Confident, aggressive and loyal. Those are the words that best describe actress Lauren Ash’s hilarious character Dina Fox, the assistant manager of the Cloud 9 department store on NBC’s sitcom Superstore, which follows the lives and antics of a group of semi-dysfunctional employees who work at a fictional big-box store in St. Louis, MO.
It was a long journey for Ash to get to where she is today, but ever since the Canadian-born actress saw a video camera at the age of 7, she realized that being in front of that camera was exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
“I actually was a very shy child and when I was 7, my grandparents had a wedding anniversary and someone rented a video camera,” explained Ash. “It was the first time I’ve ever seen a video camera or had any sort of concept of that and I just turned into another child apparently. There’s video footage of me doing impressions of Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I just loved it and loved being on camera.”
As she grew older, Ash went to theater school, but dropped out after only four months and eventually signed up for improv classes at the Second City in Toronto—an improv and sketch comedy theatre bar.
“Within a year of taking classes at The Second City I got hired at a touring company, which I did for many years, and then I performed at the Mainstage there [in Toronto] and then I performed at The Second City Mainstage in Chicago as well,” said Ash. “Then I just transitioned into doing film and TV full-time. I did that in Toronto for a while and then I came to LA. It’s been a very long journey, but a good one.”
After doing a couple of television shows such as Super Fun Night on ABC and Another Period on Comedy Central, Ash started looking for another full-time gig when she came upon the Superstore script during pilot season.
“I couldn’t believe it when I read Dina because she was literally a character that I had developed when I was at The Second City in Toronto and I played on stage all the time,” said Ash. “So the characters were so similar I was like ‘Oh my god. This is my role. Nobody else can play this because I know her. I’ve played her for years.’”
After going through four different auditions, Ash finally locked in the role of Dina.
“Here’s the thing, I’m not really cocky,” said Ash. “But, I just knew from the first time I read [the script] that I’m going to play that part and that it was going to run for many years, and I was right.”
Superstore, which is currently in its fourth season, sees Dina in a precarious situation this time around when she agrees to become her boss’ surrogate. Her boss, Glenn Sturgis, is played by fellow Canadian actor and comedian Mark McKinney.
“I obviously wasn’t really pregnant so there was the ever-growing baby bump,” laughed Ash. “It looks heavy, but it’s not. It’s actually very warm. It’s like wearing 80 scarves wrapped around your midsection. But a funny story about that is that I had a scene where I had to have an ultrasound done where they had to put a prosthetic belly on me and it looked really authentic, and so my mom, when I was a kid, scared me really bad and I’ve never gotten her back. So I got her back by sending her pictures and telling her that I’ve been hiding my pregnancy from her. So personally how was that storyline process for me as an actor? It was pretty awesome because I got to torment my mother, which was 20 years in the making.”
So what’s next for Ash’s character for the remainder of the season?
“There’s a lot more episodes left of the season,” said Ash. “Obviously, Dina’s given birth to Glenn’s baby. We’re going to see her interact with that baby and see what that’s like. Is she scared or is she not scared? There is a huge upcoming episode that I can only barely tease, but all I’m allowed to say is, is that the fans have been heard and we will finally get to see Dina’s birds. That’s something that’s really exciting to come.”
Even though the employees of Cloud 9 bicker back and forth, off-camera it’s nothing but love between the cast who often vacation together to places such as Las Vegas and Austin, TX.
“We bonded really quickly right from the beginning,” said Ash. “At the end of season one, we went to Vegas together, which was amazing. We went to a television festival in Austin, TX, and we decided to stay for a few extra days and hang out together. At the beginning when the show first started, I’d tell people ‘We really get along. We’re all friends.’ And everyone said, ‘Yeah, well wait ‘til season four.’ I can tell you that we’re in season four and we still all really get along. It’s a pretty amazing thing to get to go and hang out with your buddies every day and catch up and we manage to shoot a show in our spare time.”
Filming a sitcom such as Superstore that involves lots of improvisation, bloopers are bound to happen with Ash recalling one particular blooper that involved a certain type of prosthetic.
“Oh that’s tough. There are so, so many,” said Ash. “From season three, Glenn had a mole on his penis and Dina offered to examine it for him. Glenn set up this whole sheet with a slit in it and he would put his penis through it for Dina to look at. When we were shooting that, there was a take where I got my face really close…We had an actual prosthetic fake dick and it hit me in the face. I don’t know if they put that on the blooper reel or not because it’s not family friendly, but gosh did we laugh.”
Not only is Ash a main staple in the show, but she also had the opportunity to write an episode in season three titled “Gender Reveal.”
“…It was so fun to get to be the writer on-set every day and watch everybody do their thing,” said Ash. “Normally when you’re an actor and you’re not in the scene, you’re not there, but as a writer you have to be there for the whole thing. I was so in awe of how talented and funny this cast is and being able to come up and improvise jokes on the fly for everybody was so fun. Normally, we improvise a lot on the show, and I get to do that for myself, but that week I got to do it for everybody and a bunch of it ended up making it into the episode. It was really amazing, and it was a creatively fulfilling experience.”
Besides costarring in Superstore, Ash is also the voice of Scorpia on the new She-Ra and the Princess of Power animated series on Netflix.
“I was a huge She-Ra fan growing up,” said Ash. “It was my favorite cartoon, so the fact that I get to be on this new rebooted version is super surreal and cool. Season two starts airing April 26 so it’s very exciting. In season one, people got to meet my character Scorpia and there was a lot of fan love, which has been nice. But, in season two she has some really cool stuff and a really interesting storyline, so I’m excited for people to see it.”
Tune in to Superstore Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC.