Asha Bromfield; @ashabrom
How do you describe what you do to your parents?
My parents have known I was an artist all my life. They primarily know me as a singer, which is what I’ve been doing since I learned to speak. Beyond that, they know me as an actress and a writer.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I’m actually still in school! I’m in my final year, studying communications at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
The first role that I ever booked was on Degrassi: The Next Generation. I was 15, and it was the most exciting moment of my life. I’ll always remember the line; this guy was hitting on me, and I said, “Sorry, not interested.” It was just a little one-liner, and I was so nervous! I didn’t even know that the job paid at first. I was just so excited to do it that when I got the cheque a few weeks later, I was like, “Oh, I get paid, too? That’s so cool!
What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done solely for money?
I was hired as the token Black best friend for a TV movie. I was fully aware of what the role was going into it—that it was stereotypical, meant to be the support system for the white lead character. And I had an issue with the makeup artist on set. I was trying to explain to her that she didn’t have my colour, and that the makeup she was trying to apply wouldn’t work for my skin. It became a whole situation; she got the director involved, and suddenly I was framed as the difficult Black girl who wasn’t listening. I remember calling my agent crying. I felt so helpless, like no one was taking the time to understand what I was saying. I was devastated about it at the time, but looking back now, I’m happy that the experience taught me about the importance of speaking up for myself. Sometimes you feel like you should be apologetic [in those situations], because you’re just so happy to be there, but I’ve learned that it’s important not to compromise myself in any way, and to make sure that I’m comfortable before anything else.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I would definitely say Riverdale was my big break. I actually wrote a story for FLARE about it! I landed Riverdale because I was really unhappy. I was living in Ajax, outside of Toronto, with my parents, serving at a restaurant. I felt like I was settling in a lot of aspects of my career; and then I had a friend tell me that I should go to Vancouver, because he had done it, and there was a lot of acting work out there. So I literally took my waitressing tips and flew to Vancouver, and I told myself that I would stay for two weeks. I remember really struggling to make it work, to afford to be there. I booked Riverdale on my second-last day in the city. It’s so important to take a leap of faith, take risks and not to settle. My experience on Riverdale catapulted me toward the next level of my career, and I’m so grateful for that.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Go for it. There is literally nothing that you cannot have or cannot do. Don’t allow other people to limit you because of their own insecurities.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
To play it small, or play it safe.
When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again?
I love self-help books. I love anything Oprah, like the SuperSoul Sunday series. And this line from a Beyoncé song, “Schoolin’ Life”: “Stop living in regret, baby, it’s not over yet.”
How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?
I think the industry is growing, I think that there are a lot more diverse stories coming out now, but I’m excited for [even] more. I’m excited to see stories starring people of colour that aren’t focused solely on race. I’m excited for different races to be represented prolifically: dark-skinned South Asian actresses, Asian actresses, African-American actresses of different shades.
Have you ever disclosed your salary to a colleague in the name of transparency? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely. I’ve had conversations with co-stars where I’ve found out that they were making significantly more than me; if they hadn’t been transparent about it, I would have no idea. It can feel like such a privilege to be in this industry working as an actress, but it’s important to have all the information, so that moving forward you can make informed decisions about roles and compensation, and make sure you’re not low-balling yourself.