Call Redialed: NEW Ashley Griffin Interview: The Opposite of Love

actress author broadway film movies off-broadway play playwright regional theatre television theatre tv writer May 10, 2024
Call Me Adam Title Page. Call Me Adam logo is on the left side. Ashley Griffin's headshot is on the right side. In the top center of the page is an orange circle with jagged edges that says Featured Interview. Between our photos it says The Opposite of Love. Below the title and in between our names there is an auburn circle that says

The last time I got to interview Actress and Writer Ashley Griffin was in 2019, just as I was starting my podcast, Baring It All with Call Me Adam

At that time, The Opposite of Love was just coming to life, so when I saw that this show was having a limited run, I knew it was the perfect time to catch up with Ashley.

In this NEW interview, Ashley once again answered my call, but this time she reveals:
  • How this show has grown since we last spoke about it in 2019
  • How The Opposite of Love could possibly help change the dating landscape
  • How she separates herself from actress and writer during the rehearsal process
  • So much more

Connect with Ashley: Website, Facebook, Instagram

The Opposite of Love is an intimate story about a down on his luck hustler and a trust fund baby who form an unlikely bond when she hires him to help overcome her sexual trauma. Can this unexpected connection transcend their darker inclinations in a world where love is a commodity?

The Opposite of Love will play Royal Family Performing Arts Space (145 W. 46th Street, NYC) from May 28-June 15, 2024. Click here for tickets! 

1. I can't believe the last time we sat down for an interview was in 2019. At that time you had just started speaking out about your own sexual trauma with your play Trial, and The Opposite of Love was just starting to see the light of day. Now, The Opposite of Love is getting a 3 week run at Royal Family Performing Arts Space. How has this show grown since that time? Thanks so much, Adam! What's interesting is that The Opposite of Love hasn't actually changed much since we first spoke about the project... the piece had a bit of a magical initial development process... we did a very early reading at A.R.T. ... and I got a lead producer THAT DAY. They introduced me to the wonderful Gayle Waxenberg at NewYorkRep, and we were moving towards a production in the fall of 2020... which obviously didn't happen. The pandemic hit everyone really hard... I know I lost a lot of people... and the theatre world was turned upside down.

We used the time to do some virtual development on the piece and had a reading at Theatre Row in 2022... throughout that time the piece really didn't change much (the most significant change was the last beat of the show which we discovered after the 2022 reading. I really love the change - it solidifies the themes of the piece really well).

But the piece has become even more relevant and has been starting a really interesting cross generation conversation. Thanks to Gayle fighting tooth and nail for the show, we're finally going up off-Broadway and I'm so excited for everyone to finally get to experience it! It's a very different piece for me and it's been opening up a conversation we've needed to have for a long time about intimacy in our society.

2. How did writing this show help you further your healing? I think, primarily, in a similar way to Trial, in voicing things I was experiencing (and in the case of Opposite saw others experiencing,) but no one was talking about. I think a big part of healing is not feeling like you have to hide your emotions or experiences and I think taking them out and looking at them in the light of day is really important.

Also, trauma is obviously a theme that runs through a lot of my work, but, as with many pieces that deal with trauma, they're primarily focused on the immediate experience... there aren't a lot of works that delve into what the long term experience (and fall out) of trauma is... what does it mean to, theoretically, be on the other side of it (in the sense that you're no longer actually experiencing it and are years, or even decades out from it)? And how does it affect your world view and the way you move through your life?

This piece is not singularly about trauma - it's about intimacy in our culture. But, horribly, for most people, intimacy nowadays is usually linked to trauma in some form or another. Having experienced that early, I've felt pressure throughout my life to be a bit of a spokesperson for "See! You can get to the other side of it and be happy and successful!" As if there's a full stop period on the end of the story that finishes with a happily ever after... it's more comforting to imagine that being the cap on a horrible experience... but the truth is the story is ongoing. It's been empowering to talk about that.

Ashley Griffin, Photo Credit: David Webb

3. How do you feel this show can help someone heal from their own sexual trauma? I think any time these things are being discussed out in the open it helps. But hopefully, specific to Opposite, this show can help people stop feeling that they have to make choices about how they move through their life and interact with others based on what they think they "have" to do to keep others happy.

Instead, I hope it can validate that they can honestly ask for what they really need and want, and know that they have every right for those needs to be listened to and respected. And, hopefully, for those who haven't experienced trauma, it can help them open themselves up to listening to what their partner might need, and working together to form a relationship that's honest and empowering to both parties.

