WORDS BY IRVIN RIVERA
You may think it’s funny that Lauren Ash’s story can be described as a Romance novel…with herself. She plays the tough but lovable character of ‘Dina’ in the hit NBC TV series, Superstore. Lauren’s range is so wide that it makes her one of the funniest and smartest comediennes on TV right now.
I remember the first time I watched Superstore years ago and how I instantly gravitated toward Dina. There’s a certain level of charisma that draws you to her. It’s like, despite the fact you want to hate her, she grows on you so much and the next thing you know, you love her like she’s a part of your dysfunctional family.
Lauren’s openness and self-awareness combined with her quick wit, and rich well of experiences, stories, and beauty makes her an actress to watch out for.
In this exclusive interview, discover the passion and roots of this smart and talented woman. Allow the wit and humor of Lauren Ash to take you on an adventure around her world as a multi-talented actress and comedienne.
Who is Lauren Ash?
I’m Canadian. I came from a very small town outside Toronto. I dropped out of college after three months and started taking improve classes. I was actually the youngest person ever hired to Second City’s touring company . I performed on the main stage in Toronto and in Chicago, then I embarked on my glorious, illustrious film and television career in Los Angeles. I have quite a few acting credits, but people know me best as ‘Dina” on NBC’s Superstore. Outside of that, I am a lover, I am a giver, and I love animals and Disneyland.
What is the most Canadian thing about you?
I had my Canadian accent beaten out of me when I was performing at the Second City in Chicago. They were unrelenting about my very thick accent, which was ironic to me because all of them had Chicago accents. (laughs)
I think the most Canadian thing about me is my deep passion for Socialized Healthcare and Ketchup Chips which seems counterintuitive.
What’s your most memorable audition?
The worst was probably when I was screen testing for a role on a Matthew Perry sitcom. I had gone through so many auditions. You do your initial audition, then you do your callback, then you meet with the producers, then you do the studio screen test; I’ve gotten through all of those and they were like “You’re the choice! You’re the one! They love you, you’re perfect!” I went in to the network test, and I had to read with Matthew Perry. And I just stared into the beautiful blue eyes of Chandler Bing and lost all of my dialogue. I had to restart that audition three times. Every time you restart an audition in front of a bunch of executives you can just feel them losing more and more interest … as I left Matthew Perry looked me in the eyes and said “sorry.”
Let’s talk about Superstore.
When I read the pilot script for Superstore I was immediately convinced that the show will get picked up, it would run for many seasons, and I was the only person to play Dina! I actually created a character that was really similar to Dina when I was working at the Second City in Toronto. So when I read the script I was like, “Oh my God! I know her! I play her. I’m the only person who can do this!”
I started calling my manager every single day.
“When’s my Superstore audition? When is my Superstore audition?”
And they were like “They’re not seeing anybody yet. Calm down, weirdo.”
I had been on a show called Super Fun Night and a show called Another Period, so I had some experience, but the casting director for Superstore at that time (it changed since then) didn’t know me, and she didn’t feel like she could send me straight to producers.
So I had an audition with her first. After the first take she said “I’m such an asshole for making you come in and audition … you’re so good! You’re perfect for this!” and I was like “Yeah, I am!” and I booked it!
How did you get into playing Dina’s character?
For me, I start with the character’s body, so it’s how you stand or how you hold yourself or how you move. When I was developing the character that Dina eventually became (or at least who she was based on), it was all about the stance: hands on hips and posture and rigid chest. I will say it’s difficult for me to play Dina if my hair is not pulled back. It always feels weird to go into that character if I can feel my own hair on my shoulders. We’ve done it a few times and it feels very odd, but definitely I think it starts in the spine for me.
‘ Dina ’ was originally based on a classified ad that read: “Single woman seeks platonic male friend for hard rock concerts, roller coasters, and fun” and that’s what came out.
What is your favorite moment in Superstore?
There are so many amazing moments on the show. It’s so rare to be on a show for four years, especially because there is so much amazing TV.
