Interview with Mean Girls star Ashley Park

Ashley Park

Ashley Park had quite the 2017-2018 season in New York City - a season that most young actors could only dream of! The cherry on the cake, of course, is her Tony Award nomination for her current role as Gretchen Wieners in the Broadway premiere of Mean Girls at the August Wilson Theatre, but she also garnered great critical acclaim for her starring role as MwE in Ars Nova's off-Broadway production of KPOP last fall. Ms. Park won the Lucille Lortel Award for "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical" for her performance as MwE, as KPOP itself took home the trophy for "Outstanding Musical", and at this year's Drama Desk Awards, she was nominated not once, but twice - "Outstanding Actress in a Musical" for KPOP and "Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical" for Mean Girls. "What's Wrong With Me?" she sings... Clearly, absolutely nothing!

Ms. Park made her Broadway debut in Mamma Mia! in February 2014, before embarking on the National Tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and then returning to Broadway in March 2015 in Lincoln Center Theater's Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I. In spring 2017, she also shared the stage with Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday at the Park with George at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. It's safe to say these past few years have been an ever-growing success story for the Glendale, California native, who once dreamed of Broadway stardom whilst a student at the University of Michigan's Musical Theatre program.

We recently caught up with Ms. Park to get her thoughts on Mean GirlsKPOP and FOMO...

Ashley Park in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

Starring in the critically acclaimed KPOP off-Broadway and now starring as Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls on Broadway - What a season you’ve had, Ashley!

Oh my gosh! It’s been so much fun and so exciting!

How would you compare those two very different experiences?

Like apples and oranges! KPOP was an immersive, crazy type of concert. But you know what, when “The Plastics” enter [in Mean Girls], it feels like a rock concert and it kinda reminds me of the finale concert of KPOP. Both entrances are kinda similar in that way. Hey, it’s been a really fun year!

And what a grand entrance it is for “The Plastics”! What’s going through your mind at that moment of the show?

You know, when we first did it, I was like: “What is with all this smoke?!” I was kinda worried about all the technical stuff. The lights were so bright! But during our first preview, when we heard the audience going crazy, then I realized that I was never going to get to do another entrance like this in another show ever! It gives me chills every night!

Ashley Park with Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman & Kate Rockwell in Mean Girls
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

And I instantly warmed to your character of Gretchen. Why do you think audiences find her so endearing?

I think it’s first and foremost because of Tina Fey’s writing and because of the song she gets to sing – “What’s wrong with me?” There’s just no other song like that. She gets to open up her heart to the audience. It shows you that the piece has more layers than you think and it makes Gretchen really relatable. She’s kind of the everywoman. Not everyone can be the main protagonist and not everyone can be the villain. A lot of people are the Gretchens. And it’s an honor to play her!

And she’s the Queen of FOMO! Do you have much ‘fear of missing out’ yourself, Ashley?

FOMO! Of course, I think we all do! Every night I hear people reacting like: “Ohhhh girl, it’s gonna be OK.” And it’s funny when I think about both shows [KPOP and Mean Girls] because I think Gretchen would have been a really great personal assistant for MwE – my character in KPOP. MwE is like an iconic diva, who is even beyond Regina George. Gretchen is always dying to please everybody and I think MwE would get on really well with her.

Ashley Park in KPOP
(Photo by Ben Arons)

Do you think there’ll be a future for KPOP?

Oh, you’ll have to ask the producers! I hope mostly that we get to do a cast recording or some kind of CD because the music was just unbelievable! The score that Helen Park and Max Vernon came up with is fantastic and I think that every single person would love this genre of music!

(Photo by Austin Yang)

Mean Girls Tickets are available now for performances through to July 7, 2019.