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The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Meet Shawn Ashmore of Disney's 'In A Heartbeat'
- David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram

TV series about high school teens who moonlight as emergency medical technicians? Who dreams up far-fetched stuff like this? That's the kind of knee-jerk cynicism Shawn Ashmore, one of the stars of In a Heartbeat, has been up against while trying to drum up viewer support for the new series.

The Disney Channel show, which premiered in August, airs at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. In a Heartbeat is a kind of Dawson's Creek/Emergency hybrid, in which a handful of exceptional teen-agers balance the extraordinary responsibility of saving lives with the everyday adolescent demands of family, friends and school.

"I wouldn't be surprised if viewers are skeptical at first," Ashmore says. "I mean, kids doing EMT work? I even questioned that. Then I read up on it and saw a documentary on the actual kids who do it and very quickly learned it isn't far-fetched at all."

It's true. In a Heartbeat is inspired by real-life experiences of volunteer EMT squads staffed by high school students in such cities as Darien, Conn., and Saddle Brook, N.J.

"It's so great and really quite inspiring to know that there are kids out there doing this," Ashmore says. "That's one thing I really like about the show. I think it's representing youth very well." Ashmore portrays Tyler Connell, "A" student and star football player. To prepare for his role, he not only took what is called an "EMT 101" course, but also did a ride-along with paramedics.

"It was 12 hours one night with a real paramedic team," he says. "It was two paramedics and me, and it was a busy night. We had a lady who had a heart attack, and we literally brought her back to life right there. I was in the room as it was happening. I was getting the IV bags for them. It was an amazing experience."

The experience gave Ashmore, who recently had a small part in the X-Men movie, profound respect for his real-life counterparts. "When I mess up a take, there's always more film," he says. "But there's no room for error in their line of work. It's real life-and-death with them."

Fort Worth Star Telegram