Photography by Adam Bouska
In 2000, the first season of MTV's Making the Band gave birth to O-Town. After four years of growing success, the five-man boyband decided to part ways. That didn't mark the end for Ashley Parker Angel, however, who went on to star in another MTV reality show, There and Back, which followed his pursuit of a solo career.
Angel shimmied his way back into the spotlight in 2007, playing the part of Link Larkin in the eight-time Tony Award winning production of Hairspray. His Broadway debut was met with critical acclaim, leading to a much longer run than initially expected. After dabbling in television and film, Angel is set to return to the stage as Fiyero Tigelaar in the national tour of Wicked. We caught up with him recently to ask our 10 most burning questions. After chatting about his new role, discussion turned to his decision not to take part in O-Town's reunion, his hopes for the future, and those underwear photographs he's been sharing (not that we mind).
Out: You'll be joining the national tour of Wicked next week as Fiyero. What was your knowledge of the show before getting cast?
Ashley Parker Angel: Well, like a lot of people I had grown up with the Wizard of Oz. I had heard about the show [Wicked] for years, but didn’t have a chance to see it until I was living in New York. I was playing Link Larkin in Hairspray on Broadway and, because I have the same exact schedule as every other show on Broadway -- everyone has Mondays off, no one performs on Mondays -- it was really hard to go see shows.
The very first opportunity I got -- I had lost my voice that night or something and my understudy had to go on -- I bought a ticket to see Wicked. I had one of those experiences where, after the curtain drops, I was just glued to my seat. My mind was blown. From that moment I was like, it would be so incredible to be in this show someday. Quite a few people had already said to me, "God you’d be the perfect Fiyero!" So of course I was elated when, a few years later, this opportunity came my way. I couldn’t have been more excited.
In 2007 you joined the cast of Hairspray on Broadway as Link Larkin. What made you take that step?
I was all set to study theatre in college. As a teenager, I joined a small acting studio and I would have loved to have gone forward with that. But what happened was I got this audition for Making the Band, flew out to Las Vegas, and my career ended up going this whole other direction. I kind of ended up falling backwards into the music industry. I was always passionate about music -- my mom was a piano teacher, I grew up singing, my dad was a drummer in a band, I learned how to play guitar -- it was kind of the perfect opportunity for me, but it wasn’t something I was expecting. Then, of course, right after O-Town, MTV approached me with this idea of doing a television series about a member of a boyband that went solo [There and Back], and then that ended up keeping me busy.
But through all that time, I had an agent and was going to auditions when I was available. The problem was I was so busy. I would book projects in the acting world that I couldn’t do. So when Hairspray came around, I was like, "This is it. This is finally it." So I took a step away from other things I was doing and in 2007 and joined the cast of Hairspray thinking I was going to be in the show for just three months. I loved what I was doing, the producers loved what I was doing, and I ended up reknewing my contract, the first time, the second time, the third time and then a fourth time! I ended playing Link for a year and half in that show, and it was just the time of my life. And I left that experience knowing this is what I want to focus on. So when I moved back to Los Angeles, I sort of picked up where I left off when I was a 17-year-old. I joined an acting studio, because there's of course a lot of cross over between the music and acting industries, but I really wanted to take it seriously. So I spent the last couple of years developing myself, I did a couple of TV projects, got attached to a pilot that didn’t end up getting picked up, did a couple of cool indie type movie projects, but just kept trying to grow.
So acting has really been your true passion since you were young?
Definitely. I mean, I don’t think you can fully know what you want to do in life when you’re only 17, 18-years-old, but at that point, I thought I was going to move down to LA and basically get a job as a waiter and audition and try to make it as an actor. Then the Making the Band thing happened, and I flew to Los Vegas for that audition. Two weeks later, I moved away from home.
You recently turned down the O-Town reunion. Was that because you see your future going in a different direction from that kind of music?
Yeah. You know, it’s really hard because I had the time of my life in O-Town. When the time came to start talking about a reunion -- and that conversation has been happening for quite a while, even back when I was in Hairspray. The guys talked about the possibility of getting together. And at that point in time, I didn’t know what sort of trajectory I was going to be on. What happened in O-Town for the fours years we were in it, there were some pretty big film opportunities that I had booked, a couple of really big movie roles, but I couldn't take the time off from the band to be in a movie. And of course, I was so grateful for the opportunity to be in O-Town, but it was also kind of frustrating. I’ve always been the kind of guy that likes to look 5 years ahead, and acting was always something I wanted to do.
