top of page

I TALK TO Henry Ashton

"If people despise Max Hastings, I'll be happy, because it means I’ve done a good job."

Since it was announced in September 2022, that Poppy Cogan would be adapting HollyJackson’s smash hit novel A Good Girl's Guide to Murder for the BBC, fans have been patiently waiting and finally the wait is over as today, all six episodes are available to watch on BBC iPlayer, berfore airing on BBC Three at a later date.

The coming of age crime thriller follows teenager Pip Fitz-Amobi, played by Emma Myers, who during the summer holidays, is focused on an unusual school research project.

Five years ago in Little Kilton, schoolgirl Andie Bell went missing and her boyfriend Sal Singh sent a text confessing to the murder before being found dead, seemingly taking his own life. Andie’s body was never found. Case closed. However, Pip isn’t so sure and is determined to prove Sal’s innocence.

Rising star Henry Ashton - who can currently also be seen starring opposite Rob Brydon and Anna Chancellor in Prime Video's My Lady Jane - takes on the role Max Hastings in A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, a role he knew he had to play the second the opportunity came up.

I recently caught up Henry to talk about the audition process, how he approached the role, what it was like to work with Emma Myers and so much more, including what his dream role would be.

As a newcomer to television, I wanted to go back to the beginning. when did you know you wanted to be an actor?

I've always loved acting. I found a love for acting when I was in school. It was what I found the most amount of joy in, in school. I mean, I liked school a lot, but it was acting that I really found a deep kind of love for. And I realised, I'm not bad at it.

I think when you’re kind of OK at something, you start to pursue it a little bit more. So I did a lot of acting during school, and then when I left school, I lost momentum in terms of pursuing acting and I basically did 100 jobs throughout my twenties from retail to hospitality, a bit of fashion, bit of music. But the whole time thinking about acting and wanting to act.

It's a weird thing because you sound crazy when you say “I want to be an actor.” Your mater are like, “Alright. OK. Cool. How do you do that?” and I’m like “I have no idea.” I don't know who to talk to or how to get back into it. And you've lost all those little connections you had through school.

So I basically just spent my twenties working, doing stuff, with this in the back of my head. And then I met a friend I went to school with, and she was doing some plays with a director that she’d worked with and she was like “Do you want to just come do it?" And so I started working with the amazing Than Hussein Clark and the The Writer's Theatre Director's Theatre. Doing some really interesting projects and plays across Europe.

It was the first time I saw that acting could actually be a job. That time reignited my love for acting, although it would still take me a few years before taking the next step.

Then when I was 28, I was managing a hotel at the time and went for a pint with my friend and I was just like, “I'm not happy.” And he was like, “Well, what do you want to do? If you could wake up tomorrow morning and be something, what would it be?: And I was like, “I'd be an actor. ” And he was like, “How do you do that?” I was like “I don't know. I guess I go to drama school" And he was like, "Well do that."

So I think I applied to every drama school I could think of. I ended up getting into Royal Scottish, The Conservatoire. Quit my job, moved up to Glasgow. I was there for four years and now here I am.

It’s weird thinking back now and seeing as it all went. That first decision to pursue acting, even though nothing had changed and I’d not done anything, it felt like a huge weight had just lifted off my shoulders.Finally I'm going in the direction that I actually want. And it's the best decision I've ever made.

Were you scared?

Oh yeah, it scared me a lot, but I think a lot of the time what you're most scared of is actually the thing you should be doing most. Because it’s what you think about most. I think what was stopping me from doing it, was being scared of failing.

Because that's the only thing I ever wanted to be. So if I failed at being an actor, it would have been really difficult. So you don't even try.

How are you feeling now you've got two massive projects coming out practically at the same time?

It's mad. It's crazy. Acting's crazy like that because for the last seven months, nothing really has been happening. It's been very, very quiet. And then everything happens at once. But I'm feeling great about it. I really, really, genuinely love both shows in their own different ways. The fact that they're coming out back to back, it's, it's a lot, it's a lot to digest.

Especially because this is the first stuff of mine that's really coming out. I did Outlander, but that was a very small part. This is much bigger. I'm doing good. I'm enjoying it. I'm just trying to stay present, enjoy the moment and not get too overwhelmed.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder already has a huge following thanks to the books. What was the audition process like? Were you aware of the phenomena surrounding this book?

No. I was completely unaware, to be honest. We got the audition through and I read the character breakdown of Max Hastings, and I honestly thought, wow, if I don't get a recall for this, I'm doing something wrong. Because it was me, basically. Not the personality. The casting.

It was, you know, blonde, from Bucks, just basically described me to a T. Obviously Max Hastings as a character is not something that I want to be likened to. So when I got that through, I was like “Oh great, this is great. The books sound cool” then I did the audition, I think the week I was finishing My Lady Jane and it was a while before we heard back.

I think it was about two months later that I'd been recalled. I went in and met Dolly (Wells, director) and that audition with her was amazing. She’s such an amazing director and just threw lots of stuff at me and we had a really good connection. And then I found out a week later I got it.

In between the time before finding out that I had the recall, I'd started reading the book and then I didn't stop. I just read all three back to back and I absolutely loved them. It was only then I realised how popular it was and the type of following it has. So it was all a nice surprise, actually.

We’ve all read books and imagined what certain characters look like. Sometimes adaptations get it right, and sometimes they don’t, but from what I could see online, your casting was described as "a no-brainer" and they’re very happy. Was it nice to get that feedback?

100%. You want the fans of the books to feel like it's being portrayed accurately. I think there'll always be some small differences, but I think a lot of the fans imagined the characters like they’ve been cast. And like I said, when I saw the character breakdown of Max, I knew I could play him just by the way I looked.

I guess it could be seen as pressure, but actually I'm really, really excited. It's almost like there's this ready made fanbase just waiting to receive what we've done. I'm really proud of the work that we've done and I can’t wait for them to see it.

For anyone who hasn't read the book and doesn't know what the series is about, how would you sum up the story and I guess what your character fits into that?

It’s for anyone who loves true crime and a very twisty turny whodunnit kind of story. That’s what it is. But it's mixed in with coming of age, that kind of teen angst mixed with small town secrets. It follows Pip, who is trying to solve a cold case in her local town as a school project, and I play Max Hastings, who is a little bit older but still lives in the town.

He’s confident and charming and used to getting what he wants. And he's got secrets like everyone else in the town. But maybe his secrets are a little bit darker than others. And I think that's what the book and the show does really, really well. It just keeps you on your toes the entire time. You really don't know what's happening from one scene to the next. It keeps you guessing, which I think is great.

It’s fair to say that Max isn’t a nice character, is he?

No he's not. He's not at all. And the trailers that they've released... I was scared about giving stuff away, but he comes across pretty horrible in the trailers. Which is good because hopefully that means I’ve done a good job if people hate Max Hastings.

But no, he's not a nice guy and that was kind of new for me, to be honest. My part in My Lady Jane, he has his flaws, but overall, he's a good person. I think with Max, as an actor you've got to come from a place of somewhat understanding your character.

And as much as you disagree with how they behave, you need to understand and almost justify why they behave in their own head. Which is difficult.

How did you approach that with Max? I imagine you had to go to some really dark places.

You have to ask yourself lots of questions like why would this person do this? How are they justifying this act to themselves? Because not many people go around thinking that they're evil and actively doing evil things. They justify it to themselves in a way that makes it possible for them to do it.

So why would Max do the things that he does? Maybe it comes from a place of entitlement and feeling that he deserves certain things. Whether that's from a lack of love from members of his family and he’s seeking it in other places. There are lots of ways in which genuine thoughts and feelings can be twisted into an evil act.

It’s finding where that core comes from, but it's horrible because you have to go to these places where you have to think stuff which is not fun to think about. But, I guess that's the responsibility of the actor.

What were some of your favourite scenes to film?

There's a scene in episode five with Emma (Myers) and Yasmin (Al-Khudhairi), quite an intense scene where I basically find out some stuff which makes me pretty angry. I think it's the first time you see Max's true character come out and I really enjoyed that scene because with Max, it's always bubbling under the surface of this calm, confident exterior. And then when it comes out, it's hopefully quite shocking.

Acting with Yas and and Emma in that scene was so much fun. They both brought it and I think it’s going to be a really powerful scene. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

There are a lot of relatively new actors as part of this ensemble, which I love. What was it like working together?

It was great. There was just such excitement. That's the only thing I could say. And it was such excitement. Everyone was just completely so happy to be there and so excited to be part of the project. Then obviously you had more established actors, but I unfortunately didn't get to work with them.

I met them at the read through, but I didn't actually get to act with Anna (Maxwell Martin) or Gary (Beadle) or Mathew (Baynton). But the young cast were so full of energy. You can see it in all the interviews that they're doing, they’re just absolutely loving it.

So I loved it and the energy was infectious and we all got on really, really, really well. And I have to say, Emma, she's 21, she might be 22 now, is such a pro and wise beyond her years. She just put the show on her shoulders and carried it with ease and grace. I’ve got a lot of time for Emma. She's fantastic.

