Exclusive interview with Aaron Ashmore of Warehouse 13
Interview by Jamie Ruby
Written by Jamie RubyWarehouse 13
, Syfy's most popular series ever, was recently renewed for a fourth season next year. This season, the show brought in a new cast member - Aaron Ashmore.
The series follows the lives of two government agents, Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock
) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), who work at a secret storage facitiy in South Dakota with caretaker Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek
), to find and return warehouse artifacts that cause strange and often dangerous things to happen.
Ashmore plays the role of Steve Jinks, a young ATF agent who has the ability to know when someone is lying. He was originally brought in to be Pete's parter when Myka left the warehouse, but with her return he has been partnering up with young apprentice Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti
), who is now taking on her own cases.
Recently Ashmore sat down with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview to discuss life and his new role.
Both Aaron Ashmore and his twin brother Shawn started acting at an early age. "I started when I was 9 years old with my brother. We auditioned for some commercial as kids, very randomly, and I actually landed the role, but I was sick the day it was supposed to shoot. My mom called the casting director and was like, "Aaron's really, really sick would it be okay if Shawn came down and did it, because he auditioned for the commercial as well?" And they were like, "Oh yeah that's fine, they look the same." So we really simply started just doing commercials.
"Then we moved to Toronto. It was a bigger market; there were television and shows and series filming and more commercials. We kind of started doing just that, commercials, and it turned into some TV shows and then it turned into a career, so it was pretty humble beginnings."
As the brothers got older, the types of roles they were given started to differ. "I think that the older we got and the projects we worked on, I used to play more of the bad guys, Shawn used to play more of the good guy, and over the years that's kind of changed.
"As an actor you look for different roles. You want to play different stuff, and that's happened, and now I play a lot of good guys and a lot of bad guys, and so has Shawn...We've done a little bit of both.
"As far as roles, Shawn and I used to audition for the same stuff for years and years when we started. Even through high school and through our early twenties we went to auditions for all the same roles, and sometimes I got it and sometimes Shawn got it.
"Now, luckily the industry is big enough that we don't have to constantly be competing; there are lots of roles. You know, maybe Shawn's read a script and he's like, "I'm not really feeling this right now, I just did a movie that was very similar to this, but you should take a look at this script, because I think you'd be good for it." So there's a lot of stuff that we've both read or we've both gone out for that sometimes one of us gets it, sometimes neither of us gets it.
"...So we do go out for the same thing but you know it's such a big industry there's like hundreds of other people going out for the roles at the same time, so it doesn't feel like a big competition against Shawn. It feels like whoever is going to get the part, if one of us should be lucky enough to get the part, great, it's very competitive anyway."
When Ashmore was first approached about playing Steve Jinks on Syfy's Warehouse 13
, he thought that the character and his ability were interesting. "I read the first couple of episodes and I thought it was interesting, the ability that he had to tell when people are lying. I thought that it was interesting, not because I thought it was cool that he could tell when people are lying, but how I think that it would affect the character. The fact that he would probably have some walls up and be defensive and not be very trusting, because he knows that people lie, and he knows when they are lying. How can he relate to someone when he knows people are lying? Because we do lie in life everyday, little white lies, but we do tell them all the time.
"...The writers really play to that and they also took what I was bringing in some of my ideas and kind of put them into the character as well, which is great. They took who I was as an actor and catered the role, but I really think that reading that first episode and seeing where he could tell when people were lying, that really made me interested."
The creator and show runner of the series, Jack Kenny
, writes specifically for the actors to tailor the role to them, but is also open to their own ideas. "[Kenny] told me he's done this for all of the actors, as soon as he has heard their voices and sees who they are as people, he supposed to be able to write for them and cater towards the actors.
"So we don't necessarily have to change a lot of lines and a lot of things, because he really does get a good sense of who we are as people and then incorporates that into the characters, but that being said, if we want to try something, or if we don't feel like something's working on the day, he's always there on set. He says either, "Yeah, that's a great idea; let's try that," or "I'm not really feeling that; let's not do that."
"He's always open to suggestions, and sometimes we do change lines and we realize that that's not really working so well, and then we'll stick to what's written, because most of the time it works really, really well.
