There is one trait that 31-year-old Aaron Ashmore is really happy that he and Steve Jinks, his new character on Syfy's hit show Warehouse 13, don't have in common. No, it's not the fact that Jinks is gay and Ashmore is straight. It's that Jinks can always tell whether someone is lying or not, a trick Ashmore is neither capable of pulling off, nor interested in learning to do.
And, honestly, who wants to know whether or not someone is lying when they say, "OMG, that was amazing!"
Something that is amazing, however, is how much things have changed on Syfy since AfterElton.com first started reporting on that network's lack of GLBT visibility. Back in 2008, we asked Syfy president Dave Howe about why his network's only gay character was the barely there Vincent on Eureka. Said Howe at the time, I don't think it's a problem at all. I mean I think there are, when you look at the total television landscape, you know, sci-fi/fantasy is a part of it so it's not that anyone has had any agenda in terms of not doing that. I think it's just a question of if it fits with the storyline, the theme of the show. There was a gay character on Lost. That's a sci-fi show."
Despite Howe's assertion, Syfy has since featured a number of complex gay characters including Sam Adama on Caprica and Camile Wray on Stargate Universe. To that list you can now add Ashmore's Steve Jinks who is joining the show in the first episode of the third season.
AfterElton.com recently caught up with Ashmore to discuss how Jinks is different from Ashmore's last role as Jimmy Olsen on Smallville, what it's like working with Eddie McClintock, whether Jinks would be more likely to date Torchwood's Captain Jack or Sam Adama, and much more.
AfterElton: You previously had a great role on Smallville and did an episode of Fringe as well, so what's with you and the sci-fi shows?
AA: I don't know. I think it's my age range because it obviously fits well in these shows. They are obviously looking for my type in their characters. I think once you start into the sci-fi world, because the fans can be so loyal and everyone kind of watching all the shows, they think 'Well, oh, he's done a sci-fi show, he's got a bit of a following in this world' so I think that makes it easier for them to cast you.
And there is just so much sci-fi going on right now. Particularly in Canada a couple years ago everything that was shooting in Vancouver seemed to be sci-fi like Supernatural, Smallville, V. Like half the shows that were shooting in the town were sci-fi and that kind of says a lot.
AE: Jinks seems like a pretty big change from Jimmy on Smallville. Do you see any similarities between them?
AA: No, there are not a lot of similarities. Jimmy was very emotional but he was wearing it and he was out there, if he felt something he would say it and he would wear his heart on his sleeve. Whereas Steve is totally different because he's very reserved but in the same sense I try to make all my characters emotional and sensitive people. I think both those characters have that but they are presented in such different ways that on the surface they are just so very different.
AE: Is there something about playing Steve that is a refreshing change from playing Jimmy? Or is it just a different experience all together?
AA: Oh, yeah. I would say that to me Steve feels more grown up and more mature. Jimmy was a lot of fun because he wore his heart on his sleeve and could be very likable in a lot of ways. Jinks is a professional and he's just doing a job and he's all grown up. For me, I'm almost 32 but I look younger and I tend to play younger characters, but it's nice to play a professional character. And it's nice to have a taste of that because I'm getting to that place where I want to play more mature characters.
AE: Just like Jinks has joined an established crew at the warehouse you have joined an established cast. I'm curious, Eddie seems like a prankster. Has he been hazing you mercilessly?
AA: No, he hasn't really hazed me but he's constantly joking around. He's one of those guys that you can't help but be laughing with all the time because he's always cracking jokes and generally always in a good mood. So he's just one of those people you just always want to work around.
AE: At what point did Jack Kenny [the creator of Warehouse 13] explain to you that Jinks was going to be a gay character?
AA: Well, I had been sent the first couple of scripts before I met with Jack, so I saw the character breakdown and that was right in there. I knew that right off the bat that Steve was going to be gay, so it wasn't like a surprise or anything. I was actually kind of excited to play a different character and this was just another exciting fun character to play. I've played gay characters before as well.
AE: What gay characters have you played?
AA: I've played a guy by the name of Mark Hall, I think in around early 2000. He was a guy who went to a Catholic school and he tried to bring his boyfriend to prom and the school said, 'Heck No!Ó and then he took the Catholic school board to court and ended up winning the decision and setting a precedent in Canada to be able to bring your boyfriend or your same-sex partner to prom. It was a pretty cool story.
AE: I've seen the first episode of Warehouse 13's new season and I can tell you with all honesty that I really like the character of Jinks. He's got a quirky offbeat sensibility about him, plus he always knows when someone is lying. How would you describe him and what's your approach to portraying him?
AA: The big thing I think about while playing Steve, and I think the writers really play to it well is getting to know me and playing up my strong suits. I was thinking about the fact that he has this ability to tell when other people are lying. That seems really cool and you'd be able to use it, but I don't think people think right off the bat about the burdens it would bring. It would be hard to trust people. You would know when people are lying directly to you and you would start feeling like everybody lies.
