When Asia Monet Ray left “Dance Moms” in 2013, it was to pursue bigger and better opportunities. Two years after starring on her own program, “Raising Asia,” the 10-year-old performer has snagged a role in one of the most anticipated new series of 2016: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
While Asia’s fans are used to seeing her playing herself on the Lifetime programs, the limited FX series will feature her in a much more complex role. The powerhouse will be portraying Sydney Simpson, the then 8-year-old daughter of disgraced NFL star and suspected murderer O.J. Simpson (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.). The series follows Simpson’s '90s court case in which he was on trial for allegedly murdering his wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend.
“It’s my first role that I actually had to research,” Asia gushed of the part. “I wasn’t born at the time. Everybody thinks because I’m so mature that I’m 30 years old and that I remember what happened.”
After watching old news broadcasts and getting a little help from her parents (Asia’s dad gave her a book on the trial as a gift), she was able to get into the head of Sydney. “I thought she was a sweet girl who had to be very strong to go through the most difficult time of her life. Her mom and her mom’s friend died. That’s pretty sad.”
While Asia’s presence on “American Crime Story” will surely excite her “Dance Moms” fans, she’s in good company with the series’ long list of A-list stars, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the young performer. David Schwimmer and John Travolta, who play attorneys Robert Kardashian and Robert Shapiro, respectively, grabbed her attention.
“I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing cast,” she said. “I’ve watched ‘Friends’ every night and it's one of my favorite TV shows. I love David. He’s amazing. And when I saw John Travolta, I’m like, OMG, is that the guy from ‘Grease’? I’ve watched it like 18 times!” Of course, Asia also had some kind words for Gooding Jr., whom she knows best as her “TV dad.”
“He calls me his TV daughter,” she said. “He is just hilarious and he makes everybody have a good day… We definitely bonded.”
Another person Asia is a big fan of: creator Ryan Murphy. Despite watching only a few episodes of “Scream Queens" and “American Horror Story,” Asia says she knew it was an honor to be working alongside him. “It’s pretty awesome filming with him,” she dished, revealing she would be more than willing to team up with him again in the future.
And while the program may not feature any of Asia’s famous dancing skills, she said the part, which she snagged after just one “emotional” audition, has her on the right path. “I wanted to try something different and I wanted to start acting and start singing. It was probably my best decision I’ve ever made.”
With a big TV role under her belt, more music on the way, and a few secretive yet promising roles in the works, 2016 is gearing up to be Asia’s best yet. “I’ve been super busy and I’m definitely growing and my parents are very proud of me,” she said. “I’m definitely going to keep doing this for the rest of my life. This is what I was born to do.”
Watch Asia on “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX.