Sunday, February 5, 2012

Q&A: Erica Dasher Talks JANE BY DESIGN, Being a Role Model and LMFAO

Houston-native Erica Dasher was last seen in’s original web series THE LAKE. The popular show, produced by former WB CEO Jordan Levin and Jason Priestley, followed the stories of four families as they spent their summer vacation around the fictional Lake Eleanor. She is now starring on ABC Family's JANE BY DESIGN as Jane Quimby, a quirky teen with an eclectic chic fashion sense who is just trying to survive the perils of high school.

When mistaken for someone else, Jane gets the chance of a lifetime to live out her dreams of working in the fashion world. Now she must juggle her double life and hope she doesn’t get caught.

Dasher is an accomplished filmmaker having produced her own documentary feature Speak Easy which documents the lives of a group of eccentric teenagers who vie for high school glory in the world of competitive acting, otherwise known as “Forensics.” The film is currently in post-production.

Dasher is a graduate from USC’s prestigious School of Theater and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Read the transcript of a recent Q&A with the up and coming star below:

On the show a lot of your scenes with Andie MacDowell (Gray Chandler). Are either on the phone or on a video screen? How is it different doing those scenes versus when you get to actually work face-to-face?
Erica Dasher: The great thing is Andie is always on set. At first they set it up like that because she lives in North Carolina, but after the first episode she came and got a place out in L.A. while we were shooting so that she could be on set. She does all her off camera dialogue. Even if I have to look at her in the office somewhere and she has nothing to do with the scene and I’m just supposed to be watching her walk somewhere, she’ll do it. She’s incredible.

Also, in the show we see Jane frantically switching between her school and her work like. Do you go and switch back and forth between those two different scenes or do you film all of your work scenes one day and all of your school scenes another day?
Erica Dasher: Usually we’ll have days where it’s half the week we’ll be on one stage, which has the house and the school, and the other stage has Donovan Decker, which is this grand, beautiful set. But no, there are days too where we’re literally running back and forth across stages, the whole cast is. So it’s fun. It’s a bit of a character setting.

Well, the show is such a success. How are you finding your newfound fame?
Erica Dasher: Good. I mean I feel like I can still walk down the street so it’s nice. I’m getting a little taste of it. It’s really felt very encouraging and good seeing the overwhelming support on Twitter and Facebook, but I still feel a little removed from it. It’s a surreal experience.

Was there instant chemistry when you began working with the cast?
Erica Dasher: Yes, actually I was cast first and our creator, show runner, and network had me come in and read with all of the other characters. So they really wanted that chemistry to exist with Billy and me, and with my brother and me. So I think that was a really smart thing that they did to go through that process and make sure that we connected from the very beginning.

This past episode we saw Jane go to Paris - what was that like for you personally?
Erica Dasher: Awesome. It was great. We shot mostly in L.A. We have stages up in Santa Clarita and then we did a few days in New York in order to make our New York shots feel a little more authentic. It was just great.

Our producer didn’t want to put me in front of a green screen. They want each episode to feel like a movie. The show really does feel like a romantic comedy in a lot of ways, and I think what makes it special is that it’s on this grand scale. I live in Westchester. I work in SoHo. We travel to Beverly Hills. Eventually we go to Paris.

I was really happy we got to go. It was awesome because we ended production there. We did three or four days of shooting in Paris and then production left and I stayed for five days on my own and wandered around the city. It was an incredible way to end my first job.

Is it true that you broke your ankle when you were auditioning for Jane?
Erica Dasher: That is very true. I had gone through the first part of the process, the pre-read and the call back and right before the test I was at a café, writing, working on my own stuff. I hadn’t heard anything so I figured it wasn’t happening and I got a call from my manager that I was testing for the show. I didn’t even have the part yet. I had never tested for a show before so I got very excited and I wanted to step out of the café to be nice to the other patrons, since I was being loud and obnoxious.

As I walked outside there was a step into the parking lot and I fell over. I was still on the phone with my manager and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. Oh gosh, my ankle really hurts.” It started swelling and I went to the doctor and he had them put me in this big boot to make sure that I could walk around during the test the next day. They still cast me, fortunately, but it was definitely broken and the first episode was a challenge.

What do you think Jane is drawn to and admires about each of the men in her life—Billy, Nick and Jeremy?
Erica Dasher: She and Billy have been best friends since childhood. There’s a lot of love there. They know how to push each other’s buttons. I think she really likes that Billy marches to his own beat and she’s very much the same way even though she wants to fit in. They have very similar nature.

What do you love and enjoy about working with Nick and Matthew and Rowly?
Erica Dasher: They’re all so great and I’ve become such wonderful friends with them. Nick is so much like his character Billy on the show. He really treats women like they’re princesses. He’s such a wonderful friend. When I was broken on the pilot he would carry me around. We would have very long days sometimes where we were shooting 14-hour days. I code red for chocolate around 3 p.m. every day and he’d bring me a piece of chocolate. So he’s great. He takes very good care of all of us.

