Tuesday December 1, 2020

Successful Filipina-American actress and singer Ashley Argota grew up in the Inland Empire, near Los Angeles, but has strong ties to the Philippines and its culture.

“I’m the only person in my family born in America,” Argota says. “Everyone in my family speaks Tagalog, I speak some. The reason English is the first language in my house is because my brother is deaf and the school he attended asked us to speak English so he could learn one language clearly. But it’s all Filipino all the time at my house with lots of people and lots of food.”

Although shy, she began acting at just 5-years-old. “My mom is the one who got me started. I began speaking in silly accents and she said, ‘I think you should be in acting classes.’ It was so fun. I just never stopped. I love it.”

By the age of 11, Argota was a young rising star, touring in Disney’s hit Broadway musical The Lion King as Young Nala. Since then, she has been seen on countless hit TV shows, including “iCarly”, “Lab Rats”, “Girl Meets World”, “Liberty Crossing” and “The Fosters”, as well as in such films as Sony Pictures’ The Cover Versions.

As ‘Lou’ on “The Fosters”, she portrayed the lead singer of the band ‘Someone’s Little Sister’. Fans so loved her performances, that the producers released a “Someone’s Little Sister” EP, which shot up to #18 on the iTunes alternative chart and broke the Top 100 on iTunes overall.

Argota continues to star and sing in live theater productions, but her most-recent project is the heartwarming, holiday RomCom, I Hate New Year’s, streaming everywhere Dec. 4 (Tello Films), where both her singing talent and acting prowess are once again on display. The film costars Dia Frampton (runner-up on the inaugural season of “The Voice” and lead singer of the band Meg & Dia) and groundbreaking actress Candis Cayne (“The Magicians”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “I Am Cait”) in a magical dual role.

On I Hate New Year’s … Experiencing writer’s block, rising music star Layne Price (Frampton), at her Los Angeles manager’s insistence, reluctantly visits mysterious fortune teller Zelena (Cayne), whose flamboyant advice she misconstrues. Heading home to Nashville for New Year’s Eve, a holiday she hates, Layne hits the town with BFF Cassie Holmes (Argota). While Cassie plans to finally confess that her feelings have evolved into more than friendship, Layne is too focused on “bumping into” her elusive ex to notice. But sometimes you find inspiration and love—with a little mystical intervention—where you least expect it.

Filmed in Nashville, I Hate New Year’s features electric music performances by Frampton (“Flatline,” “Better in the Dark,” “North Star”), Argota (“Hours of the Night”), Frampton and Argota in a duet (“Our One Heart”) and bluesy, Nashville artist and 2015 American Idol competitor Gina Venier (“Radio Silence,” “If I Was Your Girl”).

We sat down with Argota to talk about the film…

Q: What has it been like acting from such a young age? What/who are some of your greatest inspirations?

A: Acting has been a passion of mine since I was a little kid. I was really shy growing up, so acting was a great outlet for me to be silly and fun and not take myself too seriously. I grew up loving Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio and I’m also a huge fan of Sandra Oh and Tatiana Maslany.

Q: You’ve had many roles on stage and on TV, what drew you to the role of Cassie?

A: I loved how Cassie loved life and loved hard. Her story of being in love with her best friend is universal and it was my first time playing a character that was going through that particular journey. I’m so honored I got to step into Cassie’s shoes.

Q: And the film once again showcases both your singing and acting talents.

A: I don’t know if I’ve ever made it a priority to do both simultaneously, but I started in theater and it always found its way into my life. Any time I can put my two loves together, it’s a joy for me…and that’s why I continue to do a lot of theater in my hometown of Los Angeles.

Q: Seems like a fun cast… What was it like working with Dia & Candis?

A: It was amazing. I was actually a big fan of season one of The Voice, so I knew Dia and I had to force myself not to fawn over her when I met her. Both she and Candis are the most wonderful, fun, caring, giving people… who work together to share scenes. Plus, shooting in my favorite city, Nashville, it was all like a dream come true. I loved it.

Q: What did you like about filming in Nashville?

A: Nashville is one of my favorite cities in the world! I love being surrounded by iconic places that are so important to music history and such incredible talent everywhere you look. My songwriting partner and close friend, Rebekah, lives in Nashville and I was able to write with her on my days off.

Q: What’s your favorite memory of filming I Hate New Year’s?

A: My favorite memory is just how many crazy obstacles were thrown our way during the shoot and how we dealt with all of them. After we finished our first day of filming, a tornado hit Nashville. I watched it go through the city from my hotel room window. Luckily, none of our cast or crew was hurt, and Christin, our director, gathered everyone in the main room the next morning to bring us together and take a collective breath after a scary night. Daylight Savings happened that weekend and we all lost an hour of sleep during a crazy filming schedule. And finally, coronavirus was starting to get pretty bad with just a few days left of shooting. We’re so grateful to have finished the movie with everyone staying completely safe and healthy. The way that all these obstacles were dealt with was professional but it also showed a level of compassion and love that you don’t often see on film sets. Filming on location can be lonely and isolating because you don’t really know the city or the people you’re working with, but this set felt so inclusive and comfortable.

Q: What message do you want people to take away from this film?

A: Sometimes we look for love everywhere except for right in front of us, where it’s been all along. I Hate New Years is full of so much heart, humor, and positivity and I hope everyone feels that while watching it.

Q: What’s next?

A: That’s a great question. I actually filmed another movie in quarantine, a thriller called Don’t Log Off, which was shot completely socially distant. The directors and DP were all on zoom and we all filmed in our homes with go pros. We only did three days of shooting in person with a COVID officer and masks. I host a podcast with my fiancé Mick Torres called Mismo, where we interview other artists. Being an artist can feel lonely. We want to remind everyone that we’re all dealing with the same ups and downs. We’re all uniquely the same. Christin and Dia are going to be guests.

And I’m actually looking forward to taking a break over the holidays. I usually work in a holiday show and I’m not home. It will be really nice to be able to help decorate and enjoy singing Christmas songs…and being with my new puppy, an Australian labradoodle named Didi.

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