"So there's that flexibility and that openness to change things, but a lot of the times scripts are really good and we don't need to change a ton, so that's nice. Some shows you wish you could change stuff when you don't like how it is written, and they're not open to that, but on Warehouse
, we're given some flexibility, but we also have somebody there to help guide us in that."
One of the things that Ashmore finds most challenging about acting is making the character not just real but likeable and relatable. "The most difficult thing about acting in general, I think, is finding a character so that it's realistic and likeable...you can always play things realistically. If you're trying to play things in the moment, the emotions and stuff, that's all well and good, but to really find something in the character that is going to connect to the audience and connect with the other characters, that's sometimes difficult. It is to me, playing something and making it likable and making it really connect to the audience and making it special so that everybody finds something in it while they are watching it that they can relate to.
"It's the most elusive thing that I find, because playing emotions in scenes realistically is never - it's just something that I can come to terms with, and really making the audience so that people relate to you, make that character super real...That's not something you can practice doing, that's more of in the moment.
"Sometimes you just work with actors where the chemistry is natural and it works, and boom there you go. It's great; people really relate to it and people really like the relationships. Other people you work with that chemistry is not quite there, but that's the magic of acting, and that's the magic of getting the right cast together and just letting them play. So the most difficult thing I think is finding that chemistry because it's not something you can practice; it's something that just is either there, or it's not."
Ashmore, however, was able to do this with Jinks, even though the character is gay. "I didn't find it difficult to play a gay character at all. I was excited about it; I thought it was going to be different. I've played gay characters before, so it wasn't something that I was like, "Oh God, how am I going to do this?" or whatever.
"I looked at the character and when I read the character, I really didn't want to play any stereotypes, because I watch a lot of gay characters on TV or in movies and such, and I think there are a lot of stereotypes that people play to. I have a lot of gay friends and if you didn't know, if you didn't talk to them and stuff, it's not like you could talk to them and say, "Oh, they're gay for sure." And that was the type of person I wanted to play. Just somebody that if you were to see him in action and see who he was interacting with people, you don't necessarily know, because I think that's realistic. Not all gay people you can tell by the way they talk or the way they walk...
"So I wanted to play somebody that was just a guy, and he happens to be gay. That's just a part of his personality - that doesn't define everything he does or every time he interacts with somebody. So to me I thought it was great, and the way it was written was very consistent with...the way that I wanted to portray the character, so it was easy."
In Warehouse 13
, however, even though most of the characters treat Jinks like anyone else, at the beginning, Pete struggles with it, which is realistic. "The way that Steve reacts to those things, where Pete says, "Oh you're gay? Oh well you should enjoy this because I've been working out and none of the girls here care and all this stuff." But you know, one gay character who is not Steve, could be ogling Pete, and Steve, being the person that he is would be like, "Dude! What are you doing? Put your shirt back on! That's so embarrassing, for you to assume that I'm going to be into you because you're a guy and you work out. Put your shirt on please, it's embarrassing."
"That's interesting and also very realistic, because it's embarrassing even if he's into guys. It's still embarrassing that a coworker would rip his shirt off and go, "Hey, take a look at me!" I really think that they play that stuff realistically and interesting in a work scenario. If it was a girl that Pete was taking his shirt off for, the girl would probably, even if she was into guys, be like, "Hey that's embarrassing." I think that they have done a really good job of making Steve realistic in those ways."
There however, will not be a love interest for Steve, at least not this season. "Jack Kenny and I talked in the beginning about that and the fact that there's not a lot of time for romance or relationships in the show. They've tried them before. Just organically, when they bring a love interest in and they try to write all the plot stuff and all the action, the relationships don't work, because these people are in life and death situations every day. They don't have time for relationships, so they don't tend to work out.
"Jack said that Jinks is not going to be here for a romantic type scenario; he's here to do his job. And so that makes sense to me, because these people are all very career driven and there's all these high stakes, so there's not a lot of time for love.
"Now I don't know if there's a fourth season (this interview was conducted before the official renewal), but if the character comes back, that's definitely a possibility. I think it would interesting to see a little bit of a romantic part of Jinks, because I think it would be interesting because of who he is. He's fairly reserved, and I think it would be interesting to see somebody get behind his wall and kind of open him up a little bit in that respect, so, it could be a possibility. I think it could be interesting, but at the same time the show really isn't about that. It's not a soap opera where there are constantly relationships and all that stuff, it's more about the action and the artifacts. So I just don't know if that's in the cards."
If Ashmore could write what he wanted for his character, he'd like to see more back story on Jinks. "Maybe an episode where there was a little back story, maybe an artifact or something in Jinks's hometown or where ever he's from, so you can see maybe his family or where he grew up. To see something like that would be interesting, but I also think there's a little mystery behind his character, and they're revealing things slowly about him. I think that that's well vented and more interesting and better than actually showing everything, going slowly and then kind of revealing it.
"But, I don't know. To be honest with you, I leave that up to the writers. I really enjoy playing the character and taking something that someone else has written or storyline that's written and really making the character my own. I'm not much of a writer as far as big ideas like that, so I'll leave that to the writers to come up with that stuff. I think I'll be in the back for character development. I also think that we get to play a lot of that on the show this season. I'm pretty happy with the way things are going."
Ashmore is also happy with where the story is going in general and is amazed by the props. "I really enjoyed the episode where there was - I didn't have anything to do with the storyline - but there was this little bee in "Queen for a Day," that basically changed Jeri Ryan into the queen bee. I just thought that the effects for it, and how creative it looked, and how the little thing worked, were amazing. I think that constantly. Every artifact that they come up with, some of them are intricate, but still the history and storylines they put behind all the artifacts are always amazing.
"That's kind of my favorite part of reading the scripts, finding out what [the artifact] is, and hearing what Artie has to say about it, and how he does a little research and finds the back story for these things. I just think that they are constantly creative and amazing.
"I don't know if there is a favorite one, I just think in general the whole idea, and every time I read the script I think, "Oh that's pretty cool, that's really sweet." Sometimes some are way more interesting than others, but I think for the most part every week they do an amazing job of finding some sort of historical figure or idea and putting a great back story to the artifacts.
"...I have no idea how they come up with these things every week and make them so interesting and integrate them into the scripts and make them work. Because it seems like, oh yeah, you just take some sort of historical artifact or whatever, but they really do make them work, and I don't have the creativity to come up with those things. I know that everybody's making jokes about when Saul said, "Oh he'd like an artifact that could describe the ratings or something like that," the Nielsen ratings, and if that were true, that would be cool to have something like that, but the writers do a great job and I am not creative enough to come up with those things."
Ashmore may not consider himself a writer, but in the future, he might want to direct. For now, however, he's content with just acting. "I was actually into acting as a full time career when I was in my early 20's. I planned to go to film school to maybe direct, maybe produce, or maybe a more technical aspect of it. I paid my tuition, I got accepted, and I got three or four acting jobs in a row that the money was good and the experience was really good, and I thought, "If I could make this money this year it will pay for my school for a couple of years or whatever." So I asked, "Can I defer my acceptance for another year?" and they said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," so I took the acting jobs, and then I never went back, because the acting stuff took off.
"So there's definitely interest there, but I wouldn't want to step into something like that unless I was really prepared. I know that a lot of actors, who were on shows for a long time, end up directing episodes, and I think that's good, because it gives you a little insight into the show and how it works. But, to be honest with you, I don't have any. I've never trained to be a director, so I wouldn't want to just step up and say, "Oh yeah, I could do this it looks easy." I've watched people do this, because it's not. At some point, it might be something I would be interested in pursuing, but at this point I'm quite happy. I have my hands full with the acting."
Ashmore has done a lot of other acting besides Warehouse 13
, including playing the role of Jimmy Olsen in the series Smallville
, which he really enjoyed, even though he identifies less with the character than that of Jinks. "[With] every character, especially long term characters, there's lots of stuff about the character and things that I had to do that I wasn't crazy about, but all in all, I think playing Jimmy Olson for me was a real stretch, because I'm not that guy, I'm not the super happy-go-lucky sort of, "Hey guys. What's going on?" like he goes. That's not really me at all. I would say that Steve is more natural, more the speed of who I am, and a little more laid back.
"To play a character like that and to do it for a long period of time, playing Jimmy was difficult for me, because that's not really who I am, but it forced me to kind of push my boundaries and my limits, and I think some of the things that Jimmy got to do, some of the sweet moments and some of the big iconic moments that happened on that show, were really fun and really interesting, and I really enjoyed playing those things.
