Everything’s coming up Lauren Ash these days. The Canadian comedienne stars as brassy assistant manager Dina on NBC’s brilliant Superstore, and she voices Scorpia on Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Both hits will have panels at San Diego Comic-Con this year, so she’ll be on hand with her amazing casts.
Since we apparently missed each other at Hamilton, at her Superstore co-star Ben Feldman‘s show at South Coast Rep and at Disneyland one million times, I’m so glad I got to talk to her now. Once you see what she has to say, I think you’ll agree that she’s rad.
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Leona Laurie: You are fabulous on Superstore, and you guys definitely deserve all the Emmys. Do you think you’re going to win all of them this time?
Lauren Ash: You know what? It’s so hard to know. I feel like we did a lot of really great work in season four. I think obviously a lot of press has also kind of become hip to that. I’m just really, really proud of the work we did and the fact that people are noticing that we’re telling cool stories and doing some cool things that maybe aren’t happening on a lot of television right now. I’m super excited to continue to do it into season five.
LL: I want to call Superstore a subversive show, but it’s not subversive. It’s just right out there, where every single episode is like, “We’re going to tell some jokes, we’re going to have some fun, but also: THINK ABOUT THE LABOR CONDITIONS WHERE YOU’RE SHOPPING.”
LA: It’s totally true. I come from a comedy background through the Second City, and one of the things that I took away from one of my favorite directors was the idea that good comedy should be rooted in “Isn’t it funny that?” rather than “Wouldn’t it be funny if?” Because “wouldn’t it be funny if we… put a monkey on the moon?” Sure, that could be funny, but making comedy that’s about what’s real and what’s relatable is inevitably, I think, always going to be more successful. Speaking to the human condition and speaking to things that people can see themselves in, in my opinion, is just always going to resonate harder. It makes the comedy better. It makes it feel more like it’s more of a comment on how we really live our lives. You know what I mean?
It’s hard for a lot of people to relate to a show about 25 sexy doctors, you know?
LL: Absolutely. Awkward transition question from that, but do you have an expectation that Dina’s going to wear the same Halloween costume this year?
LA: If I have my way? Absolutely. And I think maybe we’re getting to the time that we’re going to have to start seeing that it’s a little bit tattered. Maybe it’s starting to get a little worse for wear. I will remind you that she did stretch that thing over a pregnancy belly, so perhaps it’s not going to fit as well as it used to, but that is absolutely my goal. We’ll see what they say, but I have a feeling that you may see it again.
LL: That is what I want to see: the leftover space in the costume from where the belly was.
LA: It’s just like a slightly deflated balloon now.
LL: The question I’ve been wanting to ask you since episode one: what is it like as a Canadian comedian to be working with Mark McKinney? Did you completely geek out when you found out a “Kid in the Hall” was going to be one of your co-stars?
LA: I literally watched every episode of Kids in the Hall growing up. It was the thing that my mom and I did on Thursday nights, or whatever night it was on the CBC. I vividly remember the series finale. We cried, we were so sad it was going away. For a lot of Canadians, and certainly for myself, The Kids in the Hall are comedy royalty. They’re part of the reason why I started doing what I do! Finding out that Mark was on the show was, first of all, not only a thrill, second of all, intimidating, but third of all, it has been truly one of the coolest experiences– I can say this without hyperbole– of my career. Getting to be working with literally a comedy icon, as my peer who is so fun, and so kind and just so deeply hilarious… It’s been a true joy. Superstore is a time in my life that I know that when I’m in the winter of my existence, I will look back and say “Man, that was a special time.”
I remember in the pilot, (Mark and I) started improvising, and we went for a good five minutes just going back and forth, and then he turned to me afterwards and he was like “Man, I feel like you just taught me a class in improv,” and I turned away and sobbed. That’s a life moment for me. I’m tearing up now! That’s a life moment for me. I can’t even tell you. It’s the fact that he’s so funny, but also truly so kind. They say don’t meet your heroes, and it’s like this blows that theory out of the water. He’s just the best.
LL: Please tell me that there are times when you guys are on set when he does the Chicken Lady.
