And ACT!ON: All About Taiwanese American Actor Ashley Liao

By: Sara Conway
01/07/2024
en
Thumbnail courtesy of Mal Peterson

2023 was a big year for 22-year-old actor Ashley Liao. From starring as the lead role in Love in Taipei to joining the Hunger Games universe as a part of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Liao has rightfully gained attention.   

But, did you know Liao is a seasoned actor with more than 10 years of experience under her belt? Did you know she is a singer-songwriter with four beloved cats? And did you know Liao graduated from college this past December? Below, EnVi dives into some must-know facts about the multihyphenate Ashley Liao. 

Acting Roots

Born on October 21, 2001, Ashley Liao grew up in a Taiwanese American family. Although she was raised in Orange County, California, Liao’s projects — especially her more recent ones — have taken her all over the world, including Taipei and Berlin. In addition, she has acquired a full range of skills because of her various roles, such as learning to play soccer, strengthening her dance skills, and sporting a very high, very tight ponytail (iykyk). 

Every creative has the “origin story” that helped nurture the love of their particular art. For Liao, the roots of her acting career can be traced back to joining the community theater in fifth grade. In her second production, Liao landed the role of Dorothy in the classic Wizard of Oz. Back in December 2016, she gave Tell Tale TV some more details about this story. Liao reflected then, “It’s so funny, I actually didn’t want to go to my first audition.” She had continued, citing nerves as the cause.

Then, in 2015, Liao was cast as Lola Wong in Fuller House, the spin-off of the iconic TV show Full House. She became a season regular in the second season of Fuller House, eventually playing the role for a total of three seasons until 2020. Parker Zhao in The Kicks, an Amazon Original Kid series, was Liao’s next role. The show premiered on August 26, 2016 (when Liao was 14 years old) and focused on the journey of a girls soccer team. 

Liao’s other acting credits include playing the younger Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe and Princess Eleanor in the Secret Society of Second Born Royals on Disney+. 

Keep Your Eye on Ashley Liao

Now imagine what 2016 Ashley Liao would say about 2023 Ashley Liao. The spotlight was set for Liao in 2023 as she starred as Ever Wong in Love in Taipei and as Clemensia Dovecote in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Adapted from Abigail Hing Wen’s bestselling novel, Loveboat Taipei, Love in Taipei follows a Taiwanese American dancer as she discovers more about herself while taking part in Taiwan’s infamous “Love Boat.” Thus, Love in Taipei was particularly special to Liao. Just as Ever returns to her family’s home country, Liao had a similar experience as a Taiwanese American. As she revealed to WWD, she “hadn’t been back to Taiwan in maybe a decade,” stating numerous interviews that Taiwan is the “heart of my heart, the people of my people.”

Although Liao has been acting for seven plus years, Love in Taipei was the first time she was the lead in a film and number one on the call sheet. Since she had “worked for a decade to…get to this spot,” it is no surprise that this was a career highlight for Liao. 

Meanwhile, being in the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a full-circle moment. “It’s a life dream of mine,” Liao had stated in a recent interview with WWD. Those who follow Liao on Twitter are well-aware of this dream and the actor’s connection to the original franchise. She read the books and watched the original movies when she was a teenager — and then reread and rewatched them as she grew older. 

As for clinching her role in the prequel, Liao auditioned and got a call back, according to her interview with Morning Honey. Two weeks later, she was officially cast as Clemensia Dovecote, the whip-smart, ambitious, and confident classmate of Coriolanus Snow. Also in her Morning Honey interview, Liao revealed that she channeled her cats (she has four named Chai, Chia, Cleo, and Celine) to get into character. Although this comparison may seem a bit strange, Liao humorously argued, “They have that same boldness and confidence about them — that ‘it’ girl factor.” 

All In For the Stories

Liao’s Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) bios say this simple sentence: “sending you love wherever you are in the universe” with the little heart envelope emoji 💌. Although the envelope is small, it reflects Liao’s love and affinity for words. Not only does the 22 year old journal — she posted a video of the raw emotions she felt after filming her major scene in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes — Liao also is a singer-songwriter, a budding screenwriter, and an avid reader. 

When she was seven years old, Liao discovered a love for singing. As she told Girls’ Life back in 2016, the movie Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper and its soundtrack was a source of inspiration for young Ashley. From there, Liao was a part of musical theater communities and created her own YouTube channel, where she posted song covers. These videos no longer exist since Liao has removed them, but the channel remains open. 

However, there is a video Liao posted on X in September, where she sings a self-penned song about New York City. She strums a guitar as an accompaniment to her voice, while the captions reads, “i wrote this last night at 3 am about my favorite city.” 

Meanwhile, during a Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes premiere, Letterboxd interviewed Liao and some of her other co-stars about their four favorite movies. Liao whipped out her phone to show off her favorite films: Before Sunrise (1995), In the Mood For Love (2000), Amélie (2001), and — unsurprisingly for those who have followed the actor for a couple of years — Ratatouille (2007). (Liao had also shouted out the Parisian rat movie in her 2021 introduction post on X, citing it as her “most quoted movie.”)

But, not only is she interested in watching and acting in films, Liao has expressed interest in screenwriting, too. Liao shared that she took a screenwriting class recently, and while it didn’t go too in depth, the enthusiasm she has for this topic is palatable. The young star revealed that she asks the people on set about how they got into their areas of expertise and loves hearing these many stories. 