I think Steve is a complicated guy. He's gay and I don't know exactly how, but possibly when he came out, Jack and I talked about that, maybe he didn't have a great experience with his parents. And I think that with the fact that he can tell when people are lying, he has built up walls around him. Steve is not super open to all these new experiences.
AE: Do we ever find out where his ability to know when people are lying comes from?
AA: I think it's kind of an innate thing that he has and I know each character gets these funny feelings when something bad is about to happen. It's just that type of thing. He just has this ability. Nobody questions it. Nobody thinks about it too much. It just is what it is, you know?
AE: Now you mentioned that there would be a lot of downs sides to being able to know whenever someone is lying and probably not that many upsides. For instance, you wouldn't want your significant other to say 'Oh, my god that was amazing' and really know that he or she is really lying.
AE: Would you want that power at all? And if not, is there any power that you would want?
AA: No, I wouldn't want that particular power. Someone else asked me a similar question recently like 'Okay you've worked on a lot of these sci-fi shows. If you could have any ability that anybody has, what would it be?' And I think my answer is kind of boring because I would say I don't think anyone really thinks of the burdens and responsibility that comes with having these powers. People just think 'Wow this is really really cool!' But the reality of living with these powers could be a real burden. So I think I will just kind of be happy being me.
AE: Eddie McClintock has a pretty strong gay following. He's attractive and fun and he engages with his gay fans and he's really good about cultivating that. You're going to be playing a gay character, which is automatically going to give you a gay following. Has Eddie warned you to stay off of his gay turf?
AA: [laughs] No, actually he hasn't but I'll ask him about that. I'll ask him 'Hey, Eddie, am I stepping on your toes a little bit here?'
AE: Now Eddie is not shy about frequently losing his shirt on the show. Have they managed to get your shirt off of you yet?
AA: No, although there are scenes where Eddie has taken his shirt off that I've been in. [laughs] Eddie is just looking for an excuse to take it off. I think the big difference between Eddie and Pete, and Steve and myself [is that] Pete's character is just so out there. He's very big, he's very brash with his emotions and he wears everything on his sleeve.
Whereas Steve is a little more reserved, a little more conservative emotionally, so he's not so getting out there and taking his shirt off every chance he has and I think that that is the difference. But never say never. I go to the gym, I try to stay healthy and in shape, so who knows. Maybe they'll put that in there in some point.
AE: You're right that Steve is very reserved but you play him in a way that I still found him to be accessible. His reserved nature kind of drew me to him. It's funny because so often gay characters on TV shows are the characters that have extra emotions and are really out there. I like the contrast that Pete is sort of the more expressive and exuberant guy while Steve, at least in the first episode, is different.
AA: Yeah and I think there is a reality to that to. Obviously, there are stereotypes or whatever and actors tend to play gay characters in certain ways, but I think you're right Ð to have Steve be reserved and just different from what we usually see on TV. I think that's interesting and I think people will respond to that. At least I hope they will.
AE: Now playing Steve on Warehouse 13 you're joining a very small group of science fiction gay characters that includes the swashbuckling, omnisexual Captain Jack on Torchwood and the more family oriented mob enforcer Sam Adama on the now canceled Caprica. Which guy would Steve be more likely to date?
AA: [laughs] I think Steve would go for the more family guy because Steve is just a little more reserved. The swashbuckling and adventure stuff, I don't think that necessarily fits. So I think the more family oriented reserved of the two makes more sense for Steve, even though he's a bit of a badass. But it's hard to tell you know? Sometimes opposites attract so you have to put the two guys in a room and see how it went.
AE: So if Jinks were to get a love interest, what type of guy would that be?
AA: Actually I was talking to my girlfriend about this yesterday because I said, 'I think someone is going to ask me these questions' and I've talked to her about the character a lot and I asked her 'Who do you think from what you've seen and what you know?' And we're thinking of characters and not just necessarily people, but TV characters Steve can get together with.
We came up with Chase from House, the doctor. Chase seems to be pretty professional and focused and similar to Steve in that regard but a little more laid back. That's the best one I could come up with for matching Steve up with a guy as far as personality goes.
AE: Is Steve a Glee fan? Is he a closet Gleek?
AA: Hell, yeah! I think everybody is. It's hard not to be.
AE: [laughs] Are you a Glee fan?
AA: Yeah, I don't watch every episode because when I first heard the idea, I just didn't get it. It's not really something that really appealed to me, but then I watched it and I thought 'Yeah, this is pretty awesome.' It's hard to not enjoy all the music and singing and dancing and the comedy is really there too. I don't tune in every week but I have probably watched the majority of the episodes.
AE: It's the last question and I haven't asked you yet about Shawn Ashmore being your twin brother. Does that make this the best interview ever?
AA: Oh, absolutely! [laughs] That being said I don't mind talking about Shawn but that's usually the first question people ask, not the last so I do appreciate that you saved it until the end to bring it up.
Warehouse 13 airs Monday nights on Syfy at 9 PM.
Michael Jensen // AfterElton.com