chance in high school.  I worked in clothing stores until I got to really do something else, and I went to school, but this has always been something that I’ve wanted to do.  I can’t imagine not being in this business, and I’m so lucky to have known that, so early on.  I also have a production company.  That’s something that, over last five years, I’ve started to really enjoy and learn about that side of the business.  But, I have always wanted to be an actress.

What else are you a fan of, that you’d love make an appearance on?

TISDALE:  Oh, man, I love Modern Family.  I think that is a great show.  I don’t get to watch tons of TV, but when I do, Sons of Anarchy is pretty much the number one, and Modern Family is one of my favorites.  I can’t even think of what other shows.

Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesday nights on FX.