‘The A-Team’: How the Show’s Narrator Rose From Movie Actor to Voiceover Star

by Alex Falls

The classic TV show The A-Team is jam-packed with iconic imagery. The campy dialogue, Mr. T’s brutish charisma, and the unorthodox Colonel Hannibal kept audiences entertained for years. But perhaps the most instantly recognizable voice on the whole show has to be the one that takes us into the action.

John Ashley narrated every episode of The A-Team. His voice was practically made for the task it fits so well. But Ashley had an interesting path to finding voiceover stardom. He began his career in the 60s starring in B-movies like Dragstrip Girl and How to Make a Monster. Ashley acted most prominently in all four Beach Party movies playing the good-looking young rival to Frankie Avalon.

His first starring role actually happened by complete accident. Ashley recounted the experience to Fort Lauderdale News in 1985. He attended the audition only because he was on a date with a girl who was reading for her own part. The casting agent asked him to read as well, and the rest is history.

“I was sitting in American International Picture’s waiting room and a guy walked out and said, ‘Have we read everyone? What about this young man here?’” Ashley said. “It was the old Hollywood story – I got a part in the film, and she didn’t.”

John Ashley Followed His Own Path to The A-Team

Ashley was soon cast in many low-budget pictures. Using his youthful good looks, he made an ideal actor for heartthrob roles in his 20s. However, by his 30s he began to lose that charm and had to find a new path.

After starting a successful chain of movie theaters, Ashley was granted the opportunity to serve as a producer for a major TV production company. He found new life in this role and took pride in finding young actors who could follow in his footsteps.

Eventually, Ashley became involved with the production of The A-Team. Not only did he narrate, but he also served as one of the show’s producers and had a very active role backstage.

“We have three producers,” Ashley said. “Frank Lupo supervises the writing, Jo Swerling Jr. – the supervising producer on all Steve Cannell’s shows – kind of backstops me. I’m basically like the line producer on a movie. On a given day, I’ll prepare with the director of the next week’s show, I’ll deal with the problems of the current episode, I’ll go to lunch, then I’ll have a casting session in the afternoon, and I’ll look at the dailies.”

Ashley helped led The A-Team to be a major hit with audiences. He never knew the success that would come with the show, but he looks back on it as the time of his life.

“You can never predict a hit, but we were shooting the pilot for The A-Team in Mexico and a lot of crew members said, ‘I got a feeling about this,’” Ashley said. “It’s like catching lightning, this kind of success – it only happens once in your life, finding someone like Mr. T and having him and the show become the phenomenon they have.”