A quirky girl with a big heart, Ashley Rickards puts a personality behind the face of MTV’s hit show Awkward, where she plays Jenna Hamilton, a teen in high school who struggles with her identity afer an accident is misconstrued as a suicide attempt. Between Jenna’s love triangle with Matty and Jake, her strained relationship with her mother, and the her “mean girl” enemy Sadie, Ashley has her hands full when playing her character on the show. But Rickards’ talents go far deeper than her knack for bringing life to cringe-worthy scenarios–the actress also works as a volunteer and organizer for the Somaly Mam Foundation, a group dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims of sex slavery and human trafficking globally. The star clues us in on what we can expect for the upcoming season, her own high school experience, and what it’s like to be a 20 year old TV celebrity and humanitarian.
CM: So season 2 of the show premieres on June 28th. What can viewers expect this season?
AR: Well, there’s a lot of drama. There’s still the love triangle in place with Jenna, Matt and Jake, and Jenna’s relationship with her mother is still strained, but it’s evolving. The relationship moves to a different world, and Jenna makes some bad decisions this season.
CM: How do you think Jenna has transformed from last season?
AR: Jenna realizes that she deserves to be treated better. Jenna can be sort of introspective, but she’s also is starting to understand that she needs to talk about things with people, so she definitely makes an attempt to mature.
CM: Awkward isn’t the first show about kids in high school. What do you think makes this one so special?
AR: The writers are amazing. They’re all humans, and they’re relatable. The collaboration with Lauren Iungerich, the show’s creator, helps us understand what’s supposed to happen and how.
CM: Jenna has a pretty tough high school experience on the show. What was high school like for you in reality?
AR: I was one of those kids that was really too cool for school so I graduated high school at 15. I didn’t go to prom to do pep rallies or anything like that.
CM: Did you always know you wanted to act?
AR: No, definitely not. At one point I was forced to do this play, and I just realized that I loved it and it’s what I wanted to do.
CM: On the show in season one, Jenna was kind of in a love triangle with Matty and Jake. Our readers want to know what your dream guy is like in real life? What do you look for in a potential boyfriend?
AR: I guess I look for the same things everyone else does. I want someone who makes me laugh, who’s smart, and treats me right. People really settle these days, and forget that the relationship has to be symbiotic at its core or it’ll never work.
CM: So when you’re not working on the show, what do you like to do for fun?
AR: Well right now I’m working on two scripts—they’re dramas. I love to do yoga and meditate, things like that. I also really like outdoorsy stuff, like hiking and horseback riding.
So on a more serious note, could you talk a little bit about your work with the Somaly Mam Foundation?
I joined after seeing a book about Somaly Mam in the library, and was really mobbed by her strength and courage. I just filled out a regular volunteer form and started as a volunteer, but our relationship has evolved and now my role varies and I do a little bit of everything…. I organize charity events and work with awareness campaigns among other things. Somaly Mam is an inspiration leader, a hero who has endured a lot of pain, and is truly remarkable.
A new episode of Awkward premieres tonight on MTV at 10:30 EST so tune in!
Editor’s Note: To learn more about SMF, check out www.somaly.org/whoweare.