I know the time it takes to be in a band and also to try and launch a reunion, especially after you’ve stepped away from it for a while -- it’s not easy. It's time consuming. So I just had to have that heart to heart with myself and ask myself if this was really something that was exciting to me, or if that chapter had its place in my life back then. I think I’m just more of excited right now about these kinds of opportunities, and if I had done the O-Town reunion, I wouldn’t have been available for Fiyero in Wicked.
They decided to go ahead and do it and I’m so supportive. We’re all really great friends, and they’re all so supportive of me, and I’ve been so supportive of them. I think they understand, because they remember when we were back in O-Town how much I wanted to get involved in the acting world. Their new album is great, their new music is great, their new video, "Skydive" was their new single and it turned out awesome. They're back out on the road and they’re doing it. And I couldn’t be more happy for them.
That's great. You’re all making it clear that it was an amicable decision, and that there are no hard feelings.
Yeah. I just knew I would be putting myself in a position where I couldn’t commit 100% to the O-Town reunion, and I know how big of a deal it is to get back together. I don't think people really realize how hard it is to reunite with a band. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of energy, and I’ve just been building in a slightly different direction. It's not that I wouldn’t perform with those guys again, because I’m hoping that that opportunity comes and that we can be onstage together again. It's just basically been a timing issue.
Both Link and Fiyero are the hunky, charming, romantic leads -- are there any other character types you'd like to play?
Absolutely. I mean, I think that’s why people always told me I'd make a great Fiyero. And I think coming from where I’m coming from, people naturally peg me as that. But I’m getting older now, and I’m excited to try and stretch myself in new directions, and I’m hoping that those opportunities come. I have actually always wanted to play a villain really badly, but I guess I don’t look like the villain? But I want to play the villain. I’m dying to play the bad guy, and I’m hoping at some point I get to.
Who would be your dream villain?
A dream villain? I would love to play a comic book villain. To be honest, I’m a huge comic book fan. So, when Heath Ledger got a chance to play the Joker I was like, "YES! Will someone please give me the same opportunity one day?" Because it was kind of the same thing. Heath Ledger he had come out as a teen star and he was the hunky male lead, romantic counterparts to the female leads. And then he got the opportunity to play the Joker. I love films that twist the idea of the villain on its head, and it’s someone who maybe doesn’t look like the villain. So I know it can be done, I know former teen heart-throbs can play villains, so I’m looking for that opportunity! [Laughs].
Recently, you've been releasing some modeling photographs, and fitness has obviously become a big part of your life. What's your approach to fitness? Do you have any hopes for the future?
I was obsessed from a young age, but always found myself in a position where it was kind of hard to keep up with it. But in the last couple of years, I found that my self discipline in the gym started getting a lot better, and you really have to keep going if you want to achieve the body of your dreams. There's also a mental component to it. Nothing feels more gratifying than setting a goal and being able to reach it, and being able to see the final result. And the thing about fitness that’s so cool is that can happen quickly if you’re dedicated. I’m changing my body, and that’s exciting to me.
I started releasing some pictures on my Instagram of my progress, and a lot of people have reached out wanting to talk about fitness and my schedule and routine. It is something that I’m passionate about, that I like talking about, and if an opportunity were to come to get more involved in the fitness world, that would be exciting to me.
You have some shots that you did with Adam Bouska being released. But it's acting, not modelling, that's always been the goal?
I’m totally open to modelling. I mean, I love being in front of a camera, and I've been that way since I was a kid. As long as it’s for the right reason, not just to take a check. I just did this shoot, this Adam Bouska shoot, and it was just so much fun. He's an incredible photographer and we had a blast in the studio. And this was the first time for me that I’ve ever — even with all the crazy set ups we had with O-Town, I'd never posed in my underwear before, so this is kind of a big deal for me! I had worked with Adam in the past for the NOH8 campaign, and I’d told him that I had wanted to do something like this, and I couldn’t be more excited about the way the shots turned out. So for me, if the opportunity was right, I’m absolutely open to modelling.
Final question. You said you’re always thinking ahead, where do you see yourself in five years? Where would you like to be?
You know, I really would love to be working [laughs]. I’m really grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had. I know that, in the entertainment industry, is not the easiest, especially when you start at a young age, to grow and reinvent yourself. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had these opportunities come my way and I would just love to be working in acting, either in TV, theater or film. And I still write a lot. I stopped pursuing music for myself, but I’m a signed songwriter with E.M.I., so I’m a published songwriter. Over the past few years, there have been a couple of songs that I’ve written that I haven’t given away, just sort of tucked away in my back pocket. Learning Wicked, I’ve had smoke coming out of my ears. I'm in my hotel room every night trying to go over choreography. But when I have time, I would like to also follow up on my album, Soundtrack to Your Life. Overall, I’ve tried to stay true to my passions, and it’s paid off.