Though he's been acting since his teenage years, many of us became very familiar with Nicholas Ashe via the Oprah Winfrey Network hit series "Queen Sugar". Over the last couple of years we've seen him expand his character "Micah West" to the truest spaces reflecting on life, family and current social events. No surprise that off screen Nicholas' authenticity for life is equally as purely passionate. As we decided to add some of our own authenticity back to the ever growing pride month celebrations. Away from commercialism and capitalistic gain we wanted to celebrate creatives within the LGBTQ+ spectrum who's embodiments of their truest-selves also leave us beaming with PRIDE!
Nic, where are you from/where did you grow up? How did acting show up for you?
-I’m from Freeport, a small town thirty minutes outside of Manhattan. In High School, I sang in the chorus, I played the drums in the Marching Band, I performed in every musical production. These were more than afterschool clubs to me, these ensembles became my chosen family. Music became my safe space. Theater became my creative home.
26: How did acting show up for you?
-When I graduated in 2013, I would always take the train to NYC ‘cause professional performance opportunities on Long Island were few and far between. I remember when I rescinded my admission to college, someone asked me “What is your Plan B?” I told them “I don’t need a Plan B, Plan A is going to work.” Your boy was determined to start a career in entertainment!
26: Can you tell us about your journey to Queen Sugar’s “Micah West” character?
-By 2016, I had done some amazing work with Manhattan Theater Club and Lincoln Center Theater, but I really wanted to work in film and television. Long story not so long: after booking my first film (opposite Viola Davis!) and some tiny, tiny roles in television, I got the opportunity to audition for Ava DuVernay.
26: Speaking of, what’s it been like having your breakout TV role orchestrated & influenced by heroic powerhouses like Oprah Winfrey & Ava DuVernay?
-In Homecoming, Beyoncé says “My college was Destiny’s Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” That’s exactly how I feel about Queen Sugar. I’m grateful to Professor DuVernay; I’m grateful to Professor Winfrey. We’ve created six seasons of a show about a Black family. No explosions, no car chases. Just a Black family reckoning with their past, and celebrating what’s possible for them in the future.
26: With the growing number of visible LGBTQ+ actors and content creators today; why do you think some actors still fear coming out?
-Listen. Loving yourself, in a world that begs to differ, is no easy feat. We all come to terms with who we are when it feels good and nice and right and safe and convenient. So, to those of you who are closeted and/or questioning: take your time. I was there too, and I’m proud to admit that the grass does get greener!
How does you being your authentic self, influence the projects that you consider/take on?
“An artist’s duty… is to reflect the times” -that’s Nina Simone. Whether the story takes place 400 years ago or 400 years in the future, I want my work to inform— and help the audience navigate— the present. I want to make my ancestors proud by not undermining any of their contributions to my freedom. I want to make my great, great grandchildren proud, by leaving them a better world than the one I inherited. “I’m planting seeds in a garden I’ll never get to see.” -that’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.
26: Do you think that race plays a part in the acceptance of queer film/tv/musical talent?
-Absolutely. There is revolution in representation.
26: Do you feel that there is enough diversity in the writers room when writing for queer talent/stories?
-We are witnessing and participating in that shift. There is insurrection in inclusivity!
26: There’s a lot of debate about Hollywood casting straight identifying actors in queer roles. What do you think of the idea that queer roles should only be casted to [authentic] queer identifying talent?
-There’s an amazing documentary on Netflix called 'Disclosure' that reveals how Hollywood reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. These preconceived notions can be dangerous; deadly even. So cisgender actors in trans roles is a hell no for me. As for the actors purporting to be queer, I would hope their advocacy transcends the screen. Like, are you fighting against legislative attacks on access to gender-affirming care? Do you defend Black trans women and other marginalized members of the community who face harassment and violence? You ever lobbied to decriminalize sex work?
Where do you draw the line in allowing yourself to fully become a character. What gives you the ability to come back to Nic?
-Imagination! -When I’m working on a character I’m thinking: "this is me, just in a different set of circumstances". "This is me if I was a father, this is me if I lived in outer space". "How would I respond if this really awful thing happened to me"?
26: Do you have any hidden talents we’d all be surprised by?
-This may surprise some, but yes; [in ASL] -I’m fluent in sign language!
What helped you decide/determine that you wanted to share your true self with us?
Ultimately, I decided a career… a life… that forces me to dim my light or hide my gifts was not a career worth having or a life worth living. Let me see if I can find this amazing thing Indya Moore shared on Instagram. (he searches through his phone, after a moment) "I will not lose my career -and if I do -it isn’t the career for me, because if there is a career or an agreement that believes I am undeserving because I care about the underserved, I will not sign it. There are many other ways I can thrive and survive and still tell the truth. I just don’t sell out the people for the lie, I sell out the lie for the people. That’s who I am. I value love and peace from a very, very, wide scope. There is absolutely nothing in this world that can micronize my lens or my care. I would quite literally rather die. Period.
26: What brings you the most peace?
-Journaling. Meditation. Music. Hiking. Yoga. Dancing. Reiki. Travel. Therapy. Rest. Friendship. That’s So Raven. Some amalgamation of these things has kept me afloat.
What's one piece of advice that you would give you 6 year old self
-6 year old Nic: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Keep singing, keep dancing. One day, people will pay you for your imagination so just keep dreaming, keep dreaming, keep dreaming. There are gonna be things that will happen along the way that may encourage you to grow up faster (his voice softens and a gentle and nurturing yet optimistic energy enters his eyes) but take your time. Take your time because you'll have so much of it. "I feel like RuPaul! Ha! -You know when RuPaul turns the little picture around of the 6 year old queens"? (LOL). -But I would just remind him that he's very very loved and very very special.
26: What's your definition of luxury?
-Wow, this is a great question. ... My definition of luxury if you had asked me some time ago, would be how I decorated myself! But as I get older, now that I'm 26* :-) I've learned that luxury for me has a lot to do with rest. My ability to create a life for myself in which I can take moments to pause and reflect and make sure that what's inside of me is rich. -You know; my integrity, my self-value, my self-respect. Thats affluence of a whole nother' echelon! You feel me?!
Tell us all about “The Spirit God Gave Us”, your character, how the role showed up and why you KNEW you needed to do it?
-While it’s been great to witness the recent influx of LGBTQ+ stories, Hollywood seldom imagines our experiences outside of heartbreak and promiscuity. My latest project, The Spirit God Gave Us, is a joyful reclamation of our narrative.
My character Malcolm and I intersect in so many ways… but most immediately, we are both grappling with the recent loss of our Mother. His Mother meant as much to him as my Mother meant to me and it’s been cathartic to channel my residual grief into this role.
-Bravo Nic, we SO see you!
Though pride month 2021 is coming to a close, being proud of who you are in a world that doesn’t always make space for it is an everyday existence for millions. While many of the big box stores will switch over logos and discount rainbow merchandise as July rolls in, we invite you to connect with the many many organizations below that need our help 365 days a year! Focusing in on being there for the millions of at-risk LGBTQ+ youth across the spectrum, together let’s be a bridge and create safe spaces for all.
LUCIE'S PLACE: LITTLE ROCK, AK
LOS ANGELES LESBIAN & GAY CENTER
ALSO OUT YOUTH (SARASOTA)
Lost-n-Found Youth (ATLANTA)
INDIANA YOUTH GROUP (INDIANAPOLIS)
RAINBOW CAFE LGBTQ CENTER
BAGLY (The Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth)
GREATER BOSTON PFLAG
STL QUEER+ SUPPORT HELPLINE
RUTH ELLIS CENTER (HIGHLAND PARK)
ESSEX COUNTY LGBT RAIN FOUNDATION
ALI FORNEY CENTER (MANHATTAN/BROOKLYN)
TIME OUT YOUTH CENTER
THE Q SPACE
THE LIVING ROOM YOUTH
THE ATTIC YOUTH CENTER
WE ARE FAMILY
THRIVE YOUTH CENTER SAN ANTONIO
LAMBERT HOUSE (SEATTLE)
PROJECT Q (MILWAUKEE)