"Every role that I play, I always find something different about it or something that I find difficult, but I think playing a role like that for a long time, where you can really develop it, where it really starts in one place and maybe ends in a different place, that's really nice, because it doesn't always happen. Sometimes you do a movie and it's for a month, or a couple months, or you do a couple of episodes on a show, but to start a character and get to play it for three years that's pretty rare and pretty fun, and I really enjoyed that."
Even though the characters were different, Ashmore didn't have a hard time transitioning from Jimmy Olsen to Steve Jinks. "There are things about the role and the character - there's definitely a little bit more of comedy in Warehouse 13
, which I haven't necessarily played a lot. I'm also not the funny guy on the show, but there's definitely some comedic beats or moments that you just have to find and I'm pretty new at that stuff. That was a bit of a challenge, but I quite enjoyed it, and I think I fell into it a good rhythm with that.
"Steve, as far as his demeanor, his temperament, I found quite easy to follow because he is just so much more like I am than say, Jimmy, and there's things about him like the professional aspect and the fact that he's an agent and he's just more of a professional, and I like that.
"I'm getting into my early 30's and I want to get into those types of roles. I want to play the cops and the lawyers and doctors, like those types of professional roles. I think those are the great ones, so playing an agent that was very career driven was also very interesting. I was like, "Okay, that's cool, I can get into that." "
Another role that Ashmore played was on the television series Fringe
, where he also got to work with his twin brother, Shawn, again. "We had a great time and that was rare, because that's pretty much the first time that we had worked together since we were much, much, much younger, so that was great.
"Shawn had long hair at the time and he didn't want to cut it, because he was going into a film where he needed to have long hair, so they put a wig on me to make us look as similar as possible. Shooting it I thought, "Oh my god. Are we going to look enough alike to pull this off, this whole twin thing?" Because you know we're twins, but I don't really think that we look that similar, but when I saw the episode I was like, "Wow they did a great job," and it worked really, really well.
"It was fun to work with Shawn because there's definitely some emotional beats to that episode, and just to get to work with Shawn and see how he works - because we talk about work a lot, but when he's on set somewhere, I'm not there, and vice versa - so it was really neat to get a chance to...work together, and be in a couple scenes together. Because we didn't have that many scenes together, the plot line kind of really kept us apart for most of it, but we had three or four scenes together. It was really, really fun and really, really neat to just get to work with Shawn, because I'm probably his biggest fan. I see everything that he does and I'm always super excited when things that he is doing are doing well."
His brother is doing well at the moment, and Aaron is quick to talk about Shawn's upcoming projects. "He did a film called The Day
with Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon and a girl named Ashley Bell, and it just got accepted to the Midnight Madness programming at the Toronto International Film Festival, so I'm pretty excited about that."
Aaron Ashmore has more of his own work coming up as well. "I did a film called Servitude
, which is a little Canadian comedy, and that is coming out probably either the end of this year or early next year.
"I just booked an episode of a show called Murdock Mysteries
, which is a period piece set in the late 1890's. Kind of a Sherlock Holmes-ish type character, Murdock, who solves crimes with science. He's much more forensic than probably the time period. And I'm playing Jack London, the writer of White Fang
and Call of the Wild
"They have that character in the show for an episode and they cast me as him. We're shooting up in the Yukon for a couple of days and in Toronto as well, so I'm really excited about the period piece. You get to get all the cool clothes, and also to play a character that's a famous writer is kind of neat too. It's a little daunting because people have preconceived notions of who that character will be or who he was maybe, but I'm pretty excited to play it though.
"Other than that, there's a film that's potentially happening, but I don't know for sure all the details. It's a film called Buck Out Road
. It's a horror movie and I think that it might be shooting in September or October in Toronto...but that's a potential film that could be in the works for me as well.
"And I'm always rooting for another season of Warehouse 13
, because that could be really cool. So there're a lot of irons in the fire and we'll see how it goes. You never know in this business. Sometimes you're crazy busy and sometimes you're not, but right now it's pretty good."
Until then, Aaron Ashmore can be seen on Warehouse 13
on Monday nights on Syfy.
You can also read more about Ashmore in a previous interview