Speaking of stories, Ashley Liao is a reader. She recently showed off her stacks, which features bell hooks’ work, powerful nonfiction such as Crying in H Mart, and various classics. There is — of course — Abigail Hing Wen’s Loveboat books hugged between Liao’s three copies of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (she has the German edition!), too. 

And Liao was ready to wax poetic about The Art of Loving when the “favorite book of all time” question came through: “it’s my subway book, always. i’ve read it 8 times through. Highlighted and annotated to the goads. and everytime i read, i learn something new about love and humanity.” She added one last note, too, writing, “i think it’ll always be my favourite.” 

With This Thumb…

On the topic of favorites, Ratatouille is well-known as one of Liao’s favorite movies. However, it is also one of the star’s most-quoted movies, including the popular line, “I killed a man with THIS THUMB.” 

It may be odd, but it’s an apt quote for the multihyphenate. “With this thumb,” Liao graduated with a communications degree from UCLA; took part in the recent SAG-AFTRA union strike; starred as Ever Wong, the lead role, in Love in Taipei; and joined the whirlwind that is being a part of the Hunger Games universe as Clemensia Dovecote — all in the past 12 months. 

Yet Liao remains down-to-earth and highly relatable, especially on social media. If you take a casual scroll through her X account, for example, you would find that she’s all about creating genuine, and oftentimes funny, conversations.

In 2020, Liao was welcomed into the BTS ARMY when she posted, “hello bts army. i would like to submit an application to join.” She also cited her “favourite” — or bias, as she soon learned — to be Jimin. A year later, now-an-ARMY Liao shared a “doodle” (her words) she made of the BTS members at the 2021 Grammy Awards. While she was complimented on this art piece, she also offered the compliments back to fellow BTS fans who shared their work in the replies. 

More recently, though, Liao roasted herself at this year’s Unforgettable Gala. Hosted by Character Media, the black-tie Unforgettable Gala “awards and commemorates Asian and Pacific Islander celebrities, influencers and leaders who have contributed to the arts, entertainment and culture.” Thus, Liao and the other notable attendees were dressed to the nines. In response to an “omg hollywood glamour” comment, Liao teasingly challenged her “glamour” by posting a video of her giving “vlog-style food ratings” at the event. (For those who are curious, Liao gave the tiramisu in a chocolate cup a six out of 10, and her wagyu fried rice — which was only a “single, taster bite” — a 12 out of 10.) 

“With this thumb,” too, Liao has a — again, very relatable and very Gen Z — love for making niche Spotify playlists. Complete with cover photos that emulate the perfect vibe, Liao’s music collection is softly romantic and in-your-feels-esque with a dash of cheekiness. (Her “hot girls cry?” playlist and its over six thousand followers is a testament to that.) 

A cropped picture of Liao as Clemensia in the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Academy uniform fits The Hunger Games academia sound created by Liao in her “reminds me of clemmie” playlist. As she wrote in the description, “here are some songs that i listened to on set that reminded me of our favourite girl,” which includes a healthy dose of Taylor Swift tracks. 

Oh, and did you know Liao did Taekwondo for 4 and a half years and got her black belt? Yeah, she’s just that cool. 

I’ve Got That Red Lip, Classic Thing That You Like

When you talk about Ashley Liao, you cannot skip over her style. Back in August, Liao channeled “Bejeweled” when she attended Taylor Swift’s Los Angeles concert. Pale blue and purple sequins, sparkly eye makeup, and gold rings pulled her Eras Tour outfit together. As for her hairstyle, lavender ribbon tied into bows added the final touch to her romantic yet ready-to-party look.  

Flirty and feminine would describe Ashley Liao’s style up until recently. The very definition of the soft girl aesthetic, with a bit of balletcore thrown in too, Liao is drawn to classic, everyday looks but with a twist. Case in point: the photo she posted on Instagram last June. Liao may be wearing faded mom jeans, but her fiery red, scallop-edged camisole and her black, double-strappy block heels push the outfit from casual day out to “needs to go on the Pinterest board.” 

To add to the soft girl vibe, Liao is very open about sharing the photos taken on her Papershoot camera, capturing memories of her friends, her cats, and her daily life on it. She also has frequently declared her love for peonies, lavender, and apple juice. (In her social media bios, an apple juice emoji always sits alongside her signature heart envelope one.) 

But then Clemensia Dovecote came out to play, and Liao jumped right into high, high ponytails and bold red lips. During The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes premiere, she stunned in a Saint Laurent dress from the Spring Summer 2003 collection. Simple jewelry, including snake-shaped silver earrings, stood in stark contrast with the many textures of her black dress.  

But the actor was all smiles and full of laughter and excitement with her co-stars. In her Instagram post, Liao featured a candid video of her doing a little dance at the event, her locks and the looser parts of her dress moving with the rest of her body. Of course, as the cherry on top of the look — besides her beaming smile — was the bright red lipstick, bringing a touch of Clemensia with her to the premieres. 

From playing Lola Wong in Fuller House to leading the cast of Love in Taipei as Ever Wong to making history in the Hunger Games franchise as Clemensia Dovecote, Ashley Liao is blazing her own path in the world of Hollywood. Now, it’s only up and up for her in 2024 and beyond. 

Keep up with Ashley Liao and her latest projects on Instagram and X

Want to learn more about rising Asian stars? Check out EnVi’s roundup of Gen Z Korean actors here!