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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 it.'"

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."

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