Written by Lauren McEwen
Since it’s been three whole months since we launched this newsletter (and way longer since HGQLC first premiered on YouTube), we decided that it’s high time that you get to know about our Hermione, Ashley Romans. Originally from South London (yes, the accent’s real), she first got into Harry Potter with the rest of us OG Potterheads in the 90s. We chatted about her acting methods, what it’s like to play one of the most iconic heroines of our generation and her hopes for Season 2. The Q&A below has been edited for clarity.
How did you get into Harry Potter?
I was in primary school and it took me about an entire school year to finish it. It started in October and I didn’t finish it until like April or so. It was one of my proudest moments to finish that book, and I loved it. It was one of those things that everybody was reading at the time.
What did you like about it so much?
Definitely the adventure, the character development, the rules of the universe, the specificity, the themes. And even though I was so young, I was probably 8 or maybe 7, all of it was so potent. Even as a child, you could feel it through the book. You could envision it. You fell in love with the characters, as well. Harry, Ron, and Hermione -- those are best friend goals.
Where did you grow up?
Kind of all over. I grew up in South London, just short of Brixton and I moved to New Jersey. They say where you grew up is kind of where you spent your teenage years, so I would say a little bit of everywhere.
How did you begin acting?
I love storytelling. I love reading stories, I love making stories come about. I think I started acting when I started watching TV, to be quite honest. If I heard a funny line, I would say it again. I would just keep repeating it and then I would go in the mirror and act like Ricky Ricardo from “I Love Lucy.”
I loved “I Love Lucy.” That was me and my mom’s thing. We would watch that together all of the time. That’s probably the first time I remember acting and reciting monologues and things. And school plays, obviously.
How did you become involved with HGQLC?
I was on Actors Access and I saw the breakdown. I moved to Los Angeles about two years ago. When I say I grew up everywhere -- I went to university in New York and I moved out to LA in like 2015, right after I graduated.
I was just online one day and I saw the breakdown for “Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis” and I thought it was so funny and I laughed immediately, at just the title. It was one of the first auditions I felt really comfortable in. I was vibing with everybody and I felt like I could, for the first time, be myself in the audition room. Not hide how I speak, or how I move or anything. This is one of the characters that meant so much to me for so long, that if I could just go in there and honor the storytelling -- and I loved it. The writing was good, too, which is a rarity in Los Angeles. It really is a gift to an actor when they get a script and it’s actually good writing.
What is your approach to playing Hermione?
I can’t give away all of my secrets, but I always try to go to the truth of the scene and the truth of the situation at hand. I always try to honor the text and Hermione is a character with a lot of history. She’s basically like a child soldier and playing the reality sometimes isn’t the same as playing the truth. I know that sounds like I’m negating myself by saying that but the truth is just coming in with the history and letting it go and dealing with the situation at hand. Hermione is such an interesting person because she doesn’t run from anything. She always deals with something and at the same time, in this series, she is running from everything.
I guess I’m still trying to figure out how to play Hermione, honestly. I think my main insecurity with the role is that it’s so iconic. Emma Watson kind of [made the role iconic] and then we had “Cursed Child” with two beautiful actresses who were playing Hermione and I just wanted to make sure that Olivia and Eliyannah and Jess -- they’re such great writers -- that I just wanted to honor Hermione at this time in her life and I just love that all of these different stories are coming together and they can make one human being and it’s kind of like everyone’s tale.
When you first read the script, were you intrigued by the idea of seeing a character who has had it together for so long kind of, crack under the weight of being expected to grow up?
That was one of the main things that drew me to the script, really. You see this character that for so long -- they even say it in the show -- grew up having her shit together. She knew what she wanted. She knew who she wanted to be. She knew right and wrong, she was adamant about it. She was a very strong character, and here we just see her being strong in a different way and it gives permission to not even just girls, but specifically black girls: you can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. And Hermione isn’t any less intelligent than she was in school, and she’s no less ambitious, but she just needs time and this is a show about time. That was one of the things that fascinated me, too: the permission to not be perfect and the fun of it.
Who is your favorite HGQLC character besides Hermione?
Probably Parvati. I love the relationship and just it’s like homegirl to the max. She is taking you in and she’s the type of person - she also seems to have her shit together and she’s going through a similar journey as Hermione. She’s probably my favorite series regular.
And we’ve had some really awesome guest stars that were my favorites, too, like the homeless man in [episode 104]. He was probably my favorite. A.) the actor was amazing and B.) that character is so mysterious. I kind of hope he comes back.
Is there anything else you hope happens in season 2?
I’m interested in Dez’s storyline because he is such a rebel, I suppose. And he has another friend, Ben, who is only in the last episode we filmed.
Anything else we should know about you or your role in HGQLC?
My niece, who is 9 years old and is also a huge Harry Potter fan. She thinks I’m the coolest person in the world. We were actually talking and she asked when I was going to get my hair done and what I was going to do with my next style, and I told her, I don’t really know until I’m done filming. I don’t know what to do with my hair until I know the next shoot date. And she goes, “Can you tell them to make an episode called ‘Hermione Gets Her Hair Done’” and I was like “You know what, if I have any say in anything, I think I will toss that idea out there.”