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The Vancouver Sun

Thrillers heating up the winter shoots
- Lynne McNamara


Last week over on the North Vancouver waterfront, the cast and crew of Tapestry/Miramax's action comedy, Underclassman, starring Nick Cannon, Shawn Ashmore, Roselyn Sanchez, Kelly Hu, Hugh Bonneville and Cheech Marin, are freezing their buns as they prepare to blow up a perfectly good Porsche for a stunt scene.

Me, I'm in my home office, snug and smug as can be when Ashmore calls at about 10 p.m. to say hi.

He's not totally sure where he is, after being driven to set in the dark, but, "I'm looking around and we're surrounded by trains," he explains.

In the background, I hear "Hi, Lynnie!" (It's Terry David Mulligan, there shooting for his CHUM/MuchMusic show, Movietelevision).

Ashmore, who stars as Bobby Drake (aka Iceman) in the Vancouver-shot X-Men movies, plays Rob Donovan in Underclassman, directed by Marcos Siega, and produced by Peter Abrams.

"He's a normal rich kid going to a prep school, captain of the basketball team. He gets involved in a stolen car ring. He's forced to be in it. It's a bad situation. He tries to deal with it the best he can, while trying to get through school, and deal with exploding cars and stuff! It's pretty fun!"

Ashmore, who had never really played hoops before, trained for a month and a half with streetball coaches in L.A. and is back there this week to shoot the sporting scenes.

"I'm pretty excited to show my moves," he jokes.

Born in Richmond, Ashmore was immediately whisked to St. Albert, Alberta where the family spent 10 years, then moved to the suburbs of Toronto, where he finished school.

"So, that's home, and this is home and Alberta's home, and L.A.'s sort of home now," he says.

And his career is bubbling along.

"I've been really, really lucky," he admits. "The real excitement and big deal for me started when I got cast in the first X-Men, which was sort of a fluke.

I was only around for a couple of weeks and I had no idea it would lead to a second film, let alone a bigger part (more than five months on the set) so I'm having a good time with it."

He's enjoying the more relaxed pace of Underclassman.

"It's nice to do something a little lighter, 'cause in X-Men we were super-tense the whole time. It was dire straits, the whole film was intense. Here, there are definitely some tense moments, but there's a lighter side to it too, which is nice."

Ashmore has also had a couple of guest roles on Smallville.

In the premiere episode of the show, he's Clark's classmate, Eric Summers, who inadvertently steals the superboy's powers when they're struck by lightning as Clark saves Eric's life after he falls into a dam.

"So, he becomes an evil Superman. He's got all the powers of Superman, but he's a bit off, shall we say," says Ashmore.

And the producers recently brought him back for another episode.

"I was one of a few weekly villains that didn't get killed off and I happened to be in town (shooting Underclassmen) and they were bringing back a few characters," he says. "It was fun to go back and see some familiar faces and revamp a character."

In that episode, entitled Asylum, which airs Nov. 26, Summers is in an insane asylum and attempting to regain those powers.

Ashmore's twin, Aaron, also an actor, was in town for a visit during the shoot, as were their parents, Rick and Linda.

The twins will be seen working together in the upcoming Toronto-shot film, My Brother's Keeper.

And Shawn will appear in X-Men 3, to be shot as soon as the scheduling of all those high-priced actors allows.

"I never could have planned this, and now I'm in my ideal situation career-wise and just sort of where I am in my life, and I'm super happy with how everything's going."

The Vancouver Sun