Jimmy Olsen has been known for a few different things over the years. Goofy bowties Transforming into lame neon animals. Getting his ass handed to him only to be saved by a watch. But one thing that the producers of the CW's 'Smallville' are hoping to elicit these days are cries of 'James Bartholomew Olsen: Ladies' Man.
With a handful of sarcastic remarks and a sense of style not stuck in 1953, actor Aaron Ashmore's take on the freckled photog has charmed fans as well as 'Smallville' character Chloe Sullivan. With recent developments turning the lighthearted romance in a dramatic new direction, Wizard Universe sat down with the former 'Veronica Mars' guest star to talk about his take on Superman's pal as well as ad-libbing, photographing and being a Hollywood twin before tomorrow's "Trespass" episode hits at 8 p.m. EST.
WIZARD: So Aaron, I'm going to possibly make a huge reporter's mistake by starting with the question you always get about being a twin in Hollywood. But even for you and your brother Shawn, it's pretty crazy that you've both gotten a chance to play comic book icons, so I was wondering how often you have people asking you what it's like to be Iceman or conversely asking Shawn what it's like to be Jimmy Olsen?
ASHMORE: [Laughs] It doesn't happen all that much in interviews because most of the time people have done their research beforehand. But on a day-to-day basis it does happen. On the street or even at an audition you'll bump into somebody who says, "Hey! I really like you in the show!" or "I really liked you in that flick!" And you have to go, "No, that was actually my brother." But that's something that happens on a day-to-day basis, and if we're both going to be in the business that's just part of it.
I'm sure you've dealt with that your whole lives, too.
ASHMORE: That's just it. Take away the fact that you're working in the same business, everybody kind of automatically puts you together and compares you and mixes you up. It's one of those things about being a twin that you can do nothing about.
Another connection you two share is actually 'Smallville,' because Shawn played a villain in a few episodes of the early seasons before you got the full-time gig.
ASHMORE: Totally. When he did the show years ago, he told me how cool it was and how cool everyone was. When I told him I was going to be on the show, he was freaking out saying, "Oh, man! I wonder if the same directors are going to be there! And the cast is great!" All that. He had nothing but good things to say even before he knew that I was going to go back. He was ecstatic for me.
What's it like being Jimmy Olsen? A lot of times you'll play a part on a show that a lot of people watch, but even my grandmother knows who Jimmy Olsen is.
ASHMORE: [Laughs] It's really cool. For example, one of the great things about it is that I went to the DVD party for Superman Returns, and they had four incarnations of Jimmy Olsen there. That really puts things into perspective on how long it's been and what a popular character that is. It's an honor, and I feel really lucky to be playing a part that so many people have enjoyed. People really connect to his character, and he's more of an everyman than a lot of the characters in the comic book world. A lot of people feel like it could be them in this really cool universe. It's easy to relate to.
One of the things thatís fun about this season is that you get to be funny in the part, but itís not at your expense saying, ďHereís Jimmy Olsen. Heís nerdy and wears a bowtie.Ē
ASHMORE: Yeah. They give you a little bit of freedom to have fun, and the writing is great. Thereís a lot of serious, heavy stuff going on in the show where itís life or death and really intense stuff, but I feel really lucky to lighten things up a bit because itís a nice balance. It brings things into balance.
I have to admit that I've stolen one of your Jimmy lines in the office here. About a month back at the end of an episode, Jimmy goes up to Clark and puts out a fist saying, "Ring that bell!" Ever since, I can't stop doing it to [Wizard Price Guide Assistant David Paggi].
ASHMORE: [Laughs] That's a funny story because we were just doing a rehearsal and running through lines, and that wasn't in the script. I just put my fist out and said it. I thought, "That's so stupid. I don't know where that came from." And Tom [Welling] started laughing and said, "God! You have to keep that in! That's perfect. It's so Jimmy." [Laughs] I thought it was way over the top, but I'm glad Tom wanted to keep it because when I watched it back I knew it fit the character well. So keep saying that. Spread it around, and people can catch on.
You're in L.A. right now shooting a movie, but are you done with filming in Vancouver for the show?
ASHMORE: I think I have another episode to do in February at some point. I havenít heard exactly when. I donít really know whatís happening. [Laughs] They havenít said, ďHey guy, youíre off the show.Ē So Iím hoping thereís going to be more. Iím having a ball, and I really hope they can keep me around. Itís one of the more fun jobs Iíve ever gotten to do.
