‘Grand Army’ is Netflix’s new teen drama, and HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with star Ashley Ganger about her first-ever acting role and how the show compares to ‘Euphoria’ and ’13 Reasons Why.’
Grand Army will make its grand debut on Oct. 16. The Netflix series follows students at the largest public high school in Brooklyn as they face the chaotic world they live in. Ashley Ganger plays Meera, a student at Grand Army and Siddhartha’s brother.
For Ashley, the role of Meera was a life-changing one. Ashley was once a competitive swimmer and fell in love with acting after quitting the sport. After a year of auditioning, Grand Army came into her life. And the rest is history. Read our Q&A below.
This is your first-ever acting role. Tell me about your journey to finding this role.
Ashley Ganger: Wow, it has been a very crazy one, actually. Honestly, I haven’t even been an actor my whole life. I actually used to be a competitive swimmer, like an athlete. It was just super weird and random considering where I’m at now. After I quit swimming, my parents were kind of like, oh, you need to find something to fill your time. You need to be busy. My mom said I’ve always been super artistic and loved theater camp when I was little, so maybe I should try acting classes. So I said, why not? I honestly did not expect to fall in love with it the way that I did. Honestly, it just went from there. It was a year of auditioning for literally commercials and booking nothing, and then Grand Army came along. It was my first big audition, and somehow I am now here.
What can you tease about your character and how she fits into the world of Grand Army?
Ashley Ganger: Meera, right off the bat, my one word to describe her is badass because she’s so cool. I think she’s a great example of what it is to be a young girl just expressing herself and unapologetically being herself in a world full of social media and so many things going on around her. She manages to stay grounded, be there for her brother and herself, and tries to protect him.
What is the dynamic like between Meera and her brother as they navigate high school together?
Ashley Ganger: They’re super close, only a few years apart in age, which I’m sure helps with that. It’s interesting because Meera is younger, but she always feels like she has to protect him when it comes to our parents or things going on at school. They’re super close, but she obviously does not like it when he interferes with her independence and stuff like that.
How does Meera get along with her parents?
Ashley Ganger: Her parents are immigrants, so they were born in India and came to America. Usually, with immigrant parents, they have a very traditional mindset, especially in the Indian culture. So Meera being American and growing up in New York, she is obviously a feminist. In school, she writes a play about female pleasure. She loves to go against Old World values and kind of fight against that, which is super cool because as a young Indian female that isn’t typically expected of you. But she’s like, no, I don’t like this. I’m going to do what I want to do. This is how my brain works. And that’s that.
There’s been a teen drama resurgence with Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why. How would you say Grand Army compares to those shows and how is it different?
Ashley Ganger: That’s a good question. I mean, obviously, they’re all young adult shows. I feel like they all showcase different aspects of what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s world. Talking about Grand Army, specifically, I think it is an extremely raw and authentic depiction of what it’s like to be a young adult today, and it doesn’t feel filtered or glamorized. I think it also does a really good job of kind of merging social life, home life, and school life, which are all huge aspects of being a teenager today and three things that make you who you are.
This show features so much incredible young talent. What was it like working with this ensemble of young people?
Ashley Ganger: Honestly, it was so much fun. We really did become like a small family, which is amazing. We all still talk all the time. We have a group chat. The vibe on set, honestly, just felt so open, and it felt like a very safe space. You had a collection of people who haven’t worked as much, such as myself, and some people who have worked a lot, and everybody came together, gave good advice, and supported each other. It was just really amazing.
What has this experience taught you as not only an actress but a person as well?
Ashley Ganger: Honestly, I’ve learned so much. Not only filming but in the past year in general. I think filming this show was a great reminder to myself, and I’m sure like so many other people, just how hard it is being a young person today and to not be so hard on yourself all the time. We are all always growing and learning and experiencing. Self-exploration and learning about yourself are so important. I feel like just in this past year, through Meera, through myself, through the show, I’ve come into myself even more. I’ve learned so many things about myself that I didn’t know.