LA: You know what, I don’t know if he ever has actually. I mean we talk about it.
Listen, I tried my damnedest to not bring up Kids in the Hall for a long time. I think I made it maybe two months into season one, and then I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to talk about this.” I’m constantly quoting sketches to him; some of them he remembers, some of them he doesn’t. But yeah… here’s a little “inside baseball.” You’ll love this: in the season finale in season four, there’s a bit where Marcus is like “listen, we’ll just hide Mateo in the trash compactor,” right? And then the trash compactor accidentally gets turned on, and we see these mannequins getting crushed. And Mark’s like, “Oh my God Lauren, when this is happening, you need to look at it and say ‘Look, it’s crushing their heads,’ and then look to me.” And I was like, “Oh my God.” First of all, it’s an honor; second of all, I was so pissed that they didn’t use it.
It was such an amazing wink, and I understand why they didn’t use it, whatever, but yeah, that was such a cool moment, too, of what a great little nod, and the fact that he was like you’ve got to say it and then look to me and I was like… oh, it would’ve just been so delicious.
LL: Do you feel like spending part of your time with him, while simultaneously being on She-Ra, is this your childhood self having absolutely made it?
LA: A million percent. She-Ra was my number one favorite show as a kid, and I’m not exaggerating at all. When I told my mom I booked She-Ra, she literally was like: “Oh my God! Your favorite!” I had all the dolls; I watched it every day. It’s such a pleasure. Yeah, I really am fulfilling some fantasies that if you had told me this as a child I would’ve not believed you.
I’m also so proud of that show. I didn’t realize that I wanted to see body inclusion in a cartoon until I watched that show. I didn’t realize that it was something that at all entered my mind, and then I sit down and I watch that show, which is geared towards kids, and every character is drawn differently. Every character is unique, every character is powerful in their own ways, and to me it’s such a powerful message. Just being able to see all different types, all different races, and they’re all powerful, and they’re all ass-kicking.
It’s a pretty cool thing, and I really feel like there’s not a lot of shows like that. I remember the original, again, which I loved, no shade, but it’s like there’s one drawing of a woman and they just put different heads on it. So I just think it’s so cool to get to see all those different types, and that kids are going to grow up at an impressionable time getting to see inclusion like that I think is so important.
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LL: You are really sort of in the sweet spot of this Venn diagram for a new era of diversity in storytelling and inclusion in animation and in sitcoms. What is it like to be behind the scenes with these other people who grew up with the skinny, white, one-size-fits-all stars when all of you are representing such different things now on screen?
LA: Yeah, I mean it’s a really cool thing. It’s an exciting thing you know? It’s time. I also don’t want to negate, either, the way that Dina is portrayed. I think it is rare to see a size 12 woman on television where we’re not commenting on her being a size 12 woman. All we know about Dina is she thinks she’s hot as hell and she bangs a bunch of dudes, that she’s uber confident. Why shouldn’t she be? She’s super hot, just like Lauren Ash is, but that’s something that we haven’t really seen that much. Traditionally when we see curvier women on television, it becomes the plot line. It becomes about that. The jokes are about that. Self-deprecating jokes or whatever. And the thing that I love is that we’ve literally never addressed it. It’s just not an issue. It’s like she just is who she is, and she believes she’s hot as hell and, guess what, nobody argues.
People love her. Overwhelmingly on social media, the feedback I get is that people are inspired by Dina. That it’s inspiring to see a female character who just owns her own sexiness and makes no apologies, and I think it feels weird that we’re in 2019 and that that would be something that would be in any way revolutionary or new, but I think it is, and I think that that’s really important. I don’t want to understate how important seeing female characters portrayed in that way is.
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LL: On both of the shows, that is such a big part of what they’re doing is not making a big deal of the body types, just showing this is what people look like. There’s a lot of different ways to be, and it’s the person inside who dictates what the experience is.
LA: 100%. 100%. But without making it a plot point. You know what I mean? It just is. They just are in that world. They’re all different. They’re all unique. They’re all powerful. I think it’s great.
