Ashley Ganger is a young actress we love for being joyful, spontaneous and, of course, for disarming us with her powerful portrayal of Meera Pakam in the Netflix teen drama Grand Army; the show is based on the acclaimed play of Katie Cappiello that makes a successful demonstration of the importance of media representation when talking about the daily issues of most teenage girls in America.
I definitely dislike spoilers, so I am just going to remark that, in the second episode of Grand Army, Meera, while going to high school with her brother, says one of my favorites lines of the show because expresses the power of body positivity, acceptance and female assertiveness.
Therefore, I was really pleased when Ashley Ganger talked to me about her role on the show, her life, especial interests, and some social issues that concern her the most.
I hope you enjoy this conversation and come to like her, even more, when you realize the wonderful person she is.
I can tell you that it’s not your average teen show that’s for sure. Grand Army explores being a young person in a way I’ve yet to see on screen. It’s a show that challenges its viewers to look inward and ask themselves tough questions. Katie Cappiello created a show and a play that will leave you with questions only you can answer and I think good art is supposed to have that effect.
Q: How would you define Miss Meera Pakam? Have you ever felt like needing the kind of support she offers to Sid (Amir Bageria)?
I would define Meera as a strong independent girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it. I think personally I can name a number of times in high school alone where I felt like I needed that support. I am an only child so I can’t really speak about having support from a sibling, but I am fortunate enough to have really good friends.
I think we need more representation; I want to see more Indian people on screen as well as more authentic stories that aren’t stereotypical. After Grand Army came out I received a number of messages from young people who look like Amir and myself that expressed how seen and heard our characters made them feel. It really opened my eyes to how much more they deserve. When you grow up never seeing anyone who looks like you on screen or in a magazine it can really have an effect on your self-esteem. Body positivity is so important to me; everyone deserves to feel not only comfortable but beautiful in their own skin. We were all created different and unique and there’s beauty in everyone. It’s a shame that media has narrowed our minds into believing beauty doesn’t go beyond one or two things.
Q: You have shown yourself as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement; as a young person, why do you consider this cause to be important?
I think it’s an absolute shame that we are in 2021 now and people are still fighting for basic human rights because of the color of their skin. This war has been going on since the beginning of time and it is one that never should have existed in the first place. As a young person it breaks my heart to see the chaos in the world and I know I’m not alone on that. I think as rough as 2020 was, it opened so many people’s eyes to what really goes on in our world and it’s something that we as young people can work to combat. We really are the future and I hope we can build a future that looks a lot brighter than this.
Q: Supporting others seems to be part of your life; in 2018 you posted on your Instagram account about the quality time you spent with Dr. Missions. Can you tell us more about this and other similar experiences?
Yes, of course! I went to Brampton Christian School and every year the high school would do a missions trip, my school really put emphasis on giving back and that is something I always loved about it. In my last year of high school, I decided to apply and was chosen to be on the mission’s team that year. It was the most incredible experience; I got to see the world in a way I didn’t even know was possible. We are so fortunate to live in the country we do and have access to so many things we take for granted. Charity work has always been something close to my heart since my first trip to India when I was 10 and seeing kids my age on the streets. I hope to get as involved as I can in my lifetime.
Q: How about sports? Are you still practicing any?
Not really; prior to COVID, I swam recreationally for fitness and it’s almost like my own personal therapy. I’ve taken up boxing in the last year and it’s probably the most fun I’ve had working out since swimming. I’m really just trying to find fun ways to stay active beyond just the gym.
Q: What would you recommend to our readers for staying active and as healthy as possible?
I think finding a way to have fun is so important it doesn’t have to be all gym and weights. I think it’s also important to recognize that we’ve had an insanely hard year and I understand how unmotivated one can get sitting at home. It can be as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride. Also having a workout buddy can be a great way to stay motivated while also motivating someone else.
Q: 2021 is just starting, what are you expecting from this year?
I mean does anyone really know what to expect from this year? Personally, last year brought a lot of self-reflection and personal growth I’m just hoping for a more positive year, that being said we can’t forget what we went through. We were taught too many important lessons last year to just forget them and move on.
Q: Tell us a bit about upcoming projects. Is there something else you would like to do in the future?
I don’t really know what the future holds for me. As of right now I’m just focusing on acting and working on my craft, there’s always something new to learn and that really excites me. There are so many stories to tell and so many roles to play I’m excited for what’s next, even if I don’t know what it is.
Q: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
Just thank you to anyone who took the time to read this and to anyone who supports Grand Army and my career it really does mean the world to me. I hope everyone’s staying safe and healthy!
Before we go
For myself, I have experienced some of the things Ashley Ganger said. While growing up, media made me believe there were not enough people like me with interesting stories to be told; thankfully, that is changing nowadays and the future looks brighter.
Nevertheless, let us learn a thing or two from the words of Miss Ganger: try to stay active, look for pleasant company to help you stay sane and safe, watch Grand Army to keeping finding out more about our beloved Meera, and most importantly, serve others every time you can.
I just want you to know that when I asked about the clothing and style received one of my favorite answers: the oversized coat was handed me down from Grandma.
We love you, Grandma Ganger! You are pretty stylish.