Not everyone comes to California with dreams of being discovered and becoming a star. Some are escaping frigid winters, some are relocating for work, while others pick up and move 3000 miles for love. Maryland native, Ashley Brooks, the only female cast member of Animal Planet’s hit show, Pit Boss, came west to be with her girlfriend, found work as a performer and a receptionist, and ended up on a TV show. Only in LA.
The unlikely celebrity talked to AfterEllen.com about being a little person performer, her stuntwoman girlfriend, being out on national television, and her love of seafood.
AfterEllen: How did you end up on Pit Boss?
Ashley Brooks: Well, I already worked for Shorty [owner of Shortywood Productions a casting agency exclusively for little people.] I started off doing gigs for him; I was an Oompa Loompa, I was one of the Seven Dwarves. Basically, I wore any kind of costume you can imagine. His business was growing, and I needed more work, so he asks me to come and work in the office. I don’t know how the reality show came along, but when it did, I was just already there.
AE: And now you’re a celebrity.
AB: [laughs] Not really.
AE: What’s involved in being on Shortywood’s casting roster?
AB: I’m good at costumes, but I cannot act. I went to a couple of auditions, and it was horrible! I just apologized: "I’m sorry for wasting your time. And mine." It was bad.
And Shorty still tries to make me go on auditions and I’m like, "Uh, OK. But I’m telling you, I’m not going to make you look good." Any character other than just myself? I’m horrible.
AE: Good thing you don’t have to worry about that. Pit Boss has had a very successful first season.
AB: Yeah. We’re in what they call Season 1B. We just got done filming, thank god. I’ve been with the boys [co-workers and co-stars, Ronald Lee Clark and Sebastian Saraceno] enough. Normally, it’s an 8-hour day. But when the cameras are around, it can be 10-12 hours, because everything takes longer.
Being with the boys for that long stresses me out. We’re all in the same office, and sometimes, it’s all I can do to not say, "Shut up!"
A rare moment of peace and quiet with Sebastian (L) and Ronald (R)
AE: Why? What do they talk about?
AB: They talk about hockey. All the time. And cars. And they practice their lines together.
AE: Sounds awful. I’m so sorry. Ronald also seems to complain a lot about the costumed gigs you get sent to. He doesn’t like them at all.
AB: He’s definitely the wet blanket in the bunch. I mean, I’m not the happiest in those costumes – they’re hot and you’ve got makeup on, and you can’t touch your face. But when we’re in those costumes, we get paid well. It’s a lot more than if I had some day job. I get, like, a week’s pay for one [appearance.]
So, to sit there crying about it? It’s like, "Dude. If you don’t like it, don’t do it." But he’s been out here a long time, and I think that’s the LA part of him: thinking he’s too good for it. So, he’s definitely the diva, but he’s getting better about it. It’s better to be in the costume and getting the paycheck.
AE: The three of you have no formal background with animals, and yet you’re on Animal Planet. I don’t think anyone imagines they’d end up on Animal Planet unless they’re a zoologist. Or a shark.
AB: I thought I’d just do some little person gigs and pay the bills. Then, [the show] happened.
AE: Do you you get recognized a lot now?
AB: A woman recognized me while I was driving past a Taco Bell. I get recognized a lot while I’m driving; more than when I’m out. She followed me from Taco Bell to the office.
AE: Maybe she was thinking outside the bun.
AB: She was ready to follow me into the office. And I was like, "Whoa. Calm down."