Matt, who plays Nick, is actually very similar. We just got very lucky. We have very nice, well-raised boys. Matt is from the South and he’s very polite. He’s great.

And then Rowly, he’s a little bit older. He’s so charismatic and he’s really comfortable on set. It’s fun to watch him work. I think he’s really talented. And in real life he’s a lot like his character. He speaks Japanese and French, and obviously he’s British. He’s very much like a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of guy.

What is your advice to fans that are wanting to fashionable but are on a budget?
Erica Dasher: I love vintage shopping. I actually don’t spend a lot of money on clothes at all. I live right around the corner from a little vintage shop and I do a lot of rummaging around, those kinds of places. I think the quality of the craftsmanship in vintage clothes is hard to come by unless you’re able to buy higher-end labels nowadays, and I think you can find a lot of higher end labels that are more affordable in a vintage shop.

But in college too we would go to Goodwill to get costumes for theme parties or whatever. I think if forces you to be more creative. If a dress doesn’t quite fit you find a belt that works. But I love vintage and resale stuff.

You’re from Houston, Texas. Do you miss it terribly?
Erica Dasher: I miss my family, but I do not miss the humidity. I’ve really grown to love L.A., but I do miss my family a lot. I’m able to visit them a lot, and they come out here too. I have an 11-year-old sister so it’s really important for us to see each other as often as possible. They just figured out how to do Skype so it’s been very exciting. We Skype like every day.

JANE BY DESIGN is all about fashion, and as a lady you probably keep up with the latest fashion trends, but did you have to do any special research into the business side of the fashion industry to credibly portray your character Jane?
Erica Dasher: I did. I had been an assistant at different points so I had done a little of pre-research, but yes. Our costume designer, Olivia Miles-Payne, is a genius and she’s exposed me to a lot of young designers. I think the thing about fashion is the industry moves so quickly. A lot of it lives online as well so it’s easy to keep up with it, but you have to sort of stay educated in order to do that. I spend a lot of time reading blogs and stuff online and listening to Andie, because Andie grew up in the fashion industry.

Being on this show, has it inspired you to maybe to some more work in the fashion industry in the future?
Erica Dasher: I really like fashion. The show certainly has an effect on my personal style, which is still evolving. Yes, fashion is a form of a creative outlet and a form of self-expression. I can see myself staying involved in a way. I’m going to Fashion Week next week in New York. It’s just another way for me to learn about that whole world. I’m really excited.

There’s a lot to admire about Jane in both her worlds. What strikes you has her strongest quality?
Erica Dasher: I think she’s a really genuine person. I don’t think that she has any airs about—obviously she’s lying about her age in order work in the fashion industry, but I think she’s really vulnerable. She makes a genuine effort to do the right thing and to help out and is willing to take on any challenges. I think that’s where her likeability lies and that she is not an inauthentic person at all.

If you could have anyone guest star on JANE BY DESIGN who would it be and what role would you want them to play?
Erica Dasher: Oh my gosh. We had some great cameos this year. We had Betsey Johnson and Patricia Field and Nanette Lepore and the editor-in-chief of W and Teen Vogue and Lucky Magazine. So it’s like we’re already very spoiled. It would be really fun to have Lagerfeld on the show because I think it would add a very fun energy on the set. But I think selfishly, I want Sarah Burton to come on the show, who is the designer for Alexander McQueen, because she’s my favorite and I always want her to design a dress for me.

Do they ever incorporate some of your own style to some of Jane’s?
Erica Dasher: I think some of my own style lives in Jane even more than it does on the red carpet right now. ABC Family has these incredible in-house stylists that will dress me for the red carpet. Right now on the red carpet, it’s about taking risks and finding out what I like and what looks good on me in photographs. Sometimes I really like it and sometimes I feel like it’s a miss, but I’m learning. I’m learning how to do that.

With Jane, I say this all the time, but Olivia Miles-Payne, who’s our costume designer, is a genius, and I think part of her genius lies in that she knows there is magic in collaborations. So she really works with what looks good with our body types and what colors look good and what we’re naturally attracted to while still building distinct personalities for each of the characters.

But Jane has these sort of like tutu-y things, these tiered skirts. That’s sort of how I pictured her and it’s what I wore to all of my auditions. That became incorporated very quickly into the show. I felt like it was really fun and feminine and flirty, and I think that’s a large part of Jane’s style.

You’ve done a documentary called Speak Easy. Is there a release date on that yet? I know it was pending the last time I read it.
Erica Dasher: We’re in closed production for it now. What we’re probably going to do is finish it in the next couple months and do festivals with it. Hopefully we can get a TV station or someone to pick it up. I mean it would be amazing if it could go to theaters.

