Linden Ashby has appeared in numerous movies (Iron Man 3, Resident Evil: Extinction, Mortal Kombat) and television series (Teen Wolf, Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place) and he’s worked with so many people (Kevin Costner, Rutger Hauer, Milla Jovovich) that you could play a great game of Six Degrees of Linden Ashby! This Saturday, May 12, at 10/9c, he’ll be adding to that list when he stars in Lifetime Movies’ A Daughter’s Revenge — part of the Don’t Mess With Mommy marathon.
Yes, it is as juicy as it sounds! Elle Spencer, played by Jessica Sipos (UnReal, Ascension), is a crafty young woman who has an incredible bond with her mother, Michelle, played by Claire Rankin (Rogue, Molly’s Game). When her mother commits suicide, the disturbed daughter blames her stepfather, David Spencer, played by Linden, and proceeds to devise a devious plan to use her unsuspecting friend, Anna Bellcroft, played by Sierra Wooldridge (12 Monkeys, Anon), as an instrument of revenge.
“It’s a psychological thriller,” Linden told Entertaining Options. “She is not well. She has issues and she is vengeful. She’s just oozing vengeance!”
The absorbing story was deftly written by Lifetime fans Andrea Canning (Dateline NBC, Today, NBC Nightly News) and Elizabeth Stuart, a Peabody Award-winning news producer (ABC, CNN). Together, these creators have crafted a tense and twisted thriller that will take you on a wild and dangerous ride.
“The funny thing about this movie,” Linden noted, “is that it was one of the most comfortable and easy parts I’ve done in a long time. I had a great time working with Jessica and Sierra. It was no muss, no fuss, no stress, and we all laughed a lot.”
“Jessica is a bit of a race car driver, so we raced go-carts against each other… And I had to take her to school a little bit,” he taunted playfully. “But really, she’s so cool and such a tough girl — she was raised with all brothers. She’s a tomboy. Don’t get into a shadow boxing match with her or you’re gonna get your face slapped! She’s also funny and wicked smart. Sierra is charming and talented. It was such a pleasure to work with people you genuinely like.”
Speaking of working with people he genuinely likes, Linden met his wife, Susan Walters (The Young and the Restless, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf), through television and the couple has worked on a number of projects together.
“We just celebrated our anniversary a couple of weeks ago,” Linden informed. “Thirty-two years.”
Coincidentally, the sequence of events that eventually led to Linden’s landing the role of David in A Daughter’s Revenge began nearly thirty years ago. But first, a little backstory on his incredible relationship with Susan.
“There is that sobering moment in your life that happens after quite a few years together,” Linden expressed. “It’s that day when you wake up and you realize, ‘I don’t know what I would do without this person.’ You love this person unquestionably, you are in love and you’ve always been in love, but then that moment comes… It’s a beautiful moment. I think that’s why you hear about couples where one dies and the other one dies just a few days later. We get very connected and dependent. Hopefully, it’s a healthy relationship and it’s not codependent — you get to see that sometimes too, two people enabling each other to be terrible people together.”
“I have a friend,” he continued, “and his wife has been working on this charity event for six months. He told me he wasn’t going to go. I don’t get that kind of thinking. You should want to be there to support her because she’s your wife and you love her and this is something that she’s been working very hard on. My wife and I compliment each other; we make each other better. I think we’re much better together than we are individually.”
“I can really see it in directing,” Linden elaborated. “She sees things that I just don’t see and she can articulate it to an actor in a way that I can’t. Or, she might tell me I’m wrong about something. If I feel strongly about it, I’ll argue my case, but she’s generally not wrong. She’ll give me a constructive way to get out of my own head and get out of my own way. In that initial moment, it’s not easy because your feathers do get a little ruffled. You’re like, ‘Grrr, stop it with your rightness and your intelligent critique of what I am doing!’ he laughed.
The very first show that Linden and Susan both worked on was a soap opera called Loving.
“It’s funny, in America we wonder, ‘Why do all these Australian actors get all the parts?’ It’s because they all do this soap opera in Australia when they are young and they learn how to memorize lines, they learn how to show up on time, they learn how to be an actor, and they get good at it. They get comfortable in front of a camera. It’s all these things that we used to do in America before soap operas became so stigmatized. We don’t have a stigma about the Australian soap opera because we’ve never seen it; we just think these are magically good actors. It’s ridiculous that we stigmatize soap operas. When I was doing soaps, Alec Baldwin was doing soaps, Kevin Bacon was doing a soap, and Meg Ryan was doing a soap. Luke Perry was on Loving. Bryan Cranston was on Loving. We all kind of came out of this world and it was a great way to get started in the business.”
Linden’s Key Career Role: The movie that really started everything for Linden was 8 Seconds, a film about 1987 PRCA Bull Riding World Champion Lane Frost, which starred Luke Perry (Beverly Hills, 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Riverdale). The movie was directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky, The Karate Kid, Neighbors). John sent a few clips of Linden’s work from 8 Seconds to Lawrence Kasdan, which helped the actor land the role of Morgan Earp in Wyatt Earp. His work in Wyatt Earp got him the role of Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat. Because of Mortal Kombat, he developed a good working relationship (and an eventual friendship) with Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich. That relationship led to Paul asking Linden to be in Resident Evil: Extinction.
But it wasn’t all great in those early days. Linden recalled an unpleasant experience that occurred while he was working on one of his first movies. It was a little film that came out in 1991, when many of these kinds of movies were going straight to video. The film was produced by Pierre David (Scanners, Videodrome, Platoon).
“It was called The Perfect Bride. I did it with a British actress named Sammi Davis (Four Rooms, A Prayer for the Dying, Homefront) and Kelly Preston (Battlefield Earth, The Cat in the Hat, Jerry Maguire). Kelly played my sister. I was so bad in this movie! I mean, it’s pretty bad when you know you are sucking and there is nothing you can do about it.”
For whatever reason, Linden and the director simply did not mesh. Filming became increasingly tense — as the director grew more and more annoyed with Linden’s performance, Linden grew more and more anxious about filming. “It got to the point where I was so afraid of screwing up that I just vapor locked.”
“Before we continue, you need to know that my oldest daughter, Grace, is an animal scientist,” Linden interjected. “She has a PhD in poultry sciences and she was at a lecture with Temple Grandin, who is a pretty famous animal behaviorist.”
In 2010, Grandin was named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME. She is the inventor of the “hug box,” a device that helps calm people on the autism spectrum, as well as other hypersensitive individuals. Grandin had such incredible insight into hypersensitivity because she is also on the autism spectrum.
“In that lecture, she said the most interesting thing: ‘Fear and curiosity cannot exist in the same moment.’ If a person is afraid, they can’t be curious; if they’re curious, they are not afraid.”
In Linden’s case, the fear kept him from exploring and being creative. It kept him from doing his best work.
“I learned an incredibly valuable lesson from that experience: you’ve got to know that you are enough because you can’t be something that you are not. I’m not saying that you can’t play different characters, but you’ve got to be comfortable in your own skin. If someone doesn’t like your skin, there’s really nothing you can do about it. You will work with difficult people in your life and you will need to find your way through. You have to remember to take care of yourself. I think that was a lesson I needed to learn.”
Linden’s Favorite Character: “I loved playing Sheriff Noah Stilinski on Teen Wolf. I loved working with those kids — you don’t get to be a part of something for seven years very often, and I cherish that. It was really cool.”
The only solace that Linden had from that unfortunate experience was that the movie was likely never going to see the light of day. He could forget it ever happened and move on.
“It turned out, the USA Network bought the movie and they must have played it 350 times that year,” he laughed. “It launched an entire universe for Pierre… The Perfect Wife, The Perfect Neighbor, The Perfect Marriage, The Perfect Tenant, The Perfect Nanny, the perfect everything.”
Understandably, when Linden’s name came up for another movie that Pierre was working on, he was hesitant to hire him. However, after being urged by Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill, Solo: A Star Wars Story), who had worked with Linden on Wyatt Earp, Pierre gave Linden another chance. That’s when he realized what an incredible actor Ashby is. And that was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
“Pierre is such a good man,” Linden expressed. “In a town where people aren’t particularly loyal, he is as loyal as they come and as honest as they come. He’s become a good friend and we’ve known each other for just about 30 years now.”
Over dinner last year, Pierre told Susan about a new film he was working on and asked her if she’d like to be in it. She said “yes” and went to Ottawa to film the movie. A month and a half after that, Pierre asked Linden if he would like to be in a movie. Linden said “yes” and traveled to Ottawa to work on what would eventually become known as A Daughter’s Revenge.
“And that’s the long version of how I got the role,” Linden laughed. “We like to keep everything in the family.”
“People really love these movies,” he concluded. “I’ll be in an airport and ladies will come up to me and say, ‘I watched five of your movies this weekend!’ I have guy friends who are addicted to Lifetime movies. What I like about these movies is they tend to follow a sort of set formula so the viewer knows whats going on. They become almost like comfort food. This new one is a ton of fun. I hope everyone enjoys watching it this weekend.”
Lifetime Movies’ A Daughter’s Revenge premieres this Saturday, May 12, at 10/9c as part of the Don’t Mess With Mommy marathon.
Featured photo: Heather Allin as Margy Beynes, Jessica Sipos as Elle Spencer, and Linden Ashby as David Spencer in Lifetime Movies’ “A Daughter’s Revenge.”