Annaleigh Ashford has a knack for taking part in irrepressible blondes. She made her Broadway debut as a boy-crazy bimbo in “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” originated the position of saucy love curiosity Lauren in “Kinky Boots” and received a Tony taking part in madcap Essie within the screwball traditional “You Can’t Take It With You.”
Now, she’s going darkish.
In “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” the FX sequence premiering Tuesday, Ashford performs Paula Jones, the (brunette) Arkansas state worker who sued President Bill Clinton for alleged sexual harassment in 1994.
It’s a tricky position: Ashford’s Jones grapples with sexual trauma, emotional abuse from her husband and unrelenting ridicule from the press, who painted her as trailer trash and used her as a dimwitted pawn to attempt to carry down the president.
And in contrast to Monica Lewinsky — portrayed in “Crime Story” by Beanie Feldstein — the true Jones has not loved a #MeToo-era reappraisal.
Yet sunny Ashford felt a reference to the awkward, vilified Jones.
“I knew [the role] was such a match for me,” the 36-year-old actress informed The Post throughout a current video name from Los Angeles, the place she’s filming the second season of her CBS sitcom, “B Positive.”
“There was a childlike quality about her that I found really important,” Ashford stated. “And being a sort-of victim of the patriarchy was an important part of her narrative that I wanted to explore.”
Though Ashford had a small position in a earlier season of director Ryan Murphy’s “Crime Story” sequence — in regards to the assassination of dressmaker Gianni Versace — she had to audition for Jones. She sprayed her hair darkish brown and even gave herself an at-home perm to look the half.
After she was cast, Ashford labored with a motion coach to internalize Jones’ hunched-over, submissive gait for months whereas the manufacturing was delayed due to COVID. (Along together with her husband, actor Joe Tapper, and 4-year-old son, she spent the early pandemic strolling by Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal — “the trash river,” Ashford known as it — and strolling to Red Hook for Hometown Bar B Que.)
In the sequence, Ashford sports activities a number of wigs, a prosthetic nostril and even braces. “I would spend 2½ to three hours in hair and makeup,” she stated. Even the garments — acid-wash denims and white Reeboks, scrunchies and floral attire with huge shoulder pads — matched outfits Jones wore in actual life.
“In the first episode, there’s a scene where I do an interview at the CPAC Convention, and we found the real outfit that [Jones] wore at the CPAC Convention,” Ashford stated. “Unfortunately, [Jones’] legal funds were not managed correctly, and at the end of it all, she had nothing. And at some point in her life, she auctioned [the outfit] off and it ended up on eBay. And so I wore it on the show.”
Ashford was a child residing in suburban Denver when the Clinton impeachment scandal broke. “I remember sort of hearing about it when I would watch late-night comedy,” she stated. “I remember the women [involved in the scandal] being made fun of mercilessly.”
Back then, Ashford, who began performing professionally at 9, didn’t essentially think about herself taking part in a tabloid fixture sooner or later. “I used to go to Blockbuster, and I would rent out every single musical that they had,” she recalled. “I watched ‘All That Jazz’ so many times that I wore out their copy.”
She moved to New York City at 17 and, after stints as a clown, a go-go dancer and a restaurant hostess, got her first massive break within the touring manufacturing of “Wicked,” in 2005. Ashford made her Broadway debut a year later, in “Legally Blonde,” at 21. She quickly started taking part in the sorts of characters that delighted her as a child: a brassy lesbian hooker within the TV sequence “Masters of Sex”; an exuberant canine (sure, a canine) within the stage present “Sylvia”; and Dot, the mistress to Impressionist painter Georges Seurat (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal) in a revival of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George.”
Ashford went to LA a couple of year in the past to begin capturing “Impeachment” after which “B Positive,” by which she performs a messy however big-hearted kidney donor. Meanwhile, her son was nonetheless attending his faculty in Brooklyn through Zoom until June. “We didn’t know if we were going to be coming back to New York; I had no idea what was gonna happen with, you know, my life,” she stated.
For now she’s having fun with the West Coast way of life. “In LA, the produce is twice as good and half the price [as it is in New York,]” she stated. “And the sun comes out every day, so I will never say no to a little more Vitamin D.”
But Ashford stated she will be able to’t wait to return to New York, particularly to Broadway.
“I’d love to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd someday, and I’ve got a few more years left to do ‘Sweet Charity’ [before my hip gives out] — I just want to be in one more dance show,” she stated. “And I [joke] that my husband and I needs to be in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ each time we now have an excellent row!
“I miss Broadway. … I miss the stickiness of New York, the magic,” she stated, sounding wistful. “I’ve lived in New York longer than I live anywhere else … I’ve had multiple apartments there — multiple sad apartments with no closet space. I’ve had a lot of roaches; I’ve had a lot of mice. I’ve had a child in New York. I’ve gotten caught in the rain and the snow with the stroller and groceries multiple times in New York: I’m a New Yorker!”