Ashley Victoria Benson is an American actress, model, writer, director and singer. She is known for her role as Hanna Marin in the teen mystery-drama series Pretty Little Liars (2010–2017). Benson has starred in films, including Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007), Christmas Cupid (2010), Spring Breakers (2012), Ratter (2015), Chronically Metropolitan (2016), and Her Smell (2018).
Ashley Benson was born December 18, 1989, to parents Shannon and Jeff Benson, and raised in Anaheim Hills, California. She has one older sister, Shaylene Benson.
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.
Benson 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:
She recalled working on a film set instead of a soap opera set "definitely weird", because she would spend days working on one or two scenes, whereas on the Days of Our Lives set, she filmed two or three episodes a day. For Bring It On: In It to Win It, she had to attend cheerleading practice, which was "hard for [her], because [she is] afraid of heights." Nonetheless, she was "glad" to do her own stunts, even though she "wasn't expecting it to be so hard."
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 13 episodes before ABC cancelled the series due to low ratings but has since gained a cult following.
Pretty Little Liars
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. Benson 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, Benson 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.
Benson was featured on "Creep" by G-Eazy, a cover version of the Radiohead song. She also appeared in the music videos for NLT's "That Girl", One Call's "Black Light", and Hot Chelle Rae's "Honestly".