Aaron Ashmore & Jack Kenny talk Changes at "Warehouse 13"

Recently we sat in on a conference call with Aaron Ashmore & Jack Kenny as they chatted about the new season of Warehouse 13 which begins tomorrow night. Here are some highlights from the call.

Question: How's the show changed since it, you know, from the very beginning and why do you think it's been so successful?

Jack Kenny:
It's changed in that we've - like any show, at least that I've worked on - the actors start to tell you a lot about the characters. And so we start to write more in the direction of the actors playing the parts and their strengths and backgrounds and things.

So that sort of makes them - it enriches the characters, makes them more real to us and to them, and allows them a certain ownership of the characters so that they can actually really invest themselves.

We've also expanded quite a bit the mythology of The Warehouse - its history, its background, how it all works. We added Claudia, as you know, in the first season to broaden out the family. H.G. Wells last year, both good and bad - I mean the bad guy. And she's fantastic.

And this year we've added Aaron Ashmore as Steve Jinks. Just sort of increasing our family and I use that word because that, I think, is one of the reasons the show is successful, aside from the incredible talent of everybody who participates - the writing staff, the cast, the crew. Syfy's getting behind it so strongly.

I feel like because it's a show about a family - I mean a made family - I think it's more relatable to everybody. Everybody can sort of relate to that brother-sister-parent-child relationship one way or another. And I think that's what we have with this show - a father, you know, a brother and a sister, a younger sister, and now a younger brother, and that crazy aunt who shows up once in a while.

And I feel like it's something that everybody can relate to in dynamic-wise. So I think they're willing to get on the ride with us and take that ride all the way to the end. I think they like hanging out with this family.

Question: Aaron, what was it like for you to step into a show that had already been established and had such, you know, a fan base behind it?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well, it's exciting in a lot of ways and also intimidating. Having watched - catching up on a bunch of episodes before I actually jumped in and just seeing how well all these actors worked together and how well the show was put together, that's exciting. But it's also like, "Oh boy, now it's my, you know, I got to jump in here and catch up.

So it's exciting but also, that first couple days it's a little intimidating until you get up to speed and figure out how you're going to fit into the new family.

Question: So Aaron can you talk about how you get into the head of Steve Jinks to understand his ability to detect lying?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well I think I thought about it and was maybe overcomplicating it - this idea of being able to tell when someone's lying. But, talking to Jack and when we kind of got into it, it was a very simple thing of just looking at somebody and being able to tell whether they're lying or not.

I mean I think that the ability is quite simple in the way it works, but the way that it affects the character, I think, makes him very tentative when it comes to people and trusting people. He knows that everybody lies. And I think as human beings we know that anyways but being able to tell exactly when those things are happening, I think makes him put a little bit of a wall up around him.

And I think that that's the real thing that when you're playing - when I'm playing Steve that I had to think about him and be aware of. So I think that that's really the big part of the character that there's these walls up because of his ability to tell when people are lying.

Question: And Jack, what's the key to introducing a character like Steve Jinks effectively to enhance the dynamic between the characters and the show itself?

Jack Kenny:
Well one of, I mean, the first key is casting - finding somebody who fits into the family, somebody who just sort of slides right in but yet feels different enough so that you're not repeating a dynamic with anybody.

And that was - that's always very dicey when you have four people, four very different personalities and different dynamics, and we wanted to add somebody who brought a new dynamic to that group. So that - a lot of that is casting. Who do you find?

And when Aaron very happily and beautifully fell into our laps, he seemed perfect to fit that mold. It was like he's more sort of emotionally conservative than Pete. Not as uptight as Myka. Obviously closer in age to Claudia so that there was a possibility of a connection there. And he just brought everything we needed.

Plus he looked a little different than everybody else, and that's always kind of important, too. Because you don't want somebody that looks like one of the other characters because it's hard to tell the people apart.

But and then the next thing is sort of - what I do anyway, I listen to an actor's voice. Aaron and I had brunch the day before he was cast in the job. And I just - I like to hear how they talk, how they approach life, what their rhythms are so I can write to that, rather than try to force them into a mold of the character.

So I think it's really important to listen to the actor and hear what the actor brings what they can - the different rhythms are. My cat is screaming in the background. I'm trying to lock him out of the room.

So there's bringing that actor to the part. And then, just finding the fun ways that the characters can interact. What are the obstacles to their being friends and what - where are the places where they connect.

And really - I can't think of the word - making - really making hay out of that. Really digging into the places where they're going to drive each other crazy and dig into the places where they're really going to connect. Because that's, I think, where the real meat and potatoes is of any relationship.

Question: Will we see more cross-over emphasis this season?

Jack Kenny:
Yes, Fargo's coming to visit us Episode 5 I believe. I'm not sure because the year order tends to be malleable. But I think it's Episode 5 where Fargo comes to visit.

