Ashley Nicole Rickards is an American actress who has garnered fame for portraying Jenna Hamilton in the MTV comedy-drama series ‘Awkward’ and Samantha "Sam" Walker in The CW's teen drama series ‘One Tree Hill’. She is also known for playing a severely autistic girl named Mandy in the 2011 independent drama film ‘Fly Away’. A Florida native, Rickards was raised in a horse farm that lets special needs children interact with the animals. When she was 13 years old, she acted for the first time in an opera production at her school. A member of Mensa, she obtained her high-school diploma at the age of 15. She made her screen debut in the short film ‘Web Journal Now’ in 2006. After portraying a series of guest roles in TV shows, she was cast as Samantha “Sam” Walker in ‘One Tree Hill’. From 2011 to 2016 she portrayed the series protagonist and narrator Jenna Hamilton in ‘Awkward’, a performance that garnered her a Teen Choice Award nomination and a Critics’ Choice Television Award nomination in 2012. For ‘Fly Away’, Rickards won the Best Performance accolade at the Arizona International Film Festival in 2011.
In 2006, Ashley Rickards played the role of Janet in writer-director Chelsea Vance’s short film ‘Web Journal Now’. In the next few years, she guest-starred in TV shows like ‘Everybody Hates Chris’, ‘CSI: NY’, Zoey 101’, ‘Ugly Betty’, ‘Entourage’, and ‘Outlaw’. She appeared in the 2007 telefilm ‘American Family,’ which also stars Rachel Specter and Michelle Barkowski. That year, she worked in the short film ‘Spoonfed’. During this period, while she was steadily getting work, she was prohibited from working beyond a number of hours due to child labour laws in US. Rickards’ first cinematic appearance came in 2009 in the action thriller ‘Gamer’.
She has appeared in three music videos in her career: The Fray’s ‘How to Save a Life’ in 2006, The Format’s ‘She Doesn’t Get It’ in 2007, and M83’s ‘Claudia Lewis’ in 2013. She joined the cast of The WB (later The CW) teen drama series ‘One Tree Hill’ in the show’s sixth season as the runaway foster child Samantha “Sam” Walker and portrayed the character in 19 episodes between 2008 and 2009. Before auditioning for the show, she had never heard of it. According to Rickards, her experience on ‘One Tree Hill’ was extremely productive for her, helping her learn many things about the business, from acting techniques to different ways of shooting a scene.
In 2009, she gave auditions for several shows. She was supposed to star in the 2010 film ‘Dirty Girl’, but that did not work out. In 2010, she was featured in an episode of the NBC legal drama ‘Outlaw’ and gave an audition for MTV’s ‘Awkward’ for the lead role, Jenna Hamilton. Despite the fact that she was initially rejected, her manager Adam Griffin mailed the tape that she had created for ‘Fly Away’ to the producers to demonstrate that she can do anything. Rickards ended up being cast in both projects. ‘Awkward’ aired for five seasons on MTV from July 19, 2011, to May 24, 2016.
She starred in Janet Grillo’s ‘Fly Away’ (2011) as Mandy, a teenage girl with severe autism. The film as well as Rickards’ performance in it received positive reviews, with Rex Reed of ‘The New York Observer’ declaring that she deserved an Oscar nomination for it. She has since appeared in films like ‘Struck by Lightning’ (2012), ‘Sassy Pants’ (2012), ‘At the Devil’s Door’ (2014), ‘A Haunted House 2’ (2014), ‘Behaving Badly’ (2014), ‘The Outcasts’ (2017), and ‘Pretty Little Stalkers’ (2018). She played supervillain Rosalind Dillon / Top in two episodes (2016-17) of The CW series ‘The Flash’. Rickards is currently starring as A’sha in the Vimeo web series ‘ctrl alt delete’.
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Family & Personal Life
Born on May 4, 1992, in Sarasota, Florida, USA, Ashley Rickards was raised in a horse farm which hosted children with special needs. She studied at a local Montessori school. It was there, at the age of 13, that she had her first exposure to acting when she landed a role in an opera production. She gained her high-school diploma at 15. Rickards has also become a member of Mensa. She performed at a local talent showcase, which eventually led to her relocation to Los Angeles. Later, she hired a group of representatives and became active in the industry.
In 2011, she helped set up the Project Futures Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization that seeks to stop human trafficking and sexual slavery in southeast Asia. In March 2015, she put out a self-help book titled ‘A Real Guide to Getting It Together Once and For All’ through Harlequin publishers. In the book, she candidly wrote about her eating disorder and her journey to overcome it.
In 2014, she reportedly got engaged to a musician named Tom Cole, who was unhappy about her intimate scenes with her male co-stars on ‘Awkward.’ They eventually broke up. In 2015, Ashley Rickards was dating actor Casey King.