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- Lydia Perovic

The X-Men unite on the silver screen once again to fight for their rights in a world that fears and distrusts them. This time they join Magneto (Ian McKellen) to defeat Stryker (Brian Cox), who is linked to Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) mysterious past, and who threatens the entire mutant population. FUEL infiltrated the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto where we locate, corner and question Iceman a.k.a. Bobby Drake a.k.a. Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore.

FUEL: Do you feel strange when you see yourself on the big screen?
SHAWN: Yeah. First of all, your head is so big. I've done a lot of television but it's overwhelming.

VERVE:: Director Bryan Singer says that X2 is "not a sequel", but "an evolution". How does that apply to your character?
SHAWN: In X-men, Bobby was only in a couple of scenes; he had a budding relationship with Rogue. This time you get a little background on him. He's also in a transition period between adolescence and adulthood. He's dealing with a relationship that's sort of doomed, he's dealing with parents, and he's trying to become part of the team. He's graduating from [high] school and becoming an 'X-Man.' The younger characters in X2 are learning to deal with their powers but they don't come to terms with who and what they are. So it's like that classic adolescent thing, coupled with mutant ability, which makes it more dramatic; it 'ups' the stakes.

VERVE:: Did you have any input in the development of your character?
SHAWN: No, Iceman's pretty established. There's so much comic book history [there]. We had great writers who took the best parts of the comic book and added their own flavour to it. And Bryan's a flexible director - if something's not working, he'll change it. That's important because you can trust that the director is willing to let you have a little freedom. It's an exciting dynamic.

VERVE:: Did you use any of your own life experiences to prepare for the role?
SHAWN: Everyone feels like a freak at some point, an outcast, and Bobby's definitely going through that with his parents, with his high school. So yeah, there weren't any specific situations, but just that feeling of being on the outside a little bit, which everyone goes through at some point. So I definitely used that.

VERVE:: Will Bobby's romance with Rogue (Anna Paquin) draw teens?
SHAWN: Everyone loves a teen romance. It's interesting because they're in a relationship that's doomed and that causes romantic tension. It's probably each character's first love and they can't be as close as they want. It's cool because it's not the norm - a happy-go-lucky teen relationship. It's an interesting [dynamic] for younger people to see.

VERVE:: What could you take from this experience and bring to the next project?
SHAWN: The most important thing that I learned from the actors is the commitment to a part. Even though it's a superhero role, the actors approach these roles as if they're doing Shakespeare. By them taking it seriously, the audience will take it seriously. They set the standard, and it's nice to try and keep pace with actors of that calibre.

VERVE:: How does it feel to be back in your native Toronto to promote X2?
SHAWN: I love it. It's amazing. It's nice for me that my first stop [on the press junket] is Canada. It feels fitting. It feels right. It's my 'home-sweet-home.'

VERVE:: Is Toronto an appropriate backdrop given the ideas of tolerance that are explored in X2?
SHAWN: Toronto, well, Canada, is a pretty multicultural society, which is amazing. It's definitely appropriate. Tolerance is a timeless, and timely, message. Toronto's a great place to come to and have that message [of tolerance] because it's very important.

VERVE:: And your next project?
SHAWN: Right now I'm reading scripts, trying to pick the next thing, probably a smaller independent film. I want to try something different. I did the big action movie and now I'm looking to do something with a little more dialogue, something character-driven; just a smaller piece. There's [a lot of scripts] out there so I'm trying to find the right thing, something that clicks, that works with me.