Sidekick to a Superhero

      LOS ANGELES -- It was almost predestined that Aaron Ashmore would wind up on a show about superheroes.

      His twin brother Shawn is Bobby Drake in the "X-Men" films. One of his roommates wrote the screenplay for "Superman Returns."

      And now? Ashmore's the new Jimmy Olsen on "Smallville."

      "We have tons of comic books and posters around the house," he says. "I'm literally sitting in the whole Superman world."

      Daunting? Nope. "You aren't imitating somebody else's version of the character. You're making it your own. There's a certain energy that you want to keep, but this Jimmy isn't the same as the one in the movies."

      Ashmore's Jimmy isn't even a full-fledged photographer at the Daily Planet. "He's an intern scanning photos into the archives. He hasn't quite honed the skills he needs."

      He's also not the uber-geek other actors have played. "I'm not sure how many girls would go for that," he says. "He'll have a love interest." And he'll be hip enough to hang with Clark Kent.

      Ashmore? He sports tattoos -- something Jimmy doesn't -- and isn't afraid to poke fun at himself.

      Shawn, he says, "is the friendlier, passive twin. I'm the more aggressive one.

      "People confused us all the time in high school. We were in the same classes and teachers were always mixing us up. We've dated some of the same girls -- we did have the same taste once or twice -- but we never traded places. We fought, just like brothers, and now we're really close and best friends."

      While Shawn was more committed to acting than his brother, they both decided it would be a great career. "It took me a little longer to decide it's what I wanted to do," Aaron says. "But it is what I love."

      Accepted to a film program in Toronto, Ashmore never really attended classes because he got acting work. "I decided I should take the roles because school will always be there." One role led to another. Then "Veronica Mars" came calling and he became a dandy candidate for other work on The CW.

      Shawn, meanwhile, has been in dozens of films (as well as several episodes of "Smallville") and paved the way for the two to make names for themselves in sci-fi.

      "He did all that green screen stuff and said it was fun. He told me, 'The realer you make it, the better it works.' People dig it because there's heart to it."

      Aaron (who's taller and a minute older) has more television credits. Oddly, the two don't go up for the same roles. "I've played more bad guys," Aaron says. "He's usually the hero."

      While competition is natural, Aaron says he'd never take a role his brother had abandoned. Indeed, he didn't even think of auditioning for the first "X-Men" movie. "Who knew that the little role he had in the first one would snowball into a part?"

      Acting, though, isn't an all-consuming part of his life.

      "Sometimes you're flying and you're busy. Sometimes, you're not," the 27-year-old Canadian says. "You've got to have things outside of to make yourself happy when you're not working."

      Photography, perhaps?

      "Naah. I'm not very good at it," he says. "But Jimmy's just learning, too."

Bruce R. Miller / Sioux City Journal