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Shawn Ashmore, Legend of Earthsea Interview
- Daniel Robert Epstein

Shawn Ashmore is no stranger to fantasy entertainment, having appeared as Bobby Drake/Iceman in both X-Men and X2. His latest project is Legend of Earthsea, a SCI FI Channel mini-series premiering Monday, December 13th at 9PM. Earthsea is based on a series of novels by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ashmore plays the lead role of Ged, a young man who is destined to become the greatest sorcerer of all time.

UGO: How did you get involved with Earthsea?

SHAWN ASHMORE: I was approached with the script about seven months ago. I've always been into sci-fi and fantasy stuff, but I wasn't aware of Earthsea or [Ursula K.] Le Guin's work. I read the script and really liked it. Then I got the books, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, read them and totally fell in love with the character. I decided it was something I wanted to be a part of.

UGO: What appealed to you the most about being in Earthsea?

SHAWN: I think it's the classic coming-of age-story. I'm 25, so I've already gone through what my character Ged goes through, though it's on a general scale because I haven't studied at a wizard's school. It's a young man coming of age and dealing with the consequences we all have to deal with. I really liked Ged's dark side. He's a young man who is strongheaded, growing up in the middle of nowhere and feels destined for something else. I liked his drive and the fact that a lot of the bad things that happen to him he brought on himself, so it's him taking responsibility for his own actions. It was an interesting way to deal with someone growing up and becoming whole.

UGO: Were the sets mostly CGI or real?

SHAWN: They were both. We had some really amazing elaborate sets designed for us, so it was nice being in those. We also filmed on location a lot with sets. It's a lot easier to put yourself in that space when you aren't surrounded by a greenscreen all the time. Obviously, with all the effects with the magic and the added set pieces, there was CGI, but there were also some very intricate sets.

UGO: How much were you into fantasy before all this?

SHAWN: I love it. Comic books and The Chronicles of Narnia. My mother used to read those to me and my twin brother growing up. So I've always been interested in that genre.

UGO: When you read the first Earthsea novel and you got to the part where you find out Ged isn't white, did you wonder why they wanted to cast you?

SHAWN: No, because I felt like the producers and everyone involved had an idea of what they wanted to do. I kind of feel like they tried to cast the best people for the part. I know that for the people that are hardcore Earthsea fans, it's definitely an issue, but I just like to think they went for the best people. It's something I decided to not let bother me because being cast against type is also a challenge.

UGO: What do you think of Earthsea being compared to Lord of the Rings?

SHAWN: There will always be comparisons. The genre of fantasy is about magic and occult characters. But anyone that's read the books knows the difference. Lord of the Rings is a good thing for us because it opened the door for the genre in general. Le Guin's stories are very different from Lord of the Rings. The core of the story is different, and Ged's journey is far different than Frodo's. Once people watch it, they will be able to make the distinction.

UGO: You played a villain when you guest-starred on Smallville. Is it more fun to play a villain, or a hero with a bit of an edge?

SHAWN: I think it's more fun to play a hero with an edge. Being a villain is great, even though I've only gotten to do it a few times. I feel like you can go over the top a bit more and have more fun. But I like a balance. You get bored if you do the same thing too much. That's why Ged is perfect for an actor because he's the hero, but not a classic hero in the sense that he does good all the time. He makes mistakes, and he's human. He causes pain to himself and the people he loves. He only becomes a hero after he deals with all that.

UGO: There was some rumblings on the internet after you won your MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Male Performance, and you thanked everyone except for the two people who created Iceman, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

SHAWN: I hadn't met Stan Lee until after that. I apologize because they were obviously very responsible. I was so surprised to win the award that when I came off the stage I couldn't even remember what I said. So I apologize to the X-Men fans.

UGO: Are you signed for X-Men 3?

SHAWN: I'm signed to do the film, but I have no idea what the script is like or who the director will be.

UGO: What are you looking for in X-Men 3 for your character?