My best friend and I met doing speech and debate. We used to go to speech camp together because we were really cool, but we decided to make a movie about it. We shot it in school and then we graduated and then we both immediately got—she’s a producer now in New Media and I got caught up with Jane, but we’re in picture lock. It’s almost done. It’s being composed. The music is being done right now and it’s being animated. But I have a feeling we’ll take it to festivals.

What I love about this show is that I know absolutely nothing about fashion, but yet I’m like addicted to it already. How has the fan response been? Have you come across people that don’t know fashion but are drawn in and what do you think makes this show appealing to audiences?
Erica Dasher: I didn’t know that much about fashion going into it, but when I first read the script I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Jane. I think she’s a very relatable character. Again, I think she’s genuine and vulnerable and passionate and makes a lot of mistakes, but her heart is always in the right place.

I was drawn to the relationship that she has with Billy. I think the male/female best friendship is a unique one. I like that she lives with her brother. I think the relationships are what makes the show appealing.

You guys seem like such a fun cast. What do you guys like to do when you’re not filming on set?
Erica Dasher: We all got together to watch the show, the pilot, but we’ll go out to eat. We go to the movies. We do karaoke. India, on the show, kills at karaoke. She’s very good. But yes, I’ve become friends with everyone in the cast. It’s been a really special, positive experience. We’re very lucky.

Do you think it’s possible for girls and boys to be just friends like Billy and Jane?
Erica Dasher: I think so. When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies, so that could probably answer it better than I can. The thing about Billy and Jane is there’s so much love in the relationship that you never know what that love could turn into. But I do think it’s possible. I have some good guy friends.

What’s been your favorite moment filming so far?
Erica Dasher: It’s hard not to say standing under the Eiffel Tower doing a scene. It was the last scene we shot and at 8:00 the Eiffel Tower lights up and starts glittering. It was a pretty incredible moment.

Last night we saw Billy and Jeremy were both bending over backwards to help Jane find the Lookbook. How does Jane get these guys to do everything for her, like drop everything to help her out?
Erica Dasher: I don’t know. I need to figure that out too. I think she’s making such a genuine effort. You want to help her out. It’s a magical quality that Jane has. It’s one I’m very jealous of.

How would you say this experience is different from filming like a web series like you did prior?
Erica Dasher: It’s a lot bigger and the hours are a lot more intense. I remember when I was first cast I was so excited, and then a couple of days later I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s going to be huge stages and hundreds of people and there are going to be cranes.” It’s surprising how intimate it still feels even though there are a hundred people watching you do things, but you’re in the moment and you’re acting. But yes, I don’t think anything could have prepared me.

Plus we had very long days. We did like 12 or 14-hour days and we were doing 11 pages. So it was a really intense process. I completely cut out my social life and everything else and often would stay in a hotel right near the studio so that I could even cut down my drive time. But it was like all Jane all week and then over the weekend I would work with my acting coach on the scripts and start all over again. It takes an incredible amount of focus.

Could you tell us any behind the scenes moment that has stood out to you or that our fans could appreciate or hear about?
Erica Dasher: A behind the scenes moment, I will share one. Andie and I went to Fashion Week in the middle of production over the weekend for two days and I was—it’s a really overwhelming experience. I had never done it before and I continued to be surprised by how generous everyone has been to me and how well they take care of me.

Andie—everybody’s there from backstage, L’Oreal executives. She’s been the face of L’Oreal for 25 years. She introduced me to everybody and everyone wanted to take pictures with her and she pulled me into every photo and into every interview. It was a really lovely thing. She’s a great role model. And also there was a lot of dancing on set. Like they would call “Cut,” and people would put—LMFAO, for some reason, became this sort of set band. They’d play it on their phones. There was a lot of dancing in between takes.

Then I also wanted to know if you could sort of tell us how you are similar and different to your character of Jane.
Erica Dasher: I think Jane and I are in a similar place in our lives because she’s getting to live her dream in the fashion world and I’m really getting to do that in the acting world. It’s scary and amazing and exciting, and so I think that passion we really share. She’s much better dressed.

What’s it like for you, seeing yourself on posters and being a role model? Is that something that you wanted?
Erica Dasher: Seeing myself on posters is totally weird. My parents were so cute. They came into town over Christmas and we drove around to literally every single billboard in the city and took pictures. So it’s just surreal and very funny. It’s sort of an out of body experience.

As far as a role model goes, I look at it as a great privilege. My sister is 11 years old and it’s really cool for me to be on a show that she can watch. I sort of have a microphone in my hand to talk about things that I think are important. I look at is a privilege.

What was it behind your decision to stay in school before you decided to start auditioning?
Erica Dasher: I think my parents must have done some subtle ninja parenting. I felt like it was by decision, but there was always a lot of great value placed on education in my house. I really felt like I wanted that experience of going to college because you learn so much in college that’s outside of the classroom. You learn how to deal with ego and authority and finding yourself and making mistakes. You’re not under a microscope the way that you are when you’re sort of in the entertainment industry. I felt like I wanted to do that first. I feel like it was my decision, but it must’ve been some good parenting because I’m sure it’s there.

Is there anything in upcoming episodes that you would like for the fans to look for, that you would like them specifically to see?
Erica Dasher: Well next week, I think, is a really, really fun episode because India and Jeremy come to the high school. I won’t say why, but they come to the high school. The worlds are colliding big time, and I think it’s a really fun episode. It’s a really heavy episode for India. I think she’s so strong and so beautiful, but she’s so funny. I think it’s a really fun episode.

And then in episode eight there’s some drama, which I think is cool. You saw a bit of that in four, but I think the characters really get to grow in episode eight. And then in nine and ten I think we kill it. I think nine is really strong and funny, and then ten, I think people will be very happy and excited for the end of the season.

Has there been anything that’s been difficult for you to do so far?
Erica Dasher: Honestly, I’m so supported by the cast. Really it’s such a fun set and I think that has a lot to do with our show runner, our Executive Producers April Blair and Gavin Polone. They’re really even keeled people and they’re both really passionate about the project. Everyone’s prepared and on time and memorized. Everyone really cares about the material. I think when you have people at the top that are cool, good people it trickles down.

But I think the hardest thing was, again, the hours. And for the writer too for our show, she was doing the same thing. She’d stay in a hotel near the studio. She was doing rewrites late at night and we were not doing a lot of sleeping. So I think that was it, but it’s fine. It’s like we’re making a TV Show. We couldn’t be happier.

Jane lives the double life between her work and high school. What do you think her biggest issues are with the high school side of her?
Erica Dasher: I think she’s never felt like she fit in, in school. I can relate to that. I never felt like I fit it. And I think there’s a lot of pressure to do that as a teenager. You want to be unique, but you don’t want to be ostracized, and I think sort of straddling to those two worlds and also becoming an adult and still being a kid and dealing with your parents. Jane doesn’t have that as much because she has a brother. She just lives with her older brother. So I think there are just a lot of gray areas in high school and I think that’s what makes it difficult.

Do you think in the end she will maybe end up breaking out of that in the future?
Erica Dasher: I think we’ve already seen a bit of that. As she starts to gain confidence from being recognized for stuff that she’s passionate about in the work world she brings that back to high school, and that’s why Nick Fadden starts to notice her. She suddenly has a sort of different air about her.

One of the first things that the show runner said to me that attracted me to the project was that there are so many things she wishes she could tell her younger self now that she’s an adult. Jane gets to take those lessons from the adult world and bring them back to high school with her the next day. I think that’s really cool.

What’s the biggest thing that has changed about your life since you got the show and it’s been airing?
Erica Dasher: Not a lot just yet. The publicity side of the job is a big change. I do a lot of events and talking to you lovely people. That’s been the biggest change. It’s just like, you know, you getting photographed and going out and realizing that like where I am online, on Twitter, people are looking at it and reading it. So I just have to be a little bit more conscious, at this point, about what I’m putting out into the world.

Then my last question for you is how did you get involved in acting? Was it something you had a passion for since you were a child?
Erica Dasher: Yes, I was a really precocious, obnoxious kid. I had a teacher that stuck me in a theater class so I started doing theater very young. Then I did speech and debate, and the speech side of speech and debate is like competitive acting. I did that from sixth grade all through high school and went to speech camp. I did theater all through high school and then I studied theater in college. So I’ve always wanted to do it. I didn’t start auditioning professionally until I graduated, but it’s always been a part of my life.

You mentioned LMFOA. Can you shuffle?
Erica Dasher: I think I can shuffle pretty well, yes. I pretend to shuffle. They would be a fun cameo to have.

I think that would be a good prom band maybe.

Erica Dasher: Yes, amazing.

What are you watching on TV these days? Erica Dasher: I love MODERN FAMILY. When I broke my ankle, that’s like the only thing that got me through it. I would just watch MODERN FAMILY on Hulu all the time. I love AMERICAN HORROR STORY on FX and Justified. I actually used to intern at FX when I first graduated and started auditioning. They were cool with me if I had to leave and go to an audition. It’s been really fun to go back. I went back the other day to say hi and they had been rooting for me for a little while. So I like those two shows. What else do I watch? I love MAD MEN. I’ve been watching PRETTY LITTLE LIARS too on ABC Family. I think it’s a really fun show.


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