Australian Actress Ashlee Juergens Brilliantly Portrays Maggie in “Dead Skin”

The mark of a strong lead actor doesn’t come down to whether or not we like their character, it comes down to the intensity of the feelings they leave us with after the show. If we are still thinking about a character after the show has wrapped, then the actor has done their job perfectly– which is exactly what actress Ashlee Juergens achieved with her performance as Maggie in the production of the Australian play “Dead Skin,” which completed a successful run in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Actress Ashlee Juergens at the US premiere of “Dead Skin” (Photo courtesy of Ashlee Juergens & Getty Images)

One of the recurring highlights of the 2022 Hollywood Fringe Festival, “Dead Skin” tells the story of Andie, played by Laneikka Denne, a sweet teenage girl who is head over heels in love with her best friend Maggie, played by Ashlee Juergens.

On a mission to find out who she is, Andie begins to explore her first queer love, while also navigating a confusing family dynamic, which includes a rocky relationship with her father who doesn’t speak to her very much, and memories of an estranged mother that she’s never met.

“Maggie is pivotal in this play as she is a step in Andie’s journey of finding who she is and what she wants. We follow the growth of their relationship that mirrors Andie’s Mum’s relationship with Andie’s Dad.” explains Ashlee Juergens.

“Maggie also provides obstacles in allowing Andie to get what she wants as she is very truthful, even though that is sometimes not what the people around her want to hear.”

Ashlee Juergens (left) and Laneikka Denne (right) in “Dead Skin” at The Zephyr Theatre (Photo by Robbie Ryde)

As we witness the initially playful love story of Andie and Maggie unfolding through scenes at the convenience store that Andie works at — we simultaneously see, through Andie’s hallucinations, the not so innocent love story of her parents, which takes place at the same convenience store. While Andie is driven to find out the truth about what happened to her mother, she is torn by her growing infatuation with Maggie, who becomes increasingly demanding of her attention, and cold when she doesn’t get it.

“Ashlee was able to bring a grounded quality to the role of Maggie, a potentially unlikable character in lesser hands, by thoroughly interrogating the role’s possible motivations, histories, influences and contradictions,” explains “Dead Skin” director Peter Blackburn.

“She created a fully rounded human whose actions may be the foil to the protagonist of the narrative, but she was never one-dimensional in her pursuit of the story and dignity of a character who came from circumstances profoundly disadvantaged from most others in the story, subtly subverting the possible villainous characteristics that a cheating partner is often saddled with, giving Maggie a profound sense of survival in a world in which she has fewer options to navigate a successful life in romance, career and self-actualization.”

Ashlee Juergens as Maggie in “Dead Skin” (Photo by Robbie Ryde)

While identifying with the protagonist might be what keeps most of us engaged as viewers, someone has to play the villain to drive this story forward, and Juergens does it flawlessly in “Dead Skin.” Anyone who witnessed Juergens’ dynamic and riveting performance would have been hard pressed to leave the theater without strong emotions. While the play is told through the eyes of Andie, Juergens’ character Maggie is a pivotal player who makes Andie’s overall journey of self-discovery possible– even if we don’t agree with her actions.

“Maggie uses her sexuality in order to get what she wants. She is a very ‘out there’ individual who seems confident, however uses this as a mask in hiding her self hate. She unconsciously picks at her lip, which demonstrates an insight into her somewhat destructive nature,” explains Juergens.

“I enjoyed the complexity of Maggie– how she is so restrained and why this is her defense mechanism… She can’t show emotions because she is too afraid of getting hurt again. I loved creating her backstory in order to justify her actions and behaviors as an individual.”

Echoing Blackburn’s words, a character in lesser hands could have easily come across as one dimensional and opportunistic, but Juergens brought Maggie to life in a way that was multilayered and full of nuances.

When asked about what drives her to act, Juergens said, “I want to create characters that allow audiences to connect and from these experiences self reflect on their own behaviors. I believe through art comes people’s personal growth and I want to be a conduit in aiding them. Human beings fascinate me.”

Written by Australian playwright Laneikka Denne and published by Australian Plays, “Dead Skin,” which earned the State Theatre Company and Flinders University Young Playwright Award, first premiered at the Kings Cross Theatre in Australia in 2021, before landing a spot on the 2022 Hollywood Fringe Festival roster in the US. Produced by Jessica Orcsik at Diversity Entertainment, “Dead Skin” completed 7 successful shows at the Zephyr Theater in June as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and there are talks of the show continuing on with an Off-Broadway run, as well as a potential feature film.

Marking Australian actress Ashlee Juergens’ debut on the Hollywood stage, “Dead Skin” was the perfect introduction to this brilliant performer’s dynamic capabilities. While she is new to Hollywood, she has already made quite the name for herself in Australia. Growing up in Sydney Juergens began dancing, singing and performing at an early age, which is easy to see from how easily she glides across the theatrical stage.

Ashlee Juergens as Maggie in “Dead Skin” (Photo by Robbie Ryde)

“Being the youngest sister of 3, I spent a lot of time at the dance studio and if it wasn’t me in class I would sit and watch my sisters. When we weren’t in class we were all at dance competitions with our dance school,” recalls Juergens. “When I was 9 years old my mum put me into singing lessons as I only had one volume– Loud! She thought vocal coaching would teach me to control my voice and turns out, I loved it.”

After landing numerous stage roles in productions such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Footloose,” as well as the film “The Delivery Guy” and the Television pilot “Pretty Mess,” Juergens made a powerful debut on network television as young Agatha in the series “The Secrets She Keeps” in 2019. She also plays a key role in the highly anticipated upcoming horror film “Children of the Corn.”

Having trained at the Actors Pulse with Billy Milionis where she studied the Meisner Technique and the American Arts Film and Television Academy with director Jessica Orcsik, as well as under the direction of “Australian Idol” and “The X Factor” voice coach Erana Clark, Ashlee Juergens has established a truly broad and powerful set of skills that will undoubtedly keep her on everyone’s radar for years to come.

“My keys to success are having a good work ethic, authenticity, integrity, and definitely grit. I have always loved working hard, whether it was in school, vocal lessons, dance classes or acting classes as I love the feeling of achieving something greater than myself,” says Juergens.

“I embrace my vulnerability and curiosity in my everyday life allowing me to have this same openness in all of my characters. I love what I do, so the journey is what excites me.”



Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine,,, and more.

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Portia Leigh

Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine,,, and more.