Question: Aaron, how did you become involved with the show, like with auditioning and all that?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well it was kind of a strange process because that - the auditioning didn't kind of happen. I think that Jack and the Warehouse folks had been kind of looking to cast this part and had looked at bunch of different options and a bunch of different people. And I think it was coming down to the wire and they hadn't found the right person.

And I happened to be up in Toronto and Jack was talking to the casting director, Robin up here and I guess my name came up. And Jack and I went and kind of had brunch and just sat down and talked about the character and talked about the role and the show.

And Jack said by the end of that meeting, Jack said, "You know what? I'm seeing you as this part. You know, I can really see you doing this." And as much as I was hopeful that that was true I was like, "This is way too easy." A lot of the times you have to go through these long casting process auditioning and testing and all this stuff.

So I left that meeting feeling very hopeful that that would be the case. But, also being like, "Ah, it's just too good to be true." And sure enough the next day or two days later I got the call and I was cast as Steve.

So it was a really interesting process and very different, and I wish more could be like that - the casting process. But it was pretty unique.

Jack Kenny: You have to ask the - Aaron, you have to actually send a portion of your paycheck to Zuckerberg at Facebook because it was because Robin as friends with Aaron on Facebook that she knew he was in town. It was such a bizarre coincidence of events. It was like we've gotten down to the wire, we couldn't find anybody that was fitting in with the part and the cast. We had chemistry reads and it just wasn't - it just didn't feel right. And then Robin spent three days before the table reading and was like, "Well now, you know, now we have to actually hire somebody who's Canadian because we don't have time to immigrate anybody."

And I was actually feeling like, "Well this may not happen. I may have to rewrite it and not have the part in the first episode." I don't know how that would work but it would be really tough to do.

But - and then Robin said, "You know, I'm Facebook friends with Aaron Ashmore and he's perfect for this but I don't know if he's in town. I think he is. Let me check." And because it was a Saturday there was no way to reach agents or anybody.

So she Facebooked him and he was like, "Yes, I'm here visiting my girlfriend." And I'm like, "Oh my God. Well let's have brunch tomorrow." It was Sunday. It was just all so - it was just - it was fate reaching in and saying this is the guy. Because as soon as I - literally as soon as I saw him sitting in the restaurant I thought, "Oh-oh, that's him. That's they guy."

Because there's just something about it when you see the person. Everybody says at auditions you kind of know when the person walks in the room. When the actor or actress walks in the room, before they even open their mouths you can tell if they're right or not. And it's just something about an energy. And I looked at him and, "Oh, he's right. Please God, let him not be crazy."

Question: What have you learned since you started working the show, or what's changed in your life the most?

Aaron Ashmore:
What have I learned the most? Well I have to say - and it's not totally surprising to me but because every job you go into you learn things and working with different actors and stuff but you really pick stuff up.

But I really feel like I've gotten acting lessons in a lot of ways working on Warehouse. Because working with Saul and - it's just like watching how he does things and is really quite interesting. And also like the other guys, I haven't done a ton of comedy shows and more dramatic stuff usually. So watching these guys and how good they are, I feel like I've learned a lot or picked up a lot.

So I would say that my skills as an actor or just certain parts of how I act I've just kind of observed a lot of things and picked up a lot of things, which is kind of unexpected. You never know when those things are going to come up but I would say that I feel like I've taken some acting lessons working on this show, as well, which is really, really nice.

And like I said, not totally surprising because you never know when those things are going to happen. But I definitely feel like I've learned a lot about myself as an actor doing this season of Warehouse 13.

Jack Kenny: I think you found out how you're funny. Because a lot of actors are funny in different ways. Eddie has a certain rhythm of comedy and Allison has a different rhythm of comedy. Everybody has a different way of approaching it.

And I think what I've seen from Aaron is he's discovered how and where he's funny. How a sense of humor is a big part of our show. It's not the whole show but it's a big part of it. And everybody has moments. And everybody has a different way of approaching it.

I've learned a lot about you in terms of how to write to you. Because you can't write the same humorous moments for every actor. Everybody approaches it differently. So I've learned a lot about how to, you know, where your funny bone is and how to tap into it, because it always takes a while.

But I think it's really been kind of cool to watch you blossom into this comic actor. It's kind of fun.

Aaron Ashmore: Yes, and that's how I feel too. It's just a very interesting experience and getting to work with people who are so talented - you guys writing stuff and the cast just knowing their characters and just being so good at what they do, it's a pretty unique experience, actually.

Question: With Steve coming in as Pete's new partner, where that leave Myka? I haven't heard anything about Joanne leaving the show and the last time I asked you, you said that she would definitely be back. I'm assuming that's still the case?

Jack Kenny:
Well just to keep myself from getting into trouble I never said she would definitely be back. They'll hunt me down and shoot me. No, what I've always - what I kept saying to people is don't worry. We have our fans' best interest at heart and everybody should just relax and enjoy the ride.

Remember at the end of the first season we killed Artie. So… So just - everybody should just not worry. It's going to be a great year and everybody's going to be thrilled. That said, that's part of the fun of the season this year is in the first episode is Myka coming back? If she does, how is she coming back? How does Aaron fit into all this?

It's a nice fun beat. But honestly it's just, as I keep saying and I'm surprised because I never really thought about it - Aaron fits so well into this family that it hasn't felt like an issue. There's been plenty of room in this show to have this new character. And I got to tell you, just separately of the writing and the acting and the shooting, everybody in the cast just loves Aaron.

So it would be different if we had somebody who was a jerk. But he's such a terrific human being and brings so much warmth and professionalism to the set that I think people look forward to doing scenes with him and seeing him. So it's been - it's just been a real kind of a joy this year.

Aaron Ashmore: If you guys could see me I'm blushing.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about how your character was received by the other characters in the show? I'm assuming Claudia especially would feel like you were an outsider and a replacement for Myka so she would have the most difficulty. But am I wrong in that?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well, yes. I mean, I think that the other characters are tentative like this is a very tight-knit group and it's also they're putting themselves on the line, their lives on the line. What their lives are about is servicing the Warehouse and taking care of the world.

So this new guy coming in, I mean, who's going to trust him until he proves himself? And I don't think that anybody's too comfortable with the fact that he can tell when people are lying. I mean, that's great for solving cases but this guy can come in and you can't lie to him, you can't B.S. him. He can tell what's going on.

So, yes, there's definitely some tensions. I think that what Jack was saying earlier, though it's interesting because there's ways that these characters are going to kind of clash but there's also ways that they are going to bond in certain ways. And those are very different ways but are also interesting.

So, yes, it's not all smooth coming into the Warehouse on your first day. They put you through the wringer a little bit.

Question: What do you think was Steve's initial reaction when he finally figured out what the Warehouse agents actually do?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well, I think the initial reaction is that he just doesn't fully believe. Everybody's telling him this stuff and he's seeing all these things go on. But it's almost too much to believe right off the bat.

So I think his first real interaction with an artifact and realizing how going through it himself, I think it really shocks him and makes him just feel like, "Okay, this is for real. This is not just a bunch of crazy people out here, you know, trying to, you know, run this strange warehouse. It's like, this is dangerous."

And I think it sinks in and he's on board, he's game. I think at the beginning he's a little tentative because he's just like, "This can't be true. This can't be right." But when I think that finally hits him that this is for real, Steve's very professional and very into his job, so I think that he's on board.

Question: There's a breaking news story about a month or so back about a H.G. Wells spinoff. Now it seems it was announced a little bit too soon. Could you tell me what's happened there?

Jack Kenny:
Yes, I love that you refer to it as a breaking news story because it's probably months and months away from actually being shot, if it does get shot.

Yes, Bob Goodman and I - one of the writers on the show went and pitched an idea for a spinoff for an H.G. Wells spinoff to Syfy a few weeks ago, and they really loved the idea and wanted to hear more about it. So in the business, in the TV business, before anybody can go in and officially pitch things deals have to be made and lawyers and agents and blah, blah, blah, blah.

So that all started happening. And, somehow the details of that meeting got out and it was like, "Oh, it's a spinoff and it's happening and here it is." And there are so many hurdles to jump before a show gets on the air. I mean, there's a thousand different stars that have to get into line. Everything has to be in alignment and karma and all that sort of thing.

But we were in yesterday, actually and pitching more details and more specifics and all the characters to Mark Stern and the folks at Syfy. And I think everybody's really excited about it. Again, it's a long way to go before it's actually a script and on the air and being shot and all that sort of thing, but people seem to be really excited about the idea.

The character seems to leap off the page. We're building a really cool ensemble of people, again another family to be to people, this world and this series. And I think it could be really exciting. But unfortunately I have no details because we're still in the very early birthing stage.

Question: I was going to ask about the backstory of Steve. We found out a little bit in the premier, which was a fantastic episode. We only got a little bit of a glimpse of what makes him him. Is there a certain episode that we'll get to dig into those layers a little bit more?

Aaron Ashmore:
I think that there's some stuff in Episode 2 and then a little bit farther - I can remember what episode, maybe 6 - where, yes, you really start to see who Steve is and you get a little bit of his backstory and you really see how his life has kind of impacted who he is.

Because, he's very different, I think, from a lot of the other characters on the show in that he is more reserved and he's got these walls up. And so you - throughout the season I think you really start to - I think that Jack and the writers have done a great job of kind of just putting in these little kind of nuggets of character throughout particular episodes so you start to be like, "Oh, okay, well that makes more sense and I can see, you know, why this guy is how he is."

And, a lot of times you don't get that in shows. They just kind of like, it's just there or they don't even say it and it's just kind of like implied or whatever.

So yes, I think that there's - people will find it really interesting to see how Steve's character develops and learn these things about his past and then understand who he is more because of knowing those things.

Jack Kenny: I think, too that, like I was saying earlier, I learn a lot about a character by - from the actor who's playing him. And it's not that I don't really know anything about Aaron Ashmore's past or his relationships or anything. I just - what I see when I look at Aaron on camera, when I look at him on the monitor it's just - I see a guy who's got - I see a character.

And maybe this is what Aaron brings. I see a character that's got a complex past, maybe with some pain in it. That's what I see when he's playing the part. And so in my mind he comes from a complex past. Maybe when he came out or if he came out to his parents it wasn't well-received. And maybe that's brought some pain.

There's other things you'll learn about his character - because I don't want to give away here because they come as a surprise to, you know, various members of the cast. He gets to be besties with Claudia, so they learn a lot about each other.

I get the sense that he's been hurt in a relationship or two. And that he's emotionally conservative. He plays his cards close to the vest. A lot because of what Aaron was saying earlier about if you can look into somebody's eyes and tell if they're lying to you or not that affects the way you relate to people.

You look at people differently. It's a little bit like Sookie on True Blood where she can hear people's thoughts - it's kind of annoying. You don't want to necessarily know all that.

So it's a - I think he's a vulnerable and tentative character who makes friends - doesn't make friends easily but when he does he makes them forever.

Question: how are they going to make the character more relatable to the LGBT community?

Aaron Ashmore:
Well I don't really look at approaching a character that way. Like I wouldn't approach a black character trying to make him relatable to the black community. My job is to make the characters relatable to the family that I'm dealing with here.

How does Steve Jinks relate to Artie, Pete, Myka and Claudia? My - and I think that the approach to Aaron, as I say, the approach to Steve is he's a relatively emotionally conservative guy. He's not out there. And so we're taking baby steps with the character. We don't want to bring in somebody and throw him into a relationship right away.

One of the things we learned last year when we brought Pete a relationship, we brought Claudia a relationship, was that they were really hard to service. Those relationships are hard to service because our people are out in the field all the time. We had to basically stop the show to get a relationship theme with Pete and Kelly or with Claudia and Todd.

And so that's why both of those relationships kind of went away last year. Brothers and Sisters, you can do that. On our show we're out running around snagging, bagging and tagging so relationships kind of get in the way of that. If we can - if have an opportunity we will, but this year we're really a lot more focused on other things.

So that really didn't become an issue. I can't say that next season if Aaron comes back that he wouldn't have a relationship. Who knows? But that hasn't been the goal. I think - because I'm gay and in my mind the great thing about where GLBT characters are these days is it's just like he's also blond and blue-eyed and six feet tall.

And it's not - I wouldn't write to his six-feet-tallness. I don't want to write to every character's single trait. It comes out in various fun ways. It's not that we - it's not that he's not outed or that he hides it. He does talk about it and he makes jokes about it.

But it's not like - it doesn't define who he is. And that, I think, has always been the goal of any minority group, to have that diversity not define who you are. And I think, happily, gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgendered characters have reached that goal in a lot of ways.

Question: Sci-fi and horror fans, they tend to be the hardest to win over with a gay or lesbian character and I was wondering what is your all's approach to trying to, you know, win over sci-fi and horror fans?

Aaron Ashmore:
You know, I, in my experience talking to a lot of our fans - I mean, I don't - because maybe it's a slightly different genre, our show - but in talking to a lot of our fans I haven't found that. I've found that people have been pretty accepting of really anything we want to do, except of course, you know, losing their favorite character.

But, you know, because like Torchwood has gay characters, there was a gay character on Caprica. There's been - I feel like - and maybe I'm just, you know, living in the bubble that is Los Angeles - but I find it true in Toronto too. I feel like it's such an accepted part of life now that it doesn't feel like - especially younger viewers have no issue with it.

It doesn't - I don't think - I think new viewers to television these days don't see sexual orientation in the same way that viewers of my generation don't see race. Because it kind of, you know, not all. Obviously there's always going to be some people who are the exceptions to those rules. But I feel like we've come a long way as a television-viewing audience.

I think, you know, and I count, you know, All in the Family and Maude and those shows in the 70s for taking us there. Shows that you probably couldn't get away with doing today. But they took us to a place where they held a mirror up to society and said, "Look how silly this is."

And I think it started a trend of everybody saying, "Look how silly this is. Let's just watch these shows for entertainment. Let's accept everybody for who they are." I think little by little, you know, chisel by chisel we're getting to that - again to that nice sculpture of a society that watches a show for the entertainment value and not the color of a person's skin or their sexual orientation or their gender or anything like that.

Erika Blake // Multipleverses.com