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Last week’s episode of the FX hit Sons of Anarchy generated a lot of discussion, as popular character Opie Winston (played by Ryan Hurst) was shockingly killed. But he wasn’t the only one dropping jaws, as Ashley Tisdale of High School Musical fame also made a guest appearance as high-priced escort Emma Jean.
The 27-year old actress, who also voices Candace Flynn on Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb, continues to shed her squeaky-clean image with her upcoming role in Scary Movie 5, in which she appears alongside perennial hell-raisers Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and the just-added Mike Tyson.
With Tisdale concluding her two-part arc with tonight’s episode, titled “Stolen Huffy,” she spoke with Spinoff Online and other members of the media about her love for Sons of Anarchy, shedding her good-girl image and playing a more physical character like Emma Jean.
You have this Disney good girl-type of character that you have mostly played and now you’re playing this hardcore character on Sons of Anarchy, fans are having a little trouble adjusting to you playing such a bad girl. What can fans expect from Emma Jean?
First of all, I am one of the biggest of Sons of Anarchy. I love it. I was so excited to be on the show just because I personally watch it. Of course, I come from Disney and I have a lot of young fans but I also have a lot of fans that 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. I thought it was super exciting to do something that I haven’t done and have people see me in a different light. I had a great time doing it.
With Emma Jean, she’s a high-priced escort that gets into the club and they blame a couple of things on her so she gets in trouble. She’s this high-priced escort for what she looks like. She’s a young, high school-looking girl. But there is nothing too crazy about her.
Yeah, it was definitely so much fun. I did a few action scenes in a movie that I did a long time ago, but it was nothing compared to this. And this was my first time ever being on a motorcycle. And Charlie Hunnam was the first person to give me a ride, and I thought that was amazing because I am a big fan of his. I don’t get star-struck because I’ve met Angelina Jolie, I’ve met tons of people, but for some reason, because I watch the show religiously, I was just so star-struck.
Every single time I was sitting in hair or makeup, someone else would come into the room. [Laughs] The worse was when I had to do the table read for the second episode because everybody in the show was there. I was shaking. I was so nervous but it was the coolest thing ever. I would love to do more action stuff in the future.
Speaking of action, what kind of role does Candace play in Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel?
I record the show every couple of weeks. I don’t even remember if I’ve recorded that episode or not [laughs] but it will probably be something really cool.
With this role being quite different from your previous work, what type of steps, if any, did you take to prepare for the physicality of it and overhaul mental aspect of the role?
It’s so funny because before Disney, I did network shows, I did Donnie Darko, I did a bunch of stuff before I came to Disney. I am so grateful for what Disney gave me and the experiences that I had, but at the end of the day, I can do so much more than I did on that channel.
It takes just one person to give you that chance and for me that person was [Sons of Anarchy creator] Kurt Sutter. He gave me the chance to show that I can do something different and when he asked me to do the show I was just so excited.
For me, this is the transition in my life for me as an actress. I always joke around that Sons of Anarchy took my acting virginity [laughs] because I definitely have a scene in that show.
I am doing a move right now, Scary Movie 5, where I am doing a lot of stuff that is completely out of my comfort zone. And I think that’s the key. I used to make sure that every step was thought out. I had to make sure I was comfortable. But you know what? I think when you are growing – even as a person – you have to just do it and get out there. That’s the only way to grow: Challenge yourself.
You mentioned it before, but even in Hellcats, you played a sweet girl, a cheerleader, and this is a huge departure for you. Can we expect more gritty/hardcore roles for you in your career?
I did a pilot for CBS that didn’t get picked up and my character was this raunchy, edgy character and I loved showing that other side of me. I got to show it with Sons of Anarchy and I also get to show with Scary Movie 5. I get to play all the characters that I’ve created in the past but also I get to do a few, new things with that. That’s definitely where I’m headed. I like to do things that I think people don’t expect right now and I just want to keep challenging myself like I said.
You’ve been on the set for two really crucial episodes with Opie’s death and then the funeral and even though you weren’t in those scenes, I was wondering if you could describe the atmosphere? Especially as a fan, did you feel the weight of what the actors had to portray?
I wasn’t on set for those scenes as you said but when I was reading the script in my trailer, because I had only read my scenes in advance, I was completely shocked. I heard it was definitely really hard for the guys and I thought the episode turned out great.
Did you learn anything about yourself preparing for this role?
Nothing really shocked me when I was creating the role. I actually did a guest appearance before, long before Disney, where I played a high-priced escort in that, too. But looking at any character, I was always try to find something that I can relate and for Emma Jean, I feel like she was using how she looked so young to her advantage. And I can relate to that as people still think that I am really young.
Emma Jean is young and beautiful and usually when someone has those traits and turns to prostitution [in television of film] it’s due to something dark that happened in their life. Will we learn any of Emma Jean’s backstory?
I have no idea. She doesn’t die [laughs] so there’s a chance that I do come back, I guess. I think that’s definitely a possibility but right now it’s just all about her causing trouble for the club.
How did actually become involved with the show? Did you have to audition for the role?
I didn’t audition for the role. I actually was just a really big fan of the show. It’s kind of a funny story. My dad, who built my house, also actually builds for Kurt Sutter and Katey Sagal, and he has for years. And I’ve been in love with the show and I’ve always been like, “Dad, you’ve got to tell Kurt … I want to be on the show.” My dad’s so quiet and shy. He’s like, “No, no, no. I can’t do that.” And so it just happened that Kurt was writing Emma Jean and came upstairs to the kitchen and actually asked my dad. He’s like, “I’ve got a favor to ask you. I would love for Ashley to be on the show.” And my dad was like, “Oh, my God, she’s going to die.”
And so he definitely thought of me for the character. But of course, my agents, at first, were like, “I don’t know. We have to read it.” I’m like, “I’ve got to do it! I’ve got to do it!” Because like I said, it is one of my favorite shows.
Sons of Anarchy airs tonight at 10 ET/PT on FX.