With “Above Suspicion” currently filming in Harlan, the movie business is on everybody’s mind around Harlan County. However, Harlan has other closer-to-home ties to the movie industry, such as actress, model and Harlan native Ashe Parker.
Parker is not appearing in “Above Suspicion,” but she is busy with another major feature film being shot in Knoxville, Tennessee. Parker has a part in “Dog Years,” a movie starring the legendary Burt Reynolds. The movie also features Chevy Chase, who got his start as one of the original “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” on the very first season of Saturday Night Live, and relative newcomer Ariel Winter, who stars on the hit television show “Modern Family.” Adam Rifkin is directing.
Parker, who currently lives in Lexington, is never far from her Harlan County roots.
“I grew up in Catrons Creek,” Parker said. “I was in Harlan for 31 years until I finally made the move. The main reason I left was I had no family there anymore. All the family I had left alive had moved to Lexington, so my daughter and I moved up here.”
Parker said she also was laid off from her job in the coal industry, making a move necessary.
“I moved up here to be near my family and to give (her daughter) a better life,” Parker said. “Plus there’s more opportunity for me, as it’s closer to an airport and closer to other film projects.”
Parker said she is excited about working with Reynolds.
“I’m actually playing a hooker in a scene with Burt Reynolds himself,” Parker exclaimed. “It’s probably my biggest acting achievement thus far.”
Parker said she observed Reynolds on set on June 10 when she was in the area to shoot a music video. Parker has appeared in quite a few music videos, working with artists such as Big Smo, Rachel Timberlake, Paul Groves and The New Busy.
“I was in Knoxville because I shot a music video down there,” Parker explained. “I went over to set and was talking to the director. Burt was filming a very intense scene that day, so I didn’t get to say hi to him.”
Parker’s scene with Reynolds was shot on Wednesday.
“Dog Years” is far from Parker’s first film. She has appeared in a wide selection of films, including “Piranha Sharks,” “Dorothy and the Witches of Oz,” “Cedar Swamp,” “Stand Like a Mountain” and “The Freeze.” She also has roles in two features currently in production, “Loss Prevention” and “Burning in Kentucky.”
“My very first feature film was “Dorothy and the Witches of Oz,” Parker said. “That was with the same director as “Piranha Sharks.” It was filmed in Connecticut and New York.”
Along with her movie roles, she has an extensive resume’ on the small screen, with such shows as “Nashville,” “Sins and Secrets” and “Snapped: Killer Couples” under her belt.
Parker says her acting career “just kind of happened.”
“I had never thought about it,” Parker said. “They were in Harlan casting for a movie. At the time my dad was terminally ill and I couldn’t go see him that weekend, so I actually took my 3-year-old daughter to the casting call to see if they could use her, which they did.”
When Parker walked in the door, they asked her to read for one of the lead parts.
“They offered it to me on the spot,” Parker said. “I was very thankful for the opportunity. The week after I took the part, my dad passed away.”
Parker explained she used acting to help her through her father’s death.
“I call it my coping mechanism,” Parker explained. “It’s what I turn to get my mind off things. Then I realized I was passionate about it and wanted to start pursuing it.”
Parker explains acting has also helped her through the loss of her brother.
“I lost my brother last year, very unexpectedly,” Parker said. “One month after he passed, that’s when I started work on “Loss Prevention.” That helped me cope. It’s just something that’s always been there to help me get through things.”
She explained that first movie led to signing with an agent out of Knoxville.
“It seems like acting is opening up more in the southern states now,” Parker says. “We’ve got more opportunities in these parts.”
You can keep up with Parker on her website, http://www.asheparker.com/.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.