Any actress hopes that, someday, they will be part of a project that becomes a reference point for future work, makes the ‘best of’ lists and defines their generation.
One could argue that Aubrey Peeples has already accomplished that.
A native Floridian, Aubrey grew up as a self-proclaimed theater rat, and started doing film work at the age of 11. Today, she is a multi-talented, intelligent and motivated young actress, evidenced by her already thorough resume, and the fact that she deferred Harvard to work on her acting career. But she is also modest, saying, “I feel silly bragging about myself.”
But Aubrey has already accomplished much more than most 20-year-olds, and has every right to brag. Her resume includes Rage, opposite Nicholas Cage, cult favorite Sharknado, and soon, a movie-adaptation of the ‘80s classic, Jem and the Holograms. Currently, she portrays Layla Grant on the ABC hit drama Nashville.
In addition to her life as an actress, Aubrey is also a powerful and professional musician, a passion that started early on.
“I was always jamming around the house. I don’t know why I started to like music, I just do,” says Peeples. “The first song that I sang running around the house was ‘you make me feel like a natural woman’ by Aretha franklin. But then I grew up and really learned how to sing. I was classically trained for a long time. It just sort of went hand-in-hand with theater.”
The older she gets, and the more cultural hubs that she spends time in, the more she develops her taste and love for music.
She has been able to translate her passion for music into her career on Nashville, through her character Layla. Layla is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who is trying to gain popularity in the national music hub.
“Being Layla is like being on the edge of a cliff, because shes sort of always at her wits end. And you can kind of see that with her attitude that she gives everyone and what not. I think what it really is, is shes this little girl who has been thrown into the adult world, as a lot of people are in the entertainment industry. And she covers it up with this tough girl act. So she sort of has to be tough, and make herself tough, so people don’t take advantage of her.”
The most recent season ended with a huge plot twist being realized by Layla, who closed out the season in utter shock. Knowing the situation, and her character, Aubrey is hoping that Layla is able to work through her trials and emotions through her music, and Aubrey wants to be the one to lend Layla some voice.
She says that her love of the country genre lies in singers like Johnny Cash and John Denver. Not much for pop jams, Aubrey is a sucker for the sad stuff. “My favorite genre is the blues,” she says.
Aubrey has already submitted some songs of her own creation for consideration as Layla-originals, and in this upcoming season, she wants to be able to do more of that, as well as work – outside of Nashville – on her own music career.
“Obviously I write on my own a lot, but im definitely pushing to work on my own stuff this year, whether that’s writing with people or making a demo or just starting the process. As far as a release date, I don’t know. I just really want to be working on it, and not just for myself anymore.”
That release date is still listed as TBD, largely because Aubrey has been pretty preoccupied working on a number of movies.
Due out later this summer, Aubrey plays Caitlin Maguire, the daughter of Nicholas Cage’s character in Rage. In the film, Caitlin is kidnapped and her father rounds up his crew of former criminals to find her. For Aubrey, the experience of working opposite a movie star with such clout and reputation as Nicholas Cage was both humbling and educational.
“Working with people that you have respected for so long, and then just having them be so nice and lovely is always a joy… So just watching him work, I felt like I learned a lot about technique and having the ability to pull it out very fast,” says Aubrey. “Everyone has their own thing. And getting to watch so many different people and the way they work is so interesting. “
Aubrey was able to translate some of that acting prowess into her most recent project, something that she is very passionate and excited by: the part of Jem in Jem and the Holograms.
“We are so stoked about it. We just wrapped shooting,” she says. “I play Jem, slash Jerica, she basically rises to fame. She becomes internet famous, and never intends for that to happen. So she has to deal with that all of a sudden. So the film itself is really a comment on 1) fame and 2) how internet and social media plays into that. I feel like the film is a comment on the good and bad of that relationship…I think it’s going to be accessible to modern audiences.”
Aside from just being a really fun movie, Aubrey says that the best part of playing Jem was the combination of action stunts and singing that she got to perform during shooting. The experience, she says, was very rewarding, and she is looking forward to the 2016 release date.
For any role that she accepts, Aubrey tends to prepare the same way. A little sheepishly, she admits that the way she has managed to break down scenes and characters is by keeping a journal. For the character, she jots down flaws and features that are inherent to the individual. For smaller scenes, she will write out basic emotions and blocking. But, she says “I don’t want to give myself rules, because otherwise I feel like you just get too rigid and stiff. So I guess I’ll just journal about it.”
Once she gets the gist of a scene down, Aubrey dissects the characters lines and, she says, “If I feel like it, ill run [them] out loud with myself. I don’t normally run lines with people, only because I like it to be very internal and then…I like to save it for when you’re actually doing it I guess.”
That sense of surprise lets her keep a little bit of the character to herself before it hits the screen. That bit of suspense is part of the reason that she initially fell in love with Layla, who Aubrey describes as tough and a fighter. For this upcoming season, which put the staff back in the writer’s room just last month and will begin filming in August, Aubrey says she would like to see a change in her character’s demeanor.
“A lot of the characters on the show will be one way, and then have something traumatic happen to them, and then there’s a shift in their whole being. I’m hoping that we get to explore that side of Layla and how she copes with the obvious.”
With the popularity of Nashville rising with every season, Aubrey is looking at the possibility of making a physical move from her LA home to a permanent spot in Nashville, a city that she has grown to love.
“Honestly right now, id like home to be Nashville. I’m hoping to be there permanently or at least have a place there. I love it so much. It has all the benefits of a big city, but in a small city, where everyone’s focused and just down to earth,” Aubrey explains. “The town is magical just because of all the music and everything. I think it really connects everyone. People might be nicer because of that. I haven’t really run into anyone who has been, not a pleasure to be around. It feels like a little family, because you are all there appreciating the same things.”
The tricky part about planning too far into the future as an actress, according to Aubrey, is that you never really know what is going to happen to your character. For her, though, she thinks that regardless of that happens to Layla, she “would like to continue spending a lot of time there.”
Aside from trying to figure out where she calls home, and shooting any one of her various films, or working on an episode of Nashville, Aubrey seems pretty content with where she’s at.
When asked what her goals moving forward are, she responds, “Its always interesting for me to answer because I am so enjoying what I’m doing right now, that I’d just kind of like to see what happens.” But, she adds quickly, “I love working on a TV show, I would love to continue working on a TV show.”
Other than that, she plans on releasing some of her own music, which she aims to start producing later this year. As for her acting career, she says she would love to get more involved in the creative process of developing characters and plot lines. “I’ve brought my own thing to characters that have already been created, but id really love to create something from the ground up.”
For now, though, Aubrey is waiting for shooting for Nashville to start later this summer, and potentially planning a trip to Florida to visit her family. She says, she likes getting back to her roots.
**A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in July 2014