The Iceman Cometh
- Sarah Kuhn
Shawn Ashmore was heading home from the set of the 1997 Canadian TV movie Promise the Moon when he had
a revelation. A teenager at the time, the actor enjoyed his craft and had been in the business for several
years. It was what he did as opposed to, say, playing a team sport at school. But suddenly he realized it
could be something more: a viable career option. "It kind of dawned on me that I had a great day at work
and I was really satisfied with what I was doing and I felt a real sense of accomplishment about the day,"
he says. "I realized that I was never happier than on days like that, and that being an actor and being a
part of a project that I felt good about was the thing that made me feel like that. That's when I was just
kind of like, 'This is a career I really want to pursue and try and make happen.'"
Seems to have worked out pretty well so far. Ashmore can currently be seen onscreen reprising his role
as mutant superhero Bobby "Iceman" Drake in X-Men: The Last Stand, the third installment of the wildly
popular X-Men franchise. Being a part of something as high-profile as X-Men, says Ashmore, has definitely
opened doors for him as an actor--but he's also working hard to choose the kinds of projects that are
right for him. "When people ask me about being typecast or stuck in a certain thing, I sort of feel like
it's the actor's responsibility not to be..." he says. "A lot of teen romance kind of movies were coming
along after X-Men [the first film in the series]...and [those aren't] the kind of movies that I'm really
into... When things start coming a little too easily, you're tempted to just do the next thing that comes
along, because ultimately you're just trying to get hired and trying to work, but it's really a matter of
trying to be a little picky and trying to find the things that you're really interested in."
Ashmore, who hails from Richmond, British Columbia, first started acting around age 9. He recalls that
someone approached his mother and asked if Ashmore and his twin brother, Aaron, would like to audition for
a commercial. "We were into music and stuff, so performing was something we always enjoyed," says Ashmore.
"We auditioned for the commercial and my brother got it, but he was sick on that day, so I got to do it
for him. Being twins, that was easy to do."
More commercial work followed, and soon Ashmore was landing film and television parts, including a
Gemini-nominated turn in 1994's Canadian TV movie Guitarman. In addition to his work in the X-Men films,
he recently starred in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Earthsea and the film Underclassman, and was featured
on the hit WB show Smallville. His brother, meanwhile, has also continued to work as an actor, landing
guest spots on such shows as The West Wing and Veronica Mars. Ashmore says he and Aaron occasionally
compete for the same roles, but it's not a regular occurrence. It's common, however, for well-meaning
fans to mistake one for the other. "People confuse us all the time: People come up to him and think he's
in X-Men, and people come up to me and think I'm in Veronica Mars," says Ashmore, chuckling. "It's sort
of inevitable when you are both working and look the same. But we get a kick out of it now. It's actually
easier sometimes to just say, 'Oh, yeah, that was me,' as opposed to trying to explain that you have a
twin. So sometimes if someone sees something that Aaron did and enjoyed it, I'll just say, 'Thanks very
much.' We have fun with it. We don't let it get to us or anything like that."
Ashmore has several indie film projects coming up, including 3 Needles, which focuses on the worldwide
AIDS epidemic. His role in the project is decidedly different from the Iceman character: He plays "a
B-rate kind of porn star [who is] hiding his sickness by stealing blood from his father." Ashmore
initially wasn't sure about taking the part and credits his manager, Paul Nicholls of Artistry Management,
for getting him to reconsider. "I really liked the project, but I didn't think I was right for it and made
him fully aware of that, and he said, 'I think you should take a second look,'" says Ashmore. "I think I'm
really lucky to have someone who really has good taste and understands and believes in me. Sometimes when
there's a part that I think maybe I can't do…he'll say, 'Just give this a second look and think about
The downbeat subject of a project such as 3 Needles may seem diametrically opposed to the action-packed
world of X-Men, but Ashmore treats all of his roles equally. "I take the role in X-Men just as seriously
as I take a role in a film like 3 Needles," he says. "Obviously, there will be a certain different
approach in the research you do and the tone of the film and stuff like that. But as far as approaching
the role, I try and approach them the same way and take [each one] as seriously as the next."