Shawn Ashmore news information gallery media print forums main

The Staten Island Advance

Earthsea Continues Trend of Fantasy Blockbusters
Actors discuss what drew them to characters in series, beginning tomorrow on Sci-Fi Channel
- Stacey Fitzgerald

Recent film adaptations of best-selling sci-fi novels have resulted in big bucks for film studios. With the success of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the "Harry Potter" series, it's no surprise that the genre's cable channel would jump on the book-to-movie bandwagon.

The Sci-Fi Channel's upcoming "Earthsea" miniseries is based on Ursula K. Le Guin's best-selling novels "The Wizard of Earthsea" and "The Tombs of Atuan." The four-hour television event, airing tomorrow and Tuesday at 9 p.m., stars Shawn Ashmore ("X-Men", "X-Men 2"), Isabella Rossellini ("Blue Velvet"), Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville") and Danny Glover ("Lethal Weapon").

Directed by Robert Lieberman ("The Casino") and produced by Robert Halmi Sr., of Hallmark Entertaiment, and Bender-Brown Productions, "Earthsea" tells the story of a reckless young wizard, Ged (Ashmore), and his journey to save the mystical land of Earthsea from being destroyed by an evil tyrant.

Upon discovering that he has magical powers, Ged, the son of a blacksmith, seeks to learn more spells and perfect his craft so that he might save Earthsea from annihilation. Ged has in his possession a silver trinket, which he later discovers is half of the Amulet of Peace. When united with the other half, the amulet has the power to restore peace to Earthsea.

A young priestess, Tenar, played by Kreuk, holds the other half of the amulet and has been haunting Ged's dreams. Tenar is the successor to the High Priestess of Atuan, Thar, played by Isabella Rossellini.

Glover plays Ogion, Ged's mentor, who warns him that he should take time in learning his powers. Ignoring Ogion, Ged decides instead to immediately leave for study at Roke, the Wizard's Island.

After a series of catastrophic events, Ged quickens his journey to find the other half of the amulet.

A Lifelong Sci-Fi Fan

The role of Ged was fitting for Ashmore, known for his role as Bobby Drake/Iceman in the "X-Men" films, who considers himself a lifelong fan of science fiction.

"I've always been into sci-fi, fantasy stuff, but I wasn't aware of Le Guin's work," said the actor in a recent interview in a Midtown Manhattan hotel. "I picked up the books... and read them and I just totally fell in love with the story and the character and decided that this was something that I was going to be really excited to be a part of."

With an amulet that decides the fate of the world, it may be only natural to compare the miniseries to "Lord of the Rings." The comparisons continue when Ged's journey to wizard's school; suddenly, it feels like one has arrived at Hogwart's School of Wizardry in "Harry Potter."

However, Ashmore believes that "Earthsea" tells a unique tale.

"The stories themselves, I think there's always going to be comparisons. I mean, the genre of fantasy -- there are cloaked characters and magic and it's all sort of part of the same world," stated Ashmore. "But I think that anyone that's read the books already knows that there's a huge difference in the stories."

Isabella Rossellini, the legendary beauty who has acted on both the big and small screen, plays the elegant High Priestess of Atuan, Thar. She and her order guard the Tombs of Atuan where the Nameless Ones -- a group of evil demons who once controlled Earthsea -- are held captive.

Although Rossellini doesn't consider herself a fan of science fiction, she sees fantasy as a genre with no generational boundaries.

"There is this common culture that we have with your children and the myth you share," says Rossellini. "They see 'Fantasia' or other things that I've grown up with. I share that culture with my parents and I'm sharing the culture of 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Harry Potter,' 'Earthsea' with my children."

Powerful Reading Tool

Rossellini also sees the genre as a powerful tool in increasing reading amongst youth.

"Hopefully, this film won't take children away from reading, but will encourage them to read more."

As her future successor, Kristin Kreuk's character, Tenar, views Thar as a woman of great wisdom. The young actress has quite similar sentiments about Rossellini herself.

"The woman is a legend, you go and talk to her and she's real and grounded and funny and smart," said Kreuk. "She is so good as what she does. you go on set and she's constanty trying to make things better and more interesting."

"She's definately someone that I look up to in a lot of ways as a professional and a person."

But a humble Rossellini does not see the similarities between the character and herself.

When asked if she could relate to her characer, she stated, "I wish. My character in 'Earthsea' is sort of this old, wise, fantastic woman. It's what I'm aiming at."

The Staten Island Advance / Transcript by Pam