It’s just showing that this is representative of a group of humans, and that’s what a real group of humans would probably look like. Everybody would be different, there’d be different races, there’d be different body types. That’s more of a representation of the actual world that we live in than the alternative that we’ve seen portrayed so many times.
LL: Do you feel like you have more of a voice in Dina’s evolution now than when you first took the role?
LA: You know, from the very beginning, Justin Spitzer, who created the show, was super open to our feedback. I mean Mateo, for example, was written as a Latin gang member. Then Nico came in as a gay Filipino, and then it was like “Wow, it would be really cool if that character was a gay Filipino,” and so the character changed. He, from the very beginning, was really open to hearing what we had to say, helping things evolve. I feel like I’ve had a lot of input. We also improvise a lot on the show, or Mark and I, and Colton (Dunn), we improvise a lot. In doing so, you kind of are inadvertently influencing the character and who they are and where they’re going, but also I think that Dina’s overall arc has been really interesting.
We’ve got to see a lot of colors. From the very beginning, my main concern and my main note was always that I don’t want her to be a sociopath, because it would be very easy to play that character as somebody who doesn’t care about other people, who only wants to follow the rules and doesn’t give a sh*t about her friends or whatever. My whole thing is that it’s like yeah, she’s a character, she’s absolutely an eccentric, but she’s not a sociopath. She has feelings. She has a heart. She cares about these people. Even though in that (season four) finale she said: “Well, Mateo broke the rules. If you sneak into a movie they’re going to kick you out. Like what do you expect?”
But still, what superseded that was her relationship with him and the fact that he’s a member of her family, essentially, and that she’s going to try to do everything she can to get him out of that store. I don’t know that Dina would’ve done that in season one. She’s not just somebody who follows the rules. She’s also somebody who’s intensely loyal and loves her friends, and treats them in this way. Yeah, it’s been a real pleasure and a real joy to kind of help be a part of creating exactly who she is.
LL: Both of the shows are going to have a presence at San Diego Comic-Con. Is there anything or anyone that you’re really looking forward to experiencing there?
LA: Listen. I went to Comic-Con a couple of years ago. I wasn’t doing anything at Comic-Con; I was there as someone’s guest. It was my first time, and I went to the Entertainment Weekly party, and I walked up to the bar and turned to my right, and saw Misha Collins,who plays Castiel on Supernatural, and I lost the ability to speak. I kind of made some sort of noises towards him, and then just slowly raised my phone, basically saying, “Selfie?” Which he then took. He walked away, and I was like, “I’ve never made a bigger fool of myself in my life.” In my life.
So listen, who would I be interested in seeing? I would say Misha Collins, but I’m terrified that he would remember me and what a fool I made of myself, but I’d love to collect those other two you know? I’d love to get the trifecta of those Supernatural boys. I’m a big Supernatural fan. So that would be a real treat for me.
LL: That is going to play very well with our readers.
LA: I love it. Oh my God, I am so obsessed. Are you kidding me? It’s bad. It’s bad. I have dolls of them, I have Funko Pops of them. I mean the fact that I’ve somehow amassed a Funko Pop collection… I don’t know how it started. I don’t know how it happened. Somebody gave me one of them, and then all of a sudden, it’s like I’m now building shelves to facilitate my collection of Funko Pops. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’ve got hundreds of them now. But it’s good to be youthful, right?
LL: You have gone above and beyond securing your space in whatever kind of hall of fame Geek Girl Authority has, so if there’s anything we can do for you…
LA: Oh, I’m so happy. I’m so happy to hear it.
LL: So, going back to how you are living your childhood dreams, do you feel like you have a checklist of things that you feel like you might be able to pull off? Being a guest on the Murdoch Mysteries or showing up some other place that would be a real win for a Canadian?
LA: First of all, thank you for referencing Murdoch Mysteries. That’s a deep cut. I like that a lot.
LL: Well, my embarrassing moment was with Yannick Bisson, where I gave him a DVD of a documentary about the 1904 Olympics and was like, “I think you should go there on the show.”
