In a recent interview, Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones talked about how pop singer Miley Cyrus identified with her character in “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.” In the third and final episode of season 5, Cyrus makes her Black Mirror debut as a pop icon who wants to reinvent herself. Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) is a musician whose pursuit of personal and creative freedom is thwarted by her controlling aunt, who doubles as her manager. The episode is a familiar parable about young female artists fighting for their autonomy in the music industry. Cyrus — who acquired fame as a child star on Disney’s Hannah Montana — told Brooker that she resonated with the character and that she felt her portrayal was authentic.
When Brooker contacted Cyrus about the role, he was surprised to learn that she was a fan of the show and “was really excited because the script really resonated with her. We had a Skype chat with her early on, and it was immediately apparent that she’s very smart and just funny. She takes her job very, very seriously but she’s also aware of the absurdity of that whole world.”
According to Brooker, Cyrus’s personal experiences helped inform and expand upon the original script. “There were several things Miley said that ended up being reflected in the script that were to do with the music industry. Certainly, she doesn’t have an evil aunt who controls her. But there were aspects and things she was saying about live performance and the general sense of the responsibility you have to fans. The general sense of how you move on as a performer if you want to express yourself differently than the box people have put you in. I think all of that stuff resonated with her.”
Although Miley Cyrus does not have an evil aunt who is pulling her strings behind the scenes, she does have an idea of how the music industry works — and the role of social media in shaping the relationship between fans and stars. Brooker said that he wrote one of Cyrus’s experiences into the script. “I remember her saying that she recently had an experience where she had gone on stage as a cameo — and I cannot remember the act, but it was a band or performer whose main audience is significantly older than Miley’s — and she walked on stage and looked out into the audience and could see everyone’s faces, because they weren’t all filming it on their phones. Instead of a sea of rectangles, she saw faces and that struck her; that she had forgotten and almost missed that. There was a line about that that went into the script. So there were lots of comments that she made that went into the story.”
While she was filming season 5, Miley Cyrus learned that her house in Malibu had burned down due to fires in Southern California. This personal tragedy inspired Cyrus to give it her all for an emotional scene in the episode.
Season 5 of Black Mirror is streaming now on Netflix.