Ashley Victoria Benson, was born on December 18 1989 in Anaheim Hills, California to parents Shannon and Jeff Benson. Ashley is an American actress, model and singer best known for her work on the hit ABC teen mystery-drama series ‘Pretty Little Liars’ on the role of Hanna Marin. Benson has starred in films, including ‘Bring It On: In It to Win It’ in 2007, Christmas Cupid in 2010, Spring Breakers in 2012, Ratter in 2014, Chronically Metropolitan in 2016, Her Smell in 2019 and Private Property in 2022. She has received various awards, including four Teen Choice Awards, a Young Hollywood Award, as well as three People’s Choice Award nominations.
Benson began dancing competitively at age three, studying ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop. She began singing in choirs and musicals at a young age, performing a solo at her church at age four. When she was eight years old she signed with Ford Models, and appeared in a number of print ads. One of her first professional acting careers were on the role of Abigail Deveraux on the famous daytime soap ‘Days of Our Lives’. Ashley made her big screen debut with a bit part in the 2004 comedy 13 Going on 30. She starred as Carson in Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007), the fourth installment of the Bring It On franchise. The role required her to both overcome her fear of heights to perform the cheerleading stunts, and to end her contract with Days of our Lives, in an interview she said:
I got off it, I mean I had talked with the producers about doing this film, and they weren’t going to let me do it… I had just passed up so many opportunities where I could have done a film. So this big thing just came up, and I ended up getting to do this. I’m happier that I got off the soap though. I mean I give all my credit to them, because I have learned so much from being on soap operas and working with amazing actors who’ve been on there for like thirty, forty years. It was an honor to work with them. It’s definitely given me all my background. But getting off the soap opera helped me a lot too, because I can move on to bigger and better things. So I am definitely thankful I got to be on a soap opera though.
Even though Ashley is afraid of heights she overcame her fear as she had to attend cheerleading practice in order to perform her own stunts for her role as Carson on ‘Bring it On: In It To Win It’ and in an interview she was glad to do her own stunts, even though she wasn’t expecting how difficult this would be.
In 2008, she appeared in the Lifetime original film ‘Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal’, where she played head cheerleader Brooke Tippit, a character loosely inspired by Karrissa Theret of the Fab Five. The film is based on a true story which took place at McKinney North High School in Texas. She became good friends with her onscreen mother Tatum O’Neal, from whom she learned about acting. Furthermore, she was excited to land a supporting role in ‘Bart Got a Room’, which aired mainly on film festivals in 2008 before having a limited release in 2009, because it allowed her to work with William H. Macy. She also played a witch disguised as a cheerleader in a 2008 episode of The CW series Supernatural.
In 2009, Benson starred in ABC’s short-lived supernatural comedy television series Eastwick. The show was based on John Updike’s novel, The Witches of Eastwick, and the 1987 film adaption of the same name. The series only lasted 11 episodes before ABC cancelled the series due to low ratings but has since gained a cult following.
Benson in 2012
In December 2009, Benson was cast as Hanna Marin in the ABC Family mystery-thriller teen drama series Pretty Little Liars, based on the novel series by Sara Shepard. Hanna is the “diva” and “It girl” of the group, having taken Alison DiLaurentis’ place as the most popular girl at Rosewood High in Alison’s absence. The series premiered to 2.47 million viewers with Benson’s performance being praised by critics. She also received a number of awards and nominations. Ashley reprised the role in the spin-off series Ravenswood in two episodes.
In 2010, Benson starred in the television film Christmas Cupid alongside Christina Milian and Chad Michael Murray, which also aired on ABC Family. In January 2012, Benson was cast in the film Spring Breakers, after Emma Roberts dropped out due to creative reasons. The film centers on four college students who are arrested and bailed out by a drug and arms dealer, who sends them out to do some dirty work on spring break. The film co-starred Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and James Franco. Filming took place in March and April 2012, and the film was released in March 2013. In the January 21, 2013, episode of the CBS sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Ashley appeared as Carly Whittaker, Barney Stinson’s half-sister who dated Ted Mosby. That same month, Benson became the face of eveningwear designer Faviana.
She starred in the 2015 independent horror thriller film Ratter, playing Emma Taylor, a girl who is stalked through her technological devices. That same year, she also appeared in Pixels as Lady Lisa, a fictional game character brought to life. In 2016, Benson appeared in the biographical comedy-drama film Elvis & Nixon as Margaret. In 2018, it was announced that Benson would star alongside Cara Delevingne and Elisabeth Moss in Alex Ross Perry’s music drama film Her Smell, and the film received generally positive reviews, with Benson becoming a contender for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. For the film’s soundtrack, Benson did all her own vocals.
In 2020, Ashley was featured on “Creep” by G-Eazy, a cover version of the Radiohead song. She also appeared in the music videos previously for NLT’s “That Girl”, One Call’s “Black Light”, and Hot Chelle Rae’s “Honestly”.