It’s been a good seven or eight years since Miley Cyrus did any acting that didn’t invovle either playing herself, an even sillier version of herself or doing animated voice-over. But in the upcoming season of Netflix’s futureshock drama series Black Mirror, the former Hannah Montana star digs into what looks like one of her most substantial roles to date as a troubled pop star named Ashley.
As is typical in Mirror world, the dramatic lever is pushed by some technology that tips from helpful to harrowing, in this case a pint-sized Alexa-ish AI Miley facsimile named Ashley Too. The upcoming three-episode fifth season that drops on June 5 has been teased by promising a future “we should have seen coming.”
Since showrunner Charlie Brooker has made a habit of keeping everything under tight wraps, Billboard has collected everything we know so far about Cyrus’ episode.
Where it was filmed: Following months of rumors, Cyrus told Howard Stern in December 2018 that she was actually away from Malibu, California, filming…something when her home was destroyed by a devastating wildfire. She told the SiriusXM host that she’d been in South Africa and while she wouldn’t say the words “Black Mirror,” Cyrus told Howard she’d anwers his questions in a roundabout way.
“I’m really actually excited for everyone to watch the ‘headshaking project’ we said yes to [before],” Cyrus said cryptically, without naming the show. “The minute I say I never want to do something again, all of a sudden, there I am.” While Cyrus said she’d been working hard on her upcoming album, working on Mirror gave her a sense of joy and accomplishment she’s never felt before. “I hate everything [I work on], but it was the first time I’ve left somewhere feeling really proud of my work… but you know if I like it that might mean it’s horrible.”
At the time, she said she couldn’t say much about her role, while promising that she plays a role with “a lot of dynamic,” that showed off a “lot of different sides” of her character. “There’s a lot of dimension to it, and actually it was while the devastation of Malibu was happening, and it was a really weird learning experience for me, because I was so far from home and the show is already really dark, and it’s already kind of eerie when you’re there the whole time. But I learned a lot about myself and I think I was able to kind of use that and put that into it.”
Who Miley will play: Five months later, the first official trailer for season five dropped and we got a brief glimpse of Cyrus as spiraling pop star Ashley, first seen sitting glumly at a white grand piano before triumphantly taking the stage in a pink bob wig surrounded by a fierce dance squad and later diving into a wicked VR martial arts battle. The clip also featured the first glimpse of Ashley Too, though it wasn’t until the next teaser dropped that viewers realized the robot pal was a facsimile of the singer.
A general overview of the plot: On Tuesday (May 21), a second, stand-alone teaser dropped focusing on Cyrus’ character, with the intriguing title “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too. We now realize that Cyrus’ Ashley has been merchandised as a cuddly AI robot assistant named Ashley Too, who sports the same signature pink hair and raspy Ashley voice.
Appearing on a chat show, Cyrus’ Ashley introduces the doll as lonely girl Rachel (Angourie Rice) watches with rapt attention from her bedroom, with the pop icon reminding her fans, “It’s really important to be who you want to be.” Rachel, of course, snaps up an Ashley Too, who assures her “I’ll be here for you,” as the chipper soundtrack turns ominous and we see a glimpse of a stressed and depressed Ashley flipping through a notebook with the words “Junkets Suck” scrawled across one of the pages.
That image is a sign of troubles to come. Ashley’s team is seen huddling to discuss her well-being, with a label honcho suggesting, “She doesn’t understand how fragile all this is” and another handler asking if they should “up the dose” of her medications. The trailer snaps to a quick cut of a cop car zooming through traffic, Ashley performing with a big smile on her face and then laying in bed looking wan, lamenting, “It’s getting so hard to keep doing this.”
A montage then flips from Ashley being offered pills to the singer undergoing a brain scan, ending with a frantic Ashley Too screaming “get this cable out of my ass! Holy Shit! Pull it out!” as she begs her owner Rachel (Angourie Rice) to remove the USB plug from her rear end, freeing her from… something.
Watch both trailers below.