Lois Lane, Perry White, Pete Ross . . . There's always been someone missing on Smallville - but he's here now! Comics legend Jimmy Olsen hits TV screens this season, brought to life by actor AARON ASHMORE. We catch up with the talented young actor to get the inside scoop!
Every since Perry White and Lois Lane started nosing around Smallville, Superman enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting the news that another Daily Planet staff member, Jimmy Olsen, would be appearing. Introduced in Action Comics #6 in 1938, Jimmy was traditionally depicted as a determined , bow-tie wearing, red-headed cub reporter, yet with his debut in the season six opener Zod, Smallville and actor Aaron Ashmore are finally putting their own unique stamp on the beloved character.
"He is an intern at the Daily Planet whose job it is to scan the archive photos into the computer, and he's not exactly happy with that," explains Aaron. "Jimmy wants to be more involved and adventuresome, but his photography skills aren't really up to par, so he's practicing that. In the long run, he'd like to be an action photographer for the Daily Planet. I wouldn't say he's super-confident, but [he's definitely] a little more outgoing and willing to talk to the girls. He's not sitting back and letting [life] pass by him. Jimmy is going for it with his career and love interest with Chloe."
The two lovebirds apparently shared an intimate history that has been simmering on the backburner for some time. "A couple of seasons ago, Chloe went to work [as an intern] at the Daily Planet and Jimmy was there," confirms Aaron. "Over the summer, they had a bit of a fling. They kind of lost touch since Chloe went back to Smallville and Jimmy returned to where he was from, but now they are both working at the Daily Planet and reconnecting."
However, their reunion isn't exactly fairy tale material. "My favorite scene [in Zod] is how I run into Chloe right at the very start, " confesses Aaron. "There's a big riot going on and she's in the Daily Planet hiding and trying to figure things out. She hears this noise, picks up a gun, whirls around, keeps hearing the noise, and shoots in its general direction. It happens to be me crawling around [the office]. I kind of freak out going, 'Whoa! Whoa! Don't shoot!' That is the moment where we see each other after we've had this fling, and it has been two years since. That was a cute scene, because it was, 'Wow! This girl is shooting at me! Is it because I didn't call her back?'"
Luckily, it didn't take the casting director long to contact Aaron after he skipped the usual audition process. "I got a call form my agent in Los Angeles," details Aaron. "I was actually up in Toronto at the time and they said, 'There's this part of Jimmy Olsen that they are bringing onto Smallville, so put yourself on tape and send it down to L.A.' I thought, 'This is a real longshot because they are going to meet the actors and bring them in a couple of times, but I really like this part and I think it would be fun.' So I put myself on tape and sent it down. I didn't hear anything and then two weeks later, I get a call on a Thursday saying, 'Okay, you need to get on a plane tomorrow at 7AM,' so it happened really quickly. It wasn't that whole process of going in a bunch of times and reading and meeting everybody."
Having grown up on a steady super hero diet, Aaron's affinity for the Man of Steel and his adventures must have helped too. "I was definitely familiar with the Superman universe because I read comics - but [also] Superman," he says. "It was also Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman, but I was definitely aware of Superman. As far as Smallville, I had watched the first couple of seasons, and then I would become busy so you can't always catch the shows you want. My roommate, who I am living with now, Tivo'ed pretty much every episode, so I'd flick through and watch a lot of them."
Despite the fact Jimmy is a shutterbug, Aaron didn't have to confine himself to a dark room to take a crash course in photography to emulate those skills. "There hasn't been a lot of photography so far, but I actually was a wannabe photographer for a while, and I've used cameras a little bit," admits Aaron. "I was never very good. I guess I'm a lot like Jimmy in that respect. We haven't had to do a ton of 'going out and taking pictures' scenes but there's always a camera around my neck and I've been fiddling around with it. Hopefully people will believe I can point and shoot."
Still, before snapping or framing even one picture, Aaron discussed the direction Jimmy was heading in with showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar. "Basically, as much as the mythology is the same as the comic books, the nice thing about Smallville is that there are different takes, so we talked about not making him as 'awwww, shucks' as some of the original Jimmy Olsens, while still staying true to who he is, his energy and what makes him fit into the Smallville world," explained the Canadian actor. "It is a work in progress, so it is about seeing what works and what feels right. Plus, you have to match the chemistry of the other actors."
It has been documented that Jimmy eventually becomes pals with Lois and Clark in the comics, but the three musketeers haven't quite clicked yet on the show. "In regard to Lois, she finds Jimmy a little annoying," reveals Aaron. He just rubs Lois the wrong way. He doesn't do anything particular to annoy her. With Clark, Jimmy is interested in Chloe and he can sense there is some tension between Chloe and Clark, so he's a little defensive and on edge. Jimmy isn't really sure who Clark is or how to take him. Is he trying to move in on his girl? What is the deal here? It is interesting how it is going to play out. I have a feeling Clark and Jimmy will start to develop a friendship."
