Ashley Victoria Benson (born December 18, 1989) is an American actress, known for her role as Hanna Marin in the teen mystery-drama television series Pretty Little Liars (2010–2017). She began her career portraying the role of Abigail Deveraux in NBC's soap opera Days of Our Lives (2004–2007). She starred in the films Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007), Christmas Cupid (2010), Spring Breakers (2013), Ratter (2015) and Chronically Metropolitan (2016).
Benson was born and raised in Anaheim Hills, Anaheim, California, the daughter of Shannon (née Hart) and Jeff Benson. Her older sister, Shaylene (born August 25, 1988), was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1993, Benson appeared in several musicals and was asked to audition to sing solo at four Christmas services at her church. She started dancing competitively in ballet, jazz, hip hop, and lyrical. A year later, she modeled in dance catalogs. In 1997, she began modeling under the Ford Modeling Agency in print advertisements. She started pursuing an acting career in 1999. She began working and appearing in a number of commercials, but quickly made the transition into film and television acting.
In 2004, Benson was one of the Six Chicks in 13 Going on 30 and also signed a three-year contract with the NBC daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, and on November 12, 2004, she debuted her role as Abigail "Abby" Deveraux, the oldest child of supercouple Jack Deveraux and Jennifer Horton, until May 2, 2007. She starred as Carson in Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007), the fourth installment of the Bring It On franchise, and in order to land the lead role, she had to end her contract with Days of our Lives:
I got off it, I mean I had talked with the producers about doing this film, and they weren't going to let me do it... I had just passed up so many opportunities where I could have done a film. So this big thing just came up, and I ended up getting to do this. I'm happier that I got off the soap though. I mean I give all my credit to them, because I have learned so much from being on soap operas and working with amazing actors who've been on there for like thirty, forty years. It was an honor to work with them. It's definitely given me all my background. But getting off the soap opera helped me a lot too, because I can move on to bigger and better things. So I am definitely thankful I got to be on a soap opera though.
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 for 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 of the Fab Five, which is based on a true story which took place at McKinney North High School in Texas. She "loved" working 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 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.
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. Marin is the "diva" and "It girl" of the group, having taken Alison's 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.
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.
She has appeared in the music videos for NLT's "That Girl", One Call's "BlackLight", and Hot Chelle Rae's "Honestly". 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. 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 became the face of evening-wear designer Faviana in January 2013.