And you live up there relatively close, so it must be nice to work up there as opposed to L.A. sometimes.
ASHMORE: Yeah. I was born in Vancouver, and so I've got grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins...the whole family. So even though my parents, my brother and I lived and went to high school out east, when I'm there there's tons of family. It's nice. It's a beautiful city to work in.
Let's talk about what's coming up in the next few episodes. Last week, we get the first seeds of discontent in the Jimmy and Chloe relationship. You had to step off a bit because of her lingering feelings for Clark. How does that carry over into the next arc of the story?
ASHMORE: Well, I don't like to give too much away because me personally, I like to just watch stuff where you're not exactly sure what's going to happen. So I'll say you're going to have to wait and see, but there are some more developments with it. I'm not going to say which way it goes, but there definitely is some discussion between Chloe and I. You'll have to wait and see because I'll probably get in trouble if I say too much. [Laughs] I'll let somebody else be the guy that gives away all the spoilers. They might get mad at me if I say too much.
One of the things about Jimmy Olsen as a character is obviously that he's a photographer. On the set, you're dealing with camera props a lot, but are you much of a photog yourself?
ASHMORE: I'm not a huge photographer, but I thought when I got done with high school I took a junior college photography class and thought, "Maybe this is something that I'd be interested in." And I actually enjoy taking pictures, but it turns out I'm not very good at it. [Laughs] I don't have the eye for the photography, but luckily for doing it on TV I've had a little bit of training, so it looks like I know what I'm doing. Thank goodness they don't show any of the shots I'm taking, though. You wouldn't be too impressed with my composition.
So after doing a cult comic book show like 'Smallville' and another cult show in 'Veronica Mars,' are there any other shows of this kind you'd like to have a go at or a role you want to sink your teeth into?
ASHMORE: I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I had so much fun on 'Veronica Mars' and I loved the character of Troy. If they ever wanted me to come back, that's one of the shows I know is great and I'm a big fan of, so I'd totally be willing to get back in that. As far as other shows, Iím also a huge fan of 'Battlestar Galactica,' and that shoots up in Vancouver as well. So I'm always saying to my agents, "Guys, I'm up there. I don't know if there's anything for my age group, but I'll take any little part on that show." I really do dig sci-fi stuff, and there's something about 'Battlestar' that's so cool.
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you what it is you're working on right now. What projects have you been wrapping up in between 'Smallville' episodes?
ASHMORE: I've been really lucky to have some time off from 'Smallville' where I can do some other stuff. I did a film this summer called 'Palo Alto' and it's kind of a coming-of-age story for these four guys who go away to college and come back to think that they're so over this town. They basically over the course of a night have different stories that separately make them learn that they're not as grown up as they thought they were. They've got a lot to learn about from this little town.
And right now I'm working on a film called 'Privileged,' and it was described to me as a mix between The Great Gatsby and 'Romeo and Juliet.' There's a lot of class stuff in it and a really interesting love story. And I get to play a total a--hole, which is really cool. Going from Jimmy, whoís the good guy and the nice guy, to someone who's a real jerk and the total opposite is a dream for an actor.
You've been acting a pretty long time. Did you jump right out of high school into the career or did you try the college thing for a while in between?
ASHMORE: I had applied in Toronto to a school called Sheridan College and George Brown College where they had some film programs. I was accepted, had paid my tuition and had two weeks to go before school started when I booked a job on a movie that was shooting for three weeks. I thought, "Maybe I should take this opportunity here and put off school for a year." So I did that film and got a couple of offers for some others right after, and I just thought, "Maybe I can do this as a career." I'd been acting since I was a kid, but I just did it because I really enjoyed it. I never really thought you could make a career out of it. When this stuff came along, college got put on the backburner, and now I'm 27 and that's gone. [Laughs] I don't know if that's going to happen at some point or what. I kind of miss the fact that I didn't go to college, because most of my friends went and had a ball, but I think the opportunities I got with my acting and the traveling are really cool. So maybe one day.
I ask because it seems like in the meantime you're doing movies in the college vein.
ASHMORE: [Laughs] That's it! I'm still playing not much younger than I am!