In the meantime, the two quickly establish Clark's habit of having to rescue Jimmy. In the episode Wither, Jimmy encounters the nature-loving Gloria, a mysterious young woman with a deadly green thumb when it comes to controlling plant life. Withing seconds, Jimmy ends up imprisoned in a constricting cocoon of vines, and for Aaron, the sequence was especially exciting considering visual effects were still new to him. "It is interesting because I have never done anything like that before, the science fiction elements and special effects," he offers. "You have to pretend it is all happening right around you. It is a little different at the start, but once you get into it, it is a lot of fun. And the actress who played Gloria was cool, so we'll see how it turns out for my first effects episode.
"To prepare, they kind of showed me the set, which had all the vines, and they showed me the world I'd be working in," he continues. "They also showed me the storyboards of how the action was supposed to take place. They have effects people to explain what the effect is going to look like and where it is going to move. They really do give you a lot to work with even though it is not right in front of you. You still have to use your imagination, though."
Signed on for an unspecified number of episodes, Aaron is anticipating what is in store for Jimmy. "Character development is important, and that is the great thing about television; you have a lot of time to work with it, and a lot of scripts where you can explore the past and the future," he says. "Personally, I'm really interested to see Jimmy's relationship with Clark develop. In the long run, we know Jimmy and Clark become friends, so how is that going to develop on-screen? Also, how is Jimmy's relationship with Chloe going to develop as well? Whenever I watch TV shows, I enjoy the love interest stuff, so I'm looking forward to seeing the ups and downs of their relationship."
At the time of this interview, none of season six had aired yet, and Aaron is fully aware how loyal, protective, and vocal the Smallville crowd is. If he's feeling any pressure to meet their high expectations, he certainly is taking it in stride. "Of course that is in the back of my mind but I am trying not to dwell on it or let it affect my performance, because if I was to take notes from every person on the internet I'd be going in 100 different directions," he states. "Some people are not going to be happy with it, and some people are going to love me, and that is just the way it is. You can't try and make everyone happy because that is impossible. I really do hope they like my interpretation, but I just need it to be natural, and hopefully they will appreciate it. These are big shoes to fill, and the show is popular and in this genre especially , people have very strong opinions because these characters have been around for a very long time. That's part of the challenge."
Thankfully, the cast wasn't at all judgmental. Upon arriving on the set, Aaron immediately found himself welcomed by Tom Welling and Allison Mack. "The nice thing was that my first day of shooting was also their first day back for the sixth season, so it was kind of everybody getting up to speed," notes Aaron. "It was nice to come in when I did because we were all coming back to work together.
"It was really easy coming to work," he continues. "Everybody made me feel at home. You are always a little afraid going onto a show where the cast and crew have been working together for so long that they may not be that welcoming, but that wasn't the case. It was totally, 'Hey, come on in!' It was really nice."
Prior to his Smallville days, Aaron tracked up credits on The West Wing, The Skulls 2, 1-800-Missing, and most recently guest starred on another hit series featuring an inquisitive blonde investigator. "Veronica Mars was great," praises Aaron. "It is one of those shows I became a fan of. I started watching it because I was on it, so I was curious what it was like, but I turned into a real fan. When the DVDs came out, I hadn't seen them so I rented all of them and was just glued to the TV set for two days watching all the episodes. When the second season started, I was glued to that, too. That was one of those shows I didn't know how lucky I was to work on until I saw it. I would love to go back and work on it again, but who knows? I don't think it will happen, but I felt lucky to be a part of it."
As if he wasn't busy enough, Aaron is currently darting between Los Angeles and Vancouver to film Smallville and a movie. "It is called Palo Alto," he says. "I just got back now, actually. It is about these friends who come home for Thanksgiving break from college and are complaining about [how the] town sucks!' and how they've grown up and are so over it. But over this one night they separately have four adventures that make them realize, 'We are not as cool or grown-up as we think, and we still learned a lot from where we came from.' It is a drama with a lot of comedy."
Before rushing off, the conversation once again returns to comic books and how Jimmy would occasionally gain fantastical powers, allowing him to transform into Elastic Lad, Wolf Man, a giant turtle boy, and a human porcupine. Naturally, Aaron is praying that Smallville creative team will power him up too. "Oh boy," sighs Aaron. "Just like everybody else, I think flying and some superpower to chuck stuff around would probably be cool. Telepathy would be sweet, especially for Jimmy. He's ordinary like everybody else, so I am hoping they will write an episode where he gets to do something unique. Maybe he can actually focus his camera. That would be helpful."