After graduation, Ashford moved to New York City, where he was cast as Drew Ralston on One Life to Live, a role he played from 1982 to 1983. He also appeared on Search for Tomorrow as Cagney McCleary from 1984 to 1986, as Tom Hardy Sr. on General Hospital from 1995 to 1997, and the serial killer Dr. Stephen Haver on One Life to Live from 2003 to 2004 and also played Roger in WB hit series Charmed.
He is best known for playing Jack Deveraux on the NBC soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Ashford has had several stints playing Jack, a conflicted character who descended into darkness after raping the woman who married him in order to give him reason to fight his illness. After a lengthy struggle with his guilt over his dark deeds, Jack finally was able to get back on track and allow himself to love his soulmate Jennifer who pursued him relentlessly. Ashford's pairing with Melissa Reeves' Jennifer was wildly popular (winning the 7th Soap Opera Digest award for favorite super couple) and the couple is considered a supercouple, by soap opera standards. Jack also became integrated into his biological family. Ashford's initial run was from 1987 to 1993. He returned from 2001 to 2003, but was written off as part of a controversial storyline where nearly a dozen residents of the fictional town of Salem appeared to have been murdered. (The complex plot had them alive and held hostage in another country.)
He returned to the show in 2004, but had spent much of his time since on the back burner, and was off-screen for large portions of 2005 and 2006. In July 2006, it was announced that Ashford, a fan favorite, had again been let go from the Days of Our Lives cast roster, a story confirmed in the July 25, 2006 edition of industry magazine Soap Opera Digest. Ashford's last day on Days of our Lives was on September 21, 2006. Jack and Jennifer bid Salem farewell as they headed off, young son in tow, to live and work in London. Ashford made a brief appearance as Jack in April 2007, and in September 2011 returned to the show on a full-time basis, only to be fired again in April 2012. Jack dies in an elevator crash, after saving his daughter Abigail, who was trapped. As Abigail gets out and goes to her mother, Jennifer and Abigail's boyfriend, Cameron, try to save Jack, but the elevator doors close and the cords break causing the elevator to crash to the ground and kill Jack.
Ashford is part of a production company (NGM Productions). They have just produced a movie entitled The Unlikeleys. In it, Ashford plays the most famous soap star in the world and his exact look-alike. Ashford's production company has also produced a movie entitled The Exorcism of Tina Miller, and they are currently working on the distribution details.
Ashford also appeared with Scott Bakula in a production of 'No Strings' in May 2007.
From February to June 2010, he played 'Bill" in the North American tour of Mamma Mia!. The final performances were cut short due to security concerns with the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada. The summit location was two blocks away from the theatre.
Since 2011, Ashford has starred on the soap opera web series The Bay as Steve Jenson, opposite his former Days of Our Lives co-star, Mary Beth Evans.
In 2012, Ashford was recruited by the Outside the Box Musical Theatre Company for a new musical based on a Clint Eastwood movie.
Ashford, the sixth of eight children (three sisters and four brothers), was born in Davenport, Iowa to Patricia, an executive secretary, and Cecil Ashford, a civil engineer. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Theater from the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
Ashford married singer-actress Christina Saffran Ashford on June 6, 1987 but have since divorced. They have two daughters, Grace (born June 1992) and Emma (born in 1997). In 1997, four-month-old Emma was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood eye cancer, Retinoblastoma. The disease was treated with surgeries to remove the maligant tumors in her eyes and chemotherapy. At the age of five, tumors recurred in Emma's left eye, and it was removed and replaced with a prosthetic. Ashford has been instrumental in raising funds and awareness for this disease. He is the spokesperson for the Retinoblastoma International Foundation.
In May 2010, while on tour in Toronto, Canada, he obtained a US/Canada dual citizenship. Ashford's father was born in Canada, therefore making him and his siblings eligible to become Canadians, without relinquishing their American citizenship.
Ashford is in a relationship with Lana Buss and together they have two children — a son and a daughter.