LA: That is awesome. I could not love that more. Oh wow. Well, listen, I’ll say this: I spent years “collecting” The Kids in the Hall. That’s how I referred to it, like I was collecting them one by one. I did a sketch special for the CBC that was hosted by Kevin McDonald, I did a guest star on a Canadian sitcom called Spun Out with Dave Foley. I did a reading of a script with Bruce McCulloch. I’m obviously on the show with Mark, and then I met Scott Thompson through friends, and I was so excited that I managed to get the final jewel in the crown. I was like, “I’ve done it!” Other than Scott, I’ve worked with all of them, basically, so that’s a huge deal for me.
Also, when I was still living in Canada, I did do a guest spot on a little show called Call Me Fitz, starring Canadian sweetheart Jason Priestly, so that’s a real feather in the crown, you know what I mean?
In terms of other Canadian things, I’m always looking for any excuse to go home. I would happily go back and do anything that’s happening. The one thing that I never did, like the two big, iconic shows in Canada were Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Those were staples when I was a kid, and those are two shows that I never did.
Maybe I should call in to the This Hour Has 22 Minutes and be like, “It’s time guys. It’s time. Put me in coach.”
LL: Okay, well I’m leaving that in the interview, so this can be your first step in that direction.
LA: I love it. I love it.
LL: Well Lauren, thank you so much. Is there anything else that you wish I had asked you that I didn’t think to that you think the Geek Girl Authority readers desperately need to know?
LA: I should also add, and I’ve been talking about this in a lot of press: Mark Hamill is a fan of Superstore. He tweeted about Superstore once, which made me cry, and then I tweeted back at him, and then he responded to me, which made me cry even harder, because he wrote these very thoughtful things about my performance as Dina. So I have gone on a slight press tour where I’ve been talking to everybody about how I want Mark Hamill to play Dina’s dad on Superstore. So far no update, but listen, he responded to my tweet about it. I put it into the universe, so fingers crossed.
LL: But that’s achievable, because he went on Big Bang Theory, so we know he’ll do sitcoms. I think you can have that.
LA: 100%. Absolutely. I don’t know what that would look like for me. I don’t know if I would throw up or cry or both, but yeah, it’d be memorable for everybody.
LL: Thank you so much, Lauren. I will be following what you guys do at Comic-Con and looking very much looking forward to season five of Superstore.
LA: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
LL: One more little thing: going back to what you were saying about Dina, I follow you on Instagram, and lately, every bathing suit ad that comes up in my Instagram feed, I think it’s you at first glance, and I’m like, “Oh, she looks great in that.”
LA: Oh my God, I love it. You know, I put up that bathing suit photo– it’s so funny, because that’s something that I probably wouldn’t have even done a few years ago, and it was so much positivity. The followers that I have are so amazing. Everybody’s just so positive and so supportive and so lovely. It’s a beautiful thing. I think that social media gets used for so much darkness that it’s really nice that I feel like there’s a community of people who are just so positive about some random Canadian lady who’s on television.
LL: “I think it’s really nice to have all these people so positive about me in a bathing suit.” That’s the quote I’ll use.
LA: Please do. It’s nice.
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I made a decision early this year to only speak about my body in positive ways. Both to myself and to other people. I think it’s very easy for women to criticize their bodies/looks. I could tell you many things that l I hate about how I look. But I could also tell you a bunch of things that I love. And isn’t that a more interesting conversation to have? It takes people aback sometimes when I talk about my favorite assets. But it’s halfway through 2019 and I honestly feel more confident than I ever have before. It sounds silly but honestly making the choice to police my words about myself has had an enormous impact on my overall mindset. I’m not perfect, no one is, but I encourage all of you to try to be positive about these flesh vessels we go through life living in. The results can be powerful! Also, this is me when I snuck away to Hawaii for a few days last month and wore a smaller bikini than I would normally feel comfortable in. I felt hot AF! My new fave suit! (Yes, as always, the suit is from @target) #nofilter #effyourbeautystandards #effyourbodystandards #selflove #bodypositivity #bodypositive #bodypositivemovement
Superstore season five debuts September 26, 2019, on NBC. If you haven’t already gotten on this bandwagon, binge the first four seasons on the NBC app NOW!
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