SHAWN: I really want to continue the Pyro/Iceman rivalry. I think that's a great opportunity for the two elements. Also, I like the relationship with Rogue. I think it's not a typical teenage love story because there is so much against them. They are in a relationship that they can't rush, so the tension there is a lot of fun.

UGO: What are the pros and cons for Bryan Singer not directing X-Men 3?

SHAWN: I think it's really difficult because he really crafted the first two films. It will be difficult to lose someone that had such a huge influence on the movies. I also think it will be interesting to get some new blood in with a different vision, as long as they stay true to the original comics, because I don't think they should jump too far from Bryan's films because I think people will think it's weird if they're totally different. Bryan definitely set up a great franchise.

UGO: I heard that you might be playing Jimmy Olsen in Bryan's Superman movie.

SHAWN: There are rumors, rumors, rumors. I'm always the last one to know about these things, literally. Yeah, there are rumors, but there's nothing solid. So we'll just kind of wait and see.

UGO: How was it working with Danny Glover on Earthsea?

SHAWN: Working with Danny is amazing because he holds himself with grace and great power. His character of Ogion is such a huge part of who Ged becomes. He was just perfect for the part. Also, I only have a few scenes with Isabella [Rossellini], but it's great because she is such an established actress.

UGO: How was it working with Kristen Kreuk?

SHAWN: Ged and Tenar are a love story, but they don't really meet until the last quarter of the movie. So our scenes together are interesting because we had so much tension. I was nervous that relationship wouldn't pay off, but it ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It's about them finding each other and becoming whole.

UGO: How long did you shoot Earthsea for?

SHAWN: Three months, so it was relatively quick for a four-hour mini-series. It was a nice schedule because sometimes it's good to not have a chance to stop and catch your breath. This was definitely the most challenging project I'd been on because we were all over the place. It was a completely different shooting schedule than X2. That was six months doing a two-hour movie. We filmed both in Vancouver, so that was a coincidence. I was a lot busier on Earthsea.

UGO: Do you remember your first day on Earthsea?

SHAWN: Very well. I was really nervous. I had done all the costume and makeup already, so I knew what I was going to look like. I realized that we were creating this world from someone else's work. I had felt that before with X-Men but to a lesser degree. We were filming in a tavern, and there was fake rain and all the people in costume. I was just shocked because it was so real. It was an old bar, so it smelled like earth. It felt good once it was done, but the first day was nerve wracking.

UGO: This was all on you.

SHAWN: I think that's exactly what it was. In the entire time we were shooting, I think I only had three days off. Looking at that schedule made me realize it was my time to step up.

UGO: Would you do an Earthsea sequel?

SHAWN: I love the character and the story, but it would depend on what story it would tell and if people want to see it. I loved working with our director, Rob Lieberman, and our producer, Robert Halmi Sr.

UGO: What comics do you read now?

SHAWN: I haven't read anything for a while, but I always flip through X-Men to keep up to date. Spider-Man, also. My roommates are comic fans too, so I always pick up whatever they have lying around.

UGO: What else are you doing?

SHAWN: I just finished a movie called Three Needles with a director named Thom Fitzgerald, who is a great Canadian filmmaker. It's three stories taking place in three different places: Africa, China and Montreal. It's basically about the AIDS epidemic and how it affects different cultures. I play a B porn star with AIDS who is cheating on his blood test to stay in the industry. Also, I did a film called Dot with Edie Falco and Elisha Cuthbert. I play a character named Connor who is a typical high school jock that has a relationship with this deaf girl named Dot. Everyone thinks she can't hear, and they make fun of her, but they also all develop when they open up to her.

UGO: What's the one fantasy project that hasn't come to movies yet that you would like to be in?

SHAWN: I know they are developing Ender's Game [by Orson Scott Card]. I don't think there is a character in there I would be right age for, but that's a book I always loved.

UGO: What superpower would you like to have?

SHAWN: I've got to stick with ice manipulation. I can't sell that power out.

UGO: What are your favorite DVDs in your collection?

SHAWN: I just got Kill Bill: Vol. 2. I've watched it like eight times in the past two months. I just love the scene at the end between David Carradine and Uma Thurman.