It can be daunting to inhabit a character who happens to be a real person, but it's even more daunting when that real person is still alive, has consulted on the project you're working on, and will be coming to the set to visit you. Such was the case for Aaron Ashmore, who stars in this month's Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story, which arrives direct to DVD this month (the movie aired last year on television in Canada). Ashmore, who is the identical-twin brother of Shawn Ashmore (X2), plays Hall, an openy gay Toronto high school student with spiky blue hair who sues his Catholic school so he can take his boyfriend to the prom. While the film has a light, comedic tone (costars include Kids in the Hall cast members Scott Thompson and Dave Foley) and some fictionalized characters, the story is all based in fact.
"I was completely aware of Marc's story," says Ashmore, 25, who like Hall grew up outside Toronto. "It was hard not to feel for him. He didn't come across like an egomaniac who was looking for attention. He was just this brave kid who was standing up and voicing his opinion."
While he initally wanted to meet Hall right off the bat, the filmmakers encouraged him to come up with his own version of the real teen (who is now 20 and was 17 when the events took place. "When I finally did meet him, it was the third or fourth week of filming, close to the end," recalls Ashmore. "It was nerveracking, but it was also a relief. He was really nice."
But the best experience for Ashmore was meeting openly gay comic Scott Thompson. "I was a big fan," admits Ashmore. Thompson, who actually grew up in the same town as Ashmore, plays Marc's lawyer. "He helped me out a lot," says Ashmore, who happens to be straight and is dating a film student Sasha Fine. "He told me what it was like for him growing up. He was tons of fun, but he also gave me a little bit of perspective that I wouldn't have had."
In fact, both Ashmore brothers have had a revelatory experience; Shawn has one of X2's more memorable moments when he tells his parents he's a mutant. "We've both done our coming-out scenes now," Ashmore told his brother when they compared notes.
Currently, Ashmore (who recently appeared on The West Wing and Veronica Mars) is camping out with his brother and a friend at the West Hollywood home of X2 screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty, who are in Australia filming Superman Returns. And in between audtions he's found himself getting sucked into the vortex of reality television. Namely, American Idol. "I can't help it," he confesses. "I love watching some people completely bomb and some people rise to the challenge."