By Jordyn Kalman

Fourteen-year-old actress Ashlyn Jade Lopez is featured in new film Beneath the Leaves, which became available to stream on Netflix in June. In this thriller about a psychopath escaping prison after attempting to murder four boys, Ashlyn plays the sister of the murderer in a backstory moment in the beginning of the film.

“It’s pretty cool to know that a movie I’m in is on Netflix and that people are watching me on their TVs,” Ashlyn said, “I’ve told all my friends to go watch it and they think it’s really awesome.”

The Brandon native has been involved in acting since she was 4 years old, getting her start by starring in children’s plays at the Straz Center in Tampa and participating in kid classes at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa. Her first big break was landing a role on The Vampire Diaries, which made her realize she really liked being on TV.

She has also appeared in TV shows Brobot and The Wrong House as well as the movies and short films Dad, The Invisible Man and the Blind Girl, Trailer Park Princess, The Atoning and No Place In This World. Ashlyn manages to balance her acting career, education and social life because she is homeschooled, which allows her to have more free time to pursue other opportunities, she said.

“It’s not that hard to balance acting with normal life,” Ashlyn said. “I think my friends understand if I can’t go to their birthday party if I have an audition, but I still get to hang out with them since I can take a break from schooling to make time for them.”

Ashlyn said that her key to staying positive and keep pursuing acting is to tell herself that rejection is not personal and just comes down to what the casting director was looking for visually in terms of height, hair color, ethnicity or eye color.

“You are not going to get every part, but you just have to keep going until you do,” Ashlyn said. “When I don’t get a part, I tell myself it’s not because of my acting, it’s because I’m not what they wanted, and that I’m going to get the next one for sure.”

Tobi Lopez, Ashlyn’s mom, said she always knew her daughter was an actress at heart, because as a child she was always getting up in front of her family and friends to perform. However, she was nervous when Ashlyn first decided she wanted to pursue TV and movie acting.

“After her first exposure to filmmaking, which is not as exciting as everyone thinks it is, Ashlyn said she really wanted to do film and TV, and at first I got nervous,” Tobi said. “I was like, that’s so much harder. Are you sure you want to do that? Let’s see how long this lasts, and it actually lasted a very long time.”

Tobi credits her supportive nature towards her daughters acting career to her job experience as a female firefighter paramedic, she said.

“I am somebody who goes after something that is not the norm, that most people don’t think about doing, that’s a challenge,” Tobi said. “So, once Ashlyn seemed very dedicated to acting, I was very supportive of her going after this goal, working hard and making sacrifices because I had to do the same thing to get to where I am today.”

The hardest part about her daughter being an actress and being a part of the entertainment industry is the possibility of rejection Ashlyn faces every time she puts herself out there for an audition, Tobi said.

“The most difficult part for me is this is a business of tons and tons of noes,” Tobi said. “As a mom I find that hard. I think Ashlyn takes it well because she doesn’t really think about it, but as a parent you do.”

However, the most rewarding part of this whole experience for Tobi is when she gets to go to a movie theater and see her daughter up on the silver screen.

“It was such an amazing feeling seeing her hold her own with other actors who are older and more experienced,” said Tobi. “Seeing her in her element is very rewarding because I know all of her had work has paid off.”