4. How did you come up with the title of the show, The Opposite of Love? When I was younger I saw the poster for a movie called The Opposite of Sex. I still have no idea what the movie's actually about, the poster just features a bikini-clad Christina Ricci lounging in a chair. I saw the poster and the first thought that came into my head was: "Oh, the opposite of sex is love." I immediately thought "that's an odd reaction..." but it was my instinctual response to that phrase... so The Opposite of Love seemed like an obvious title when working on this piece... especially if you imagine the end of that sentence is "The opposite of love... is sex". The disconnect between those two things is a large part of what this show is about. There's also that great quote by Elie Wiesel, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference" - which also has a strong resonance with places this show goes...

5. In our 2019 interview you described the show as "If Pretty Woman was a Black Mirror episode, sans tech." Can you expand on this comparison as to what that means? It's become a great, succinct way to sum up the show. The Pretty Woman analogy is pretty straightforward ... Opposite involves someone hiring a prostitute and the two of them discovering a connection... but this is not a sweet rom com and wherever you think it's going... it's not.... similar to Black Mirror. Black Mirror is a dark, twisty, difficult look at our culture, and that's what Opposite is doing - through a storyline that one might analogize to Pretty Woman. The "sans tech" is just to clarify the nature of the piece... with just the Black Mirror comparison you might be waiting for one of the characters to turn out to be a robot or something...

Ashley Griffin, Photo Credit: David Webb

6. You are the writer & one of the stars of this show. How do you separate yourself as the writer, during the rehearsal process, and allow the director to guide your character towards her vision of how she feels the character should be communicating your words? Trusting your director and your team is key. I always make sure I've done extensive development on the piece before we start work on any production I'm also going to be in... that way we're not in the weeds with needing me to do major overhauling of the show at the same time I'm trying to rehearse it.

I make sure to have lots of meetings ahead of time so I'm confident the director knows everything I know about the show... and I choose directors who I trust. Then I can just walk into the room and be an actor 100%, unless there's a request for the writer to make an appearance. I make sure to have great communication with my director so that my intention as a writer is clear, but then trust them to tell me if that intention is being communicated or not. Honestly, it doesn't feel much different from being an actor in a piece I didn't write - I just have the advantage of being able to walk in the rehearsal room with a lot of my homework already having been done.

7. Speaking of the director, you have the very talented Rachel Klein directing this show. What was it about Rachel's vision that made you go, she is the one to help me tell this story? I've been fortunate to know Rachel for about ten years now - she's a brilliant director and we have a wonderful shorthand. Thus far, we've mainly collaborated on developing new work, but this is the first time we're going to be putting up a full show together and I'm so excited!

Rachel is incredibly smart, creative, an "out of the box" thinker... but also terrifically sensitive and empathetic. Her rehearsal rooms are always a joy. She's incredibly collaborative, and she is an inspiring and trustworthy "Captain of the Ship." I always feel safe when I'm in the room with Rachel and, especially with this piece, that was a high priority. She's a great visionary, but she's also someone you appreciate having "boots on the ground" with you. She was an immediate and obvious choice and I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a director.

8. In the press release, you are quoted as saying, in regards to dating, “I looked forward to the day I would enter the adult world of relationships and have a positive experience with intimacy, especially as a survivor of sexual trauma. Instead, I was thrown into a culture where dates felt like auditions (casting couch and all) and love was treated as a commodity." How do you feel this show can possibly help change the dating landscape to make it feel less like an audition and more of a positive experience? Primarily by starting a conversation about it. We all feel these things to greater or lesser degrees, but if we keep it inside we just perpetuate the game... I think we also need to be honest about our intentions, both with ourselves, and others, and start pursuing real intimacy... not just the illusion of it. I think a lot of it is cultural, and I don't really know what we can do about that, but I do know we can start changing things on an individual basis - in how we approach our personal interactions with others.

9. What is one unexpected connection you have gotten from your journey with this show? I'm not really sure I've had any unexpected connections... I just feel very fortunate that the piece has resonated with a lot of people and I'm so excited it has the opportunity to continue to do so.

10. What is something we didn't get to talk about during this interview that you would like my audience to know about you? I think most of it can probably be found at: 

Performer and Writer | Ashley Griffin | United States

Ashley Griffin, Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy Photography

More on Ashley Griffin:

Ashley Griffin is a Broadway writer/performer most well known as the first person in history to be nominated for a major award (New York Innovative Theater Award) for both playing and directing Hamlet (for a theatrical production.) 

As a writer Ashley’s work has been produced/developed at New World Stages, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons and more. Ashley received the WellLife Network Award and a county commendation for her Off-Broadway play Trial (directed by Lori Petty and heralded as "If this show were on Broadway it would win the Pulitzer" - Stagescore) which is currently in talks for a transfer.

She has written extensively for film and TV and is the author of two bestselling novels, Blank Paige and The Spindle

As a performer, Ashley has appeared extensively on and Off-Broadway as well as in TV and film. Highlights include work at The Gershwin Theater, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, MTC and The Public Theater, as well as on The Greatest Showman and Homeland.

She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has trained at RADA, the National Theater and the Boston Conservatory.

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