For any show. I think how the lead behaves, trickles down to everyone else, and she behaved perfectly which I think set the tone for the whole show and how everyone got on.

I noticed online that a lot of fans - before the series has even aired - are asking people to remember that you are an actor playing a role and to not confuse you with your character. Is that something you were aware of and have you seen that conversation online?

I've seen it online, yeah, and I had never considered that before this part. I'd never considered that people can confuse you with the character. And if you play a character who does awful things that people might think that you've done awful things. It became quite clear when I got the part and read the books, and realised how how involved the fans were with everything, that I thought, OK, this could be interesting.

But having said that, I have not received one nasty comment. I haven't received one nasty message. Everyone has been so lovely and so supportive and a lot of that comes from Holly herself, Holly Jackson. Because when she announced us as cast, she made a specific point to point out that I am an actor and I'm not Max Hastings, and everyone has taken on that on board. They really have. I'm intrigued.

I'm not worried anymore. And honestly, like I said, if people despise Max Hastings, I'll be happy because it means I’ve done a good job. I'll just deal with whatever comes, but I'm excited about it. I'm not nervous anymore.

What was it like being directed by Dolly Wells?

She was unbelievable. Obviously she's an amazing actor herself and I think having an actor direct you can be so refreshing sometimes.

The scene that we did in the first episode, where Pip comes down to the basement and we have our first interaction at the Hastings party, we got to rehearse that scene, for about two hours the day before and really got into it, and you rarely get that with TV.

It's usually kind of turn up and do it. But as an actor, Dolly knew the benefits of really picking through it and highlighting the key moments. And then even on set, we filmed that scene for a long time and Dolly allowed us to play around and gave us really great notes, and drew stuff out of us that maybe we wouldn't have thought of.

She was such a calming, loving presence on set and I think that was great because it was such a young new cast. Having Dolly's presence there was really, really great, because everyone just felt comfortable and at ease and playful. She was amazing.

Without giving anything away, we do know that if the other books were to be adapted, Max would be back. Would you like to return to this world and play Max again?

I'd love to play Max again. I would love to. I think Max throughout the books, becomes almost more than the character, in terms of he represents something. He’s kind of the antithesis to Pip and I love that. I think that's the thing that's so exciting.

I'd love to work with Emma more. I think we have a weird, I want to say chemistry, if that’s the right word? It's kind of like a chemistry between two rivals. But yeah, I would love it to go two more seasons and to see where Max and Pip go.

And you’ve already done your homework because you’ve read all the books.

I have. I read them all in about four months and I love them. My mum’s now read them. My sister’s read them. My stepmum’s read them. My friends have read them. And I think people don't expect to enjoy them so much.

They think it's just a teen book. But it's really not. It’s a beautifully written mystery book and I loved it.

And 2024 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for you, with two projects launching within days of each other. Is it nice to be launching your career with these two characters?

I’ve really enjoyed both parts. I loved playing Stan and I'm very happy that Stan is going to be on the telly at the same time as Max. Stan is so different and a lightening presence so I'm glad that if people don't like Max, they might like Stan. But I am looking forward to playing some, some different parts.

What's on your bucket list? Who would you love to play?

I mean, bucket list, the dream job would be playing Kurt Cobain in a biopic. I’m a massive Nirvana fan and biopics are very popular at the moment, so I can see that happening.

Unfortunately, he's a left handed guitarist and I'm a right handed guitarist, but I can just learn left hand, that's not a problem. But in the meantime, I'd love to do a different accent.

I've yet to do anything that's not really my own voice. I love to push myself.

What's next for you? Anything you can hint at?

There might be.... but unfortunately, I can't say anything right now. I'd love to, but yeah, I can’t,

What have you been enjoying on TV recently?

I'm watching Eric, with Benedict Cumberbatch, on Netflix. I'm about halfway through that. I'm such a big Benedict Cumberbatch fan. So I'm really enjoying that.

I'm really excited to start The Boys. I’m a big The Boys fan. So I'm going to start that soon. But the best thing I've seen in the last couple of months, I mean, it's just got to be Baby Reindeer. It has to be. That's the best thing I've seen for the last couple of years, I think.

It's amazing how that show blew up globally, both your shows are airing globally too, do you think about that? Are you prepared for how many people might watch?

I think I can send myself into a bit of a spin if I think about the amount of people who watch Netflix in America alone. But hey, it's amazing.

If you told me three years ago that I'd have a show coming out on Amazon and another show coming out on Netflix, I wouldn't have believed you. I would have been like “That's too crazy.” So I'm very happy.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is available now on BBC iPlayer and My Lady Jane is available now on Prime Video


bottom of page