If you’ve played any video game or watched a niche nerdy comedy series within the last few months, there’s a high chance Ashly Burch was in it.
Jumping across the mediums from television, animation and gaming, the Emmy-Award-winning writer and actress stands out as one of the most hard-working people in the industry today with credits in Horizon: Forbidden West, Dragon Age: Absolution and The Ghost and Molly McGee. Burch has portrayed numerous queer characters, some of whom have been a staple in queer representation for gaming, including voicing/ writing/ consulting on the lesbian character Chloe Price in Life Is Strange, and voicing the asexual Pavarti from The Outer Worlds.
Burch publicly came out as pansexual this summer in a sweet Twitter thread, and the queer gaming community was elated.
Burch currently stars in the Apple TV+ comedy series Mythic Quest, which is currently airing its third season. Mythic Quest follows the workplace life of employees working within Mythic Quest HQ, which runs a popular MMORPG of the same name.
Burch plays Rachel, a former Mythic Quest beta tester who feels directionless in her life. Outside of supporting her girlfriend Dana’s (Imani Hakim) endeavours attending Berkeley, Rachel gets wrapped up in an NFT strategy for Mythic Quest alongside ex-convict-turned-janitor Brad (Danny Pudi).
With each season, Burch has levelled up her role on the show. After doubling as an actress and a staff writer for the first two seasons, season three provides some new titles for Burch as she is now a co-producer and will soon be directing an upcoming episode airing Dec. 23.
Xtra chatted with Burch about her new roles for the show, her debut TV-directing experience, the trajectory of Rachel’s arc for the season and riding a tank for the first time.
You’re credited as a co-producer for Mythic Quest Season 3; what does that entail, compared to your work on previous seasons?
I am basically doing as I’ve always done more or less, which is just trying to advocate for the show and the characters as best I can, get into arguments with [co-creator and co-star] Rob [McElhenney] and sometimes win and sometimes lose. Basically, we’re all just working together to make the show better. My role is—as it’s always been since day one—to express my opinion in respectful ways and get in good-natured back-and-forth with my bosses to see how we can make the best show that we can.
This season shows new sides of Rachel and Dana’s relationship. And while watching, I love how a steady balance of their relationship being romantic and supporting one another is still maintained. How was it navigating in the writers’ room?
We talked a lot about Dana and Rachel, and what we wanted to do with them. My viewpoint was always that I think it’s more interesting for us to get to explore them as individuals. When shows get people together, and then they break them up, and they get them together and they break them up—it’s less interesting to me than figuring out who these people are. Not to say that there isn’t a world in which the Dana and Rachel romance finds troubled waters, but you kind of want it to come from a place of, like, groundedness. I think part of that is needing to know who they are as individuals more.
You still have this sort of steady connection between the two of them. And that’s not where the conflict or the drama or the story is coming from. It’s more about like, okay, who are these women now that they found each other? What’s the next step with them? That’s how you’re getting to see Dana kind of exploring her ambition and all that comes with that, Rachel kind of going through an existential crisis a little bit. I think it lets us have a lot more fun with these characters.
This season has Rachel getting into the NFTs. Was it your idea to have that be her trajectory, or incorporate just the NFT universe in general into the series?
Rob is pretty fascinated by that whole realm of cryptocurrency and the blockchain and all that kind of stuff. I’ve learned a lot about it. I don’t have that same draw to it that he does.
I think what was interesting to him—because he’s the one who thought that it would be fun and interesting to put Rachel into that situation—is creating kind of an internal conflict with her. She’s basically like a socialist who’s discovered that she’s actually really good at being a capitalist—that is probably troubling to her and weird, and can take us to some interesting places with her character.
How was the experience of riding in a tank in one of the recent episodes? Was it a real tank you rode in?
