Fear is one of the most potent human feelings. Its universality and grip on the human psyche single-handedly upholds a fundamental part of the cultural canon. From true-crime podcasts to suspense novels to horror films, fear has become part of a narrative that touches every aspect of our lives (including the parts we fail to recognize). There are surface-level fears, like fright over a bump in the night, spiders, or homicidal maniacs. And then, there are the deeper fears that we carry unconsciously through life, like suspicion of strangers, insecurities, or dread about the unknown. It takes tenacity to fully acknowledge and embrace your fears and then move forward despite them—something 28-year-old Ashley Moore knows a thing or two about.
Being in front of a camera can seem terrifying, but Moore has made a name for herself—and a living—by shaking that fear off. Moore signed to Nous Model Management back in 2012 and has since taken the industry by storm, amassing a large Instagram following and working on campaigns for Victoria’s Secret Pink and Réalisation. But after eight years, Moore was looking for a new challenge. This led her to pivot to her first love: acting. A testament to her on-screen prowess, shortly thereafter, she landed a leading part in Amazon Studios’ series adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer. In the show—a contemporary take on the iconic ’90s slasher film—Moore plays Riley, a biracial teen drug dealer coming from an impoverished single-parent home.
Moore’s rapid rise within the entertainment industry is easy to understand once you meet her. At first glance, one can quickly be enraptured by her sharp jawline, high cheekbones, big brown eyes, and tight curls that flutter out oh so perfectly. But beyond her looks (and the shimmery green cat eye she donned for our Zoom interview), what makes Moore so intriguing is who she is at her core. Breaking into fashion or the film industry requires a certain level of fearlessness and resiliency. When I ask her about what inspired her to pursue modeling and acting, she tells me, “Acting was something I always wanted to do as a child, but my mother was like, ‘absolutely not,’ so I pushed that to the side. And when people kept telling me I should model, I decided to pursue it.”
So at the tender age of 17, after convincing her single mother to allow it, she moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles on the condition that she’d get signed as a model. A cross-country move would be intimidating for anyone, but Moore’s determination overrode any doubt. “I was so excited when I moved to Los Angeles,” she explains. “I told myself, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m going back to North Carolina. I want to stay here, and I want to do this.’ So it was grind time for me the moment I landed.” And grind she did. Moore was signed to a modeling agency within two weeks of landing in the city.
That hustle not only empowered Moore to jump-start her modeling career, but it’s also the driving force behind her courage to pivot into the world of acting. “Acting gives me the ability to be able to tell a story and, honestly, just surprise myself,” she says. “I’m learning about and pulling out so many different parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. It’s like you dig in and break down walls that you’ve had up for so long to be able to get into certain characters.” Of course, examining one’s feelings, even for a fictional character, inevitably comes with anxiety, which Moore humbly admits to facing in the process. “Acting in front of a camera is different. It’s so much more frightening because you’re extra vulnerable,” she explains. “You have so much to deliver, and to meet people’s expectations, there’s a lot more pressure.”
Moore is well aware of the pressure this adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer carries with it. It’s only natural to feel some trepidation around the reception of the new series, particularly ahead of the premiere. Moore divulges, “Once this series is released, I’m fearful of how people [will] respond to it because people on social media are bullies.” Despite any doubt she may have around how successful the series will be, the actress knows to rely upon the support from her “small circle” of friends and how to take care of herself by putting down her phone, working out, or reveling in the work of fellow actors in her favorite shows, such as The White Lotus and Scenes From a Marriage.
Of course, even the most practiced self-care rituals can’t exactly assuage the normal fears that come with changing careers. “It was definitely nerve-racking,” she says of stepping onto her first big set. “It was a bit intimidating going into this and being my first project and not really knowing anything.” After a brief pause, she continues, “I didn’t even know what a one-liner was (which is the schedule). But everyone was so kind and broke everything down, so I wasn’t in it alone.” Having great co-stars like newcomer Ezekiel Goodman, Madison Iseman, and Brianne Tju and great crew members allowed Moore to pull from a wealth of experiences and channel that knowledge into her character on-screen. It’s this freedom to act “outside the box” that encourages the audience to engage with this multifaceted and complex character.
Being able to bring Riley to life is something that Moore doesn’t take for granted. “This industry is finally shifting and being open to including the stories of women and men of color, and it’s such a beautiful thing to see,” she explains. “I’m just so excited about the stories to come and to be able to be more involved in pushing it forward.” Moving forward—in terms of a more inclusive Hollywood and in our own lives—isn’t easy, but it seems Moore doesn’t fear those big leaps of faith. When I ask Moore if she actually likes scary movies, she candidly admits that, despite starring in a slasher series, horror is not her preferred genre. She doesn’t like being scared, and films like The Exorcist are a “hard no.”
It is a bit ironic that someone who isn’t a fan of the genre would make her debut in a horror series, but as Moore reminds me toward the end of our conversation, “the world can be as terrifying as a scary film.” And in a way, she’s right. What’s more terrifying than leaving home to pursue a dream? Or pivoting your career entirely? Or putting your body of work out into the world for consumption and criticism? Terror isn’t just found on-screen (though, if you watch I Know What You Did Last Summer, you will get a good scare)—it’s present in our daily lives.
Fortunately, the most terrifying thing we contend with in our lives isn’t ghosts, cults, or killers. Rather, it’s realizing and committing to our dreams. It’s easy to see how a split-second decision made by a character in a horror movie can lead to their demise or salvation, but rarely do we reflect upon the minute decisions we make every day—when, in Moore’s own words, “you don’t know you’ll make it until you’re there at that moment.” We all think we’d go a different route, that we’d be unaffected by our fears of failure, of loneliness, of lack, but we never know how we’ll handle a situation until we’re fully in it. For Moore, fear moves beyond films and into her life without depleting her. It’s the nudge needed to do the scary work of showing up, stepping into a character, and putting her soul out there for the world to see. Her tenacity and commitment to her craft, to herself, and to the life she envisions for herself (even if it terrifies the f*ck out of her) make her one to watch.