Age & Hometown: 34; Westchester, NY
Current Role: A bright Broadway debut as law student Ellen Roark, a quick-witted overachiever who talks her way into the biggest court case in town in A Time To Kill.
All in the Family: As a kid, Ashley Williams knew her family wasn’t exactly normal. “We were very kooky and inventive,” she says, “and it didn’t take long for my parents to realize we should all be auditioning for things.” When her big sister Kimberly booked the role of young bride-to-be Annie in Father of the Bride, Williams, then 13, was also rewarded—her parents let her start going to New York City without a chaperone. “It was a really big deal! One sister gets to work with Steve Martin, the other gets to take the train by herself,” Williams jokes. Soon, she had booked her own big gig, and spent two years juggling school, track practice and the role of troubled teen Danielle on the daytime soap As the World Turns. “Everyone’s always told me how hard this business is to break into,” Williams says, “but I felt like, if Kim can do it, maybe I can, too.”
Actress by Day…: After earning a theater degree at Boston University, Williams understudied Rachel Weisz in off-Broadway’s The Shape of Things. “I went on 19 times—not like I was counting—OK, I totally was,” she admits. She headed to L.A. for pilot season on a whim and ended up starring in Good Morning Miami, Saving Grace, Something Borrowed, Margin Call and How I Met Your Mother, as Ted’s cupcake-baking girlfriend Victoria. “People recognize me, but I get a lot of, ‘Didn’t I go to camp with you?’” she says, laughing. In addition to her acting career, Williams is a certified doula and has coached more than 50 births. “It’s an amazing way to remind myself there’s more to life than getting roles,” she says, though her double life can get chaotic: “Once I was shooting an episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine and had to coach a woman through contractions between scenes!”
Gavels and Guitars: When Williams’ producer husband Neal Dodson began shooting a movie in New York, the actress jumped at the opportunity to make her Broadway debut in A Time to Kill. “I’ve been waiting to do a play when the time was right, and this is the time,” she says. As John Grisham's courtroom drama comes to life on stage, “The audience is completely involved,” she notes, “and that’s the way theater should be. It’s impossible not have an opinion about whether or not Carl Lee Hailey should be found guilty.” The play’s subject matter may be heavy, but backstage, Williams and her co-stars find ways to keep things light, especially during the bluesy guitar underscoring between scenes. “There’s nonstop air guitar going on backstage, most of it generated by Tom Skerritt,” she says. “So when you see the show, whenever you hear guitar, there’s no doubt we’re air guitaring. It’s very important for you to know that.”