So it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to choose, I had an amazing time when I got to write an episode in Season 3. It’s funny because one of my most memorable times on the set of Superstore was actually not when I was on camera at all, it was being off-camera watching all of my friends, who are so amazingly talented, and being able to come up with jokes for each of them on the spot. We improvise a lot on set, but this was different as I had the opportunity to improvise for seven cast members and it was such a gift. It made me realize how lucky we are and just how talented everybody is on the show. I think that’s what’s most memorable.
As a comedienne, what do you think is the secret to good comedy?
I think the key to good comedy [and I think Canadians nail this] is “self-deprecation.”
“Why are Canadians so funny?”
I always get asked this question. I think it’s because A. we grew up in the cold so you have to laugh to stay warm and B. we don’t take ourselves seriously.
The people that love making fun of Canadians the most are Canadians. Because life is too short.
Somebody once told me that in comedy, laughter is a recognition that a person understands. I think when you look at comedy that way it’s actually quite fascinating that people laugh “I get that joke!” Even if it takes them off guard or surprises them, it’s like “Oh! Hahaha” It’s an acknowledgement that you’re having, especially in live comedy, between you and the audience, when you’re saying something and they’re like “I get that! That’s funny!”
So I think that the bottom-line is, comedy has to be something that people understand, something that surprises people, and ultimately if you’re making fun of yourself people are always going to laugh.
What can we expect from Dina in the upcoming episodes of Superstore?
There’s a lot to come in the second half of Season 4 of Superstore.
Dina obviously has given birth to Glen’s baby, so we’re going to see them interact and what it’s going to be like to be reunited with this thing that grew in her for nine months.
Maybe some romance. Who knows? I can’t talk too much about it. People are going to be pretty excited of what’s about to come.
There’s always great stuff for ‘ Dina ’.
It’s been a gift. I’ve consistently been given interesting things for my character to do, including more dramatic scenes that you wouldn’t expect. I think that’s what makes Dina a really cool character. It’s not two-dimensional; it’s three-dimensional; you get to see all these different sides of her. You can see that she has real emotions, she’s not a sociopath as some may think on the surface.
There will also be a lot more fun Amy-Dina stuff and that’s what I love the most. I love their friendship and fans really do too.
Has the show ever changed the way you view actual superstores?
I worked in a store like this in high school. It felt very surreal walking onto the set the first day because I used to do this … and now I do it on television. It definitely changes the way I act in a superstore now because I get recognized a lot and people are frightened of me. Employees who see me in stores are like “Oh it’s Dina, oh no.” But I’m just there to buy toilet paper like everybody else. I put my pants on like everybody else. You know what I mean? I’m not there to critique what you’re doing. It’s been a very surreal, full-circle experience for me.
What’s your dream role?
‘ Dina ’ is definitely my favorite role I ever played, the reason being that it was a character that I developed on stage and then managed to get on to an American television show. That’s just so surreal. I started out doing shows in Toronto and now years later I’m on TV every Thursday night on NBC’s primetime. I mean, that’s like such a dream come true.
I think that I’ve got to play a lot of fun different cool characters and I think the next thing I’d like to do is to play somebody who is not so high status. I tend to get cast as characters who are extremely confident. Who are brash or bold, and I think it would be a nice difference to play somebody who is a little bit more mousey.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I want to say an adventure, but I never left North America, that’s the truth. Every time I book a, vacation , I book work.
Hey, struggling actors, if you’re not booking any gigs, book a trip to Europe, and trust me, you’ll get the next gig you audition for. Buy travel insurance!
If I was going to be any book, I think it would be a Romance. The story is the journey. I’ve gone through a lot of relationships and have had a lot of failures, but ultimately … the romance story is about myself. I’ve come pretty far. I grew up in a small town that a lot of people don’t leave, but I did . So certainly this year, 2019, A Book Of Lauren Ash, is a Romance novel with herself.
Check out the full interview in the video below:
See Lauren as Dina on Superstore returning on March 7th only on NBC.