Killjoys' Aaron Ashmore reflects on past Smallville, Veronica Mars roles
As John Jaqobis on Syfy’s kick-butt summer series Killjoys, Aaron Ashmore gets to blast into outer space. Jaqobis, older brother D’avin (Luke Macfarlane), and fellow bounty hunter Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) make a formidable trio, serving warrants for various individuals they’re tasked with recovering for the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition (RAC) — while also trying to navigate what could be an impending civil war.
Killjoys isn’t the first genre show Ashmore has been a part of. He also photographed Superman as Jimmy Olsen on The WB’s Smallville, betrayed Veronica Mars, and retrieved objects for Warehouse 13.
“I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction and fantasy,” says Ashmore, who was a big Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien fan when he was younger. “I was a huge Star Trek fan. I watched Next Generation every day whenever it was on, and then I got into Deep Space Nine which I really, really liked. I also loved The X-Files, which was a huge show I didn’t miss. My parents, my brother, and I would watch it every week it was on.”
As as result, Ashmore says he “obviously responds” to similar material, but he also credits the direction of his career to the rising popularity of genre storytelling: “As an actor, you’re going out for a ton of different things, but if half of it is genre stuff, the likelihood that you’re going to get into some of that is pretty high.”
As season 3 of Killjoys ramps up, EW spoke to Ashmore about what fans can expect from Johnny — who’s gone through some recent changes — as well as what he loved about his previous parts.
“There’s maybe a little bit of darkness that’s crept into John this season,” Ashmore says. And no wonder — last season, John’s girlfriend, Pawter Simms (Sarah Power) was killed, leading him to not only shoot her killer (Mayko Nguyen’s Delle Sayah Kendry) in revenge but also leave his partners (and their ship) and set off on his own.
“It doesn’t mean that he’s a completely different character,” says Ashmore, “but some of the things that have happened to him over the past two seasons are showing. It’s interesting because D’avin is playing some of the lighter stuff and keeps feeling like he’s joined this family, so he’s opening up, while John’s closing up a little bit.”
It’s these additional dimensions to his character that keep Ashmore so excited about playing John: “There’s obviously this real heart to him, but at the same time he also surprises me as an actor by shooting someone in the head, or blowing somebody away. Getting a chance to play a three-dimensional character has been pretty fun and exciting.”
SOUVENIR FROM THE SET: “When Killjoys ends, hopefully not for a couple more years, I would definitely take my jacket,” says Ashmore. “They custom make these jackets, and they have all this really cool armor and patches, and all that stuff on them. We also have these futuristic guns that look like regular guns, but they’ve been modified so they’re really cool, so I’d take that, and definitely a few little science-y things.”
“That show had a really big fan base, but also the character I played was gay, and that really resonated with a lot of people,” says Ashmore about his role as Steve Jinks, a new warehouse agent introduced in the third season of the Syfy drama. Jinks was hired to replace Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) before being partnered with Claudia Donovan (Stitchers’ Allison Scagliotti). It was revealed that not only was Jinks gay and a Buddhist, but that he also had the ability to tell when anyone is lying.
“I thought he was an interesting character because he wasn’t your stereotypically calm or centered Buddhist,” Ashmore recalls. “He could be a little uptight or negative at times. So it was funny that he was [Buddhist], because you wouldn’t assume that. It was just something he adopted to help center himself.”
The series also gave Ashmore a chance to play two different versions of the character when a magically imbued object in the mystical Warehouse split Jinks into two. “It was interesting to shoot because you’re literally playing one very stern grumpy version of the character, and the other half is this flamboyantly gay version of him,” remembers Ashmore. “The idea is if you mix them together you get who Steve is. But when they’re separated, they’re just polar opposites. Getting to play both of them and interact with myself through a green screen was really fun.”
SOUVENIR FROM THE SET: “There’s a metronome that saved my character’s life at one point, and I got to keep that, which was really, really cool.”
A regular human, Ashmore’s Nate was a struggling musician who was childhood best friends with Kenzi (Ksenia Solo), human best friend to Succubus Bo (Anna Silk). Nate’s return to Kenzi’s life sparked a romance, but to keep him safe from magical threats, she wound up breaking up with him a few episodes later. “I don’t think that he ever found out anything about all the magic and the dangerous things that were going on, and it was kind of sad because he was falling in love with her,” says Ashmore.