It was a real tank. It was really wacky. This is a place where you go to for this exact thing that we did in the show, which is that you can be in a tank and crush cars, or there’s, like, a shooting range and stuff there. So we did actually go in the tank. And tanks are terrifying, not like, “Oh, I’m afraid I’m gonna get hurt in this tank.” But terrifying that it crushed the car like it was crushing an aluminum can. It barely even teetered. It was crazy.
We were in the tank, and it kind of went like a little divot up, and then down. And then I looked back and this entire [car] had been completely demolished. It was like stepping on an ant. I am in awe of the power of a tank now.
You guys have incredible chemistry and, like, even down to listening to the Mythic Quest podcast Questie Besties that you and your co-stars host. How was the energy this season?
Our cast is full of just the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet. The more time we spend together, and the more time we spend with these characters, it’s just, like, more and more ease, which is so lovely, and I think, as you say, you can see it onscreen. So when we mix and match people, you get to see all of these different elements of our personalities, and of our relationships kind of come to the screen, which is really fun. We’re very lucky in that we have just really great, lovely people on our show.
You directed an upcoming episode of the show. Was that the first episode that you directed?
Yes, it was. I’ve directed shorts before. This is definitely the biggest thing that I’ve ever done, and it was an amazing experience. I mean, as I said, the cast is great. So I knew that I didn’t have to worry about them. And I knew the crew was great, but I don’t think I appreciated just how amazing they are until I got to see them all do their jobs up close. And I was in awe. I felt really humbled and honoured to be in that position with all of those people who are great.
The crew was also tight-knit; a lot of them have worked together for many years, and getting to see them in their element and see how good everyone is, and they were so supportive and it was just such a great experience. It gave me such an appreciation for the show and this group of people that our executive producers [Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, David Hornsby, Rob McElhenney, Jason Altman, Danielle Kreinik, Gerard Guillemot, Nicholas Frenkel, Michael Rotenberg] have put together because they really are the best in the biz.
Were there any obstacles directing something bigger than the old Hey Ash, What You Playing shorts?
It requires, at least for me, a lot of prep. I read the script over and over and over and over and over and over again. I thought about all the shots that I wanted to get. You really have to be willing, you have to be agile, you have to have a plan and you have to be willing to throw it away if the plan is no longer viable. I mean—knock on wood––nothing really dramatic happened. There was a lot of ease in it when you’re surrounded by awesome people, it really isn’t an emergency; you kind of just sit down, you talk about it, you go, “What can we do?” and then you figure it out. I think that’s a big part of having trust in each other. I think, on a set where there isn’t that trust, it could have been really difficult. But all these folks are professionals, and they know what they’re doing. And so it was just kind of a breeze, which again, I’m, like, knocking on wood, but not to jinx myself for the next time I direct. But yeah, it was really just sort of great and fun.
How do you manage time on multiple projects, because you have this, Vox Machina, your voice-acting work and video games. Everywhere I go it’s like Ashly Burch’s name is right there.
I try to be present with the project that I’m in at the moment.
If I’m in a place, I have to be in that place, I have to commit to the thing that’s in front of me and I’ll deal with the other stuff when it comes. I think I had to learn that lesson of feeling myself distracted by another job when I was in a job that I was in, and not liking the feeling of that. And so now I’m a lot better at compartmentalizing and also knowing what I actually have room for. When I’m on Mythic Quest production, that’s all I’m doing for the most part. If there are some [voiceover] sessions I can slot in when I’m off on a certain day, or I have a lighter day, sure. But I really want my mind to be right for the stuff that we’re doing on that show.
Are there any plans to do a new Questie Besties season?
I hope so. I really want to, but it’s hard because Charlotte lives in another country very far away. You know, logistically, I don’t know. I think Meg Ganz, who is our co-creator, and also our producer, is also incredibly busy. I’m hoping that it’s still in the cards in the future. We have a lot of episodes to catch up on now. But yeah, it’s, you know, everyone’s so talented that they’re so busy, so we’ll see what happens!
New episodes of Mythic Quest are released every Friday on Apple TV+.