The role may have been in his sci-fi wheelhouse, but it did challenge him in another area: As Nate, Ashmore had to play guitar on camera. “It turned out fine, but it was a little nerve wracking pushing your boundaries around stuff like that, where you’re like, ‘There’s going to be a lot of people watching me sing, and I’m not a singer.’ But that’s a great thing about playing these roles. Sometimes you end up pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone.”
“I couldn’t believe that I booked the part,” laughs Ashmore of his role as Jimmy Olsen, who worked alongside Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) as a photojournalist at the Daily Planet, where he the first person to get a photo of ‘The Blur’ (Clark’s superhero moniker at the time). Jimy also married and divorced Clark’s best friend Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack). He would later die on the series, but not before learning Clark’s secret and telling his ex-wife he would always love her.
A few seasons before Aaron Ashmore picked up Jimmy’s iconic camera on The WB show, his twin brother Shawn had actually starred on the show as Eric Summers, a villainous metahuman student whom Clark went up against in two different episodes.
“Shawn’s character interacted with Clark so much,” Ashmore says. “I almost didn’t audition for it because I thought ‘There’s no way that they’re going to hire the twin brother of a guy who was heavily featured on the show.’” Luckily, he went to the audition.
“There was this huge aspect of [Jimmy’s] personality that was very insecure and and constantly worried about Chloe loving Clark that felt a bit soap-ish in a way that I wasn’t crazy about,” Ashmore admits. “But I really liked the interactions with Clark and how interested Jimmy was in Superman and tracking him down. They definitely had a lot of great moments where he was putting the pieces together that Clark is Superman, which felt very iconic to me.”
Unfortunately, Jimmy’s time on the show ended when Doomsday killed his character in season 8. “I think it worked,” says the actor. “Of course I was bummed because I really liked playing that character, but the death was awesome. He got to be a hero at the end of the day, and he never really got to be a hero on the show, so saving Chloe from Doomsday was a good way to go out.”
SOUVENIR FROM THE SET: “Jimmy wore these bowling shirts. There was red one and a brown one, and I have those tucked away somewhere.”
Ashmore originally auditioned for the role of Duncan Kane, Veronica’s ex-boyfriend, on Rob Thomas’ teen-noir drama. That role eventually went to Teddy Dunn, but Ashmore was called back in season 1 to play Troy Vandegraff, who briefly dated Veronica before it was revealed that he was just using her to help him smuggle steroids into the country from Mexico.
The actor didn’t know about his character’s true intentions until the got the script for that episode, which he says helped his performance. “I think it’s interesting because then you’re not playing into anything or foreshadowing that he’s going to be a bad guy,” says Ashmore. “You actually think that he’s going to be this really cool guy and that he and Veronica are going to get along very well.”
“[Troy] was so nice to Veronica and she’d had such a crappy time of things that people were like, ‘This guy’s great.’ It lulled them into a false sense of security, so when he turned out to be a jerk, people were so angry at him,” says Ashmore, who enjoyed playing Troy’s sense of humor and wit. “He could have been such a nice guy and great for Veronica, but like most people, he turned out to be an ass.”
As for Troy’s later return, Ashmore thinks it allowed Veronica to be the bigger person as she worked to prove that Troy was indeed innocent: “It was interesting to have her stand up for somebody who’d totally screwed her over.”
‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’
Ashmore starred in two different episodes of this horror anthology series: In 1993, he played Billy, a young boy who visits the 13th floor of his apartment building with his sister, and in 2000, Ashmore took on the role of Jake, a jock who had to team up with a popular girl to save the world from a threat against the planet.
“When I did the first one, I was definitely a fan of the show. I was the perfect age range for that,” Ashmore recalls. “By the time I did the second episode, I still watched it, but I was a little older, so I was into slightly older things. But most of my friends watched the show, too, so it was something that you did that all of your friends were going to watch, and you knew that so that was exciting.”
Aaron’s twin brother Shawn played Jake, the leader of the Animorphs, on this short-lived Nickelodeon series about a group of kids who transform into animals to save the world from parasitic aliens that are possessing humans. “They were going to pull a green screen scenario,” Aaron says, “but it was going to end up being very expensive. But they knew Shawn had a twin.”
As for the popular book series itself, Ashmore says while he never read all of it because he and his brother were in their late teens when Shawn was starring on the show, he did pick up a few books when his brother got cast. “I thought they were really fun, and that it was a good little series… But we may have missed it. If we were five or six years younger, we probably would have been the perfect age range for them.”
Killjoys airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Syfy.