Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore definitely knows about the universal struggle of good vs. evil.
As mutant Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman, he's battled Stryker and Magneto in the "X-Men" films; Ashmore also opposed a tyrant king in the magical "Earthsea" miniseries. In the "Mother's Day" remake, he was terrorized by a sadistic family. Now, in his current role as FBI Special Agent Mike Weston, he's busy hunting down serial killer Joe Carroll in "The Following."
HuffPost TV spoke to Ashmore on the phone about the intense crime thriller, how it feels to finally throw some punches, and the return of Weston after his near-death experience.
HuffPost TV: During pilot season, what initially grabbed you about "The Following" premise and your character, Mike Weston?
Ashmore: Everything grabbed me about "The Following." I read the script and loved it. My jaw hit the floor several times. I couldn't believe some of the twists that were happening. Then I realized it was for network TV and was like, "What? They're really trying to push the envelope!" I loved the story and the pace of the show. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy were already attached when I read the script, so I knew the pedigree of the show was going to be huge. Kevin Williamson wrote the pilot. I thought it was the kind of show I would watch on television and the kind of show I'm into. I wanted to be part of it if I could.
I liked Weston because I thought there was a chance to bring a little levity to a show that was very intense. It wasn't slapsticky and it wasn't written over-the-top. I thought there was a way to play this guy as very likable, but also very genuine. And Weston was the eyes of the audience, especially for the first few episodes, where he spoke his mind. When they find the garage with the mutilated dogs, the first thing he says is, "You can kill a human and I'm OK. You kill a dog and it drives me crazy." People were coming up to me after the pilot and going, "I was literally saying that during the commercial break and then your character came in and said it." There was an interesting connection with the character there and again, he's sort of the fresh eyes as far as being an agent. I thought that was a fun dynamic to play with such a world-weary Ryan Hardy.
From the beginning, did they clearly state you weren't one of Joe's acolytes? Or were you always flipping through scripts looking for any sign or indication?
No, they didn't say one way or the other. I played the role as if he was an FBI agent because that was the only information I was given. I tried to play it as the audience was supposed to see it. I really don't know what's going to happen next. We, as actors, have very broad strokes about where the story is going, but as far as details and character arcs are concerned, we find out as the show rolls along. The great thing about that is you play everything genuinely. They said after "The Following" got picked up, "This is the kind of show where we are going to kill off characters. If it happens down the line, please don't take it personally. It's not that we don't like your performance or character." We all got the heads-up, so when people are going to be killed, you get that phone call or have that conversation. I think it's an amazing way to work because you're always on your toes. You can't let anything slip out in your performance or lead people on because you just don't know.
As the youngest member of the FBI team, did Mike's recent encounter with the followers prove he deserves to be there?
I think so. One hundred percent. From my perspective, Mike Weston is incredibly driven and incredibly smart and knows the case inside and out. He wasn't put there just because they needed someone on the case. Our perspective was always that although we may not see it, Mike is a very capable FBI agent. It was revealed in that fight that he could handle himself, that he was willing to make sacrifices for the case and that he was a tough guy. Even though he has that fanboy hero worship of Ryan Harding at the beginning, it doesn't mean he's not capable, not talented or not smart. For an audience, and for Ryan Harding, Weston really earns his way after withholding the information from the followers.
You've never done a big, physical brawl before. Was that as painful to film as it was to watch?
Yes. I'm not going to lie. The great thing is we actually had time to rehearse that scene. Obviously, it was a big story point. There's a ton of action on the show, but we wing it in the sense that there's choreographing and the director tells the coordinator what they want. As an actor, you have your say and what you're comfortable with or if you have any ideas. For this fight sequence, we had a specific fight coordinator, not just a stunt coordinator come in, but a guy who coordinates fights. We had about three days to rehearse. Not all day, but several hours over a couple of days. The hardest part was although you can't see it when you watch it, we shot in Brooklyn in the winter. When I read the scene, it was "interior warehouse." Then I had a conversation with Kevin Williamson where he's like, "You're wearing a long sleeve shirt and a jacket when you get kidnapped. Visually, it will be better if you're in T-shirts because you can see everything." I was like, "Yeah, I agree. Logistically, if I was wearing a jacket or shirt, he could pull it over my head. It makes more sense if we're in T-shirts and fighting." Little did I know the warehouse we were going into literally had the walls blown out. We were basically outdoors in the winter for 10 to 12 hours shooting that sequence in T-shirts. That was the painful part of it.
After recovering in the hospital, Mike is back next episode. How has this near-death experience at the hands of the followers affected him?
It's affected him both physically and psychologically. When we see Mike again, it's not as if, "Oh, well. He got in a fight and comes back looking fine." Mike wears these scars and these bruises for a long time. It's very startling to see Mike because he still had the crap kicked out of him. Physically, we see that on Mike. He's in pain, bruised and battered. Emotionally, this is the closest the case has come to him. The violence about this case has always been real. He lost Agent Reilly, who was his partner, early on. He knows what the stakes are. He comes back with a chip on his shoulder and a slightly different attitude about how to deal with the case and the followers. He's definitely a changed man when he comes back.
Would you like Mike to dish out some payback to Roderick (Warren Kole)?
Absolutely! Mike deserves a little bit of payback after that beating. The response I've gotten from the audience is they'd like to see a little payback as well.
There are only a handful of episodes left. What can you tease us about the last leg of the season?
What I will say, without giving too much away, is people rarely love the finale. Sometimes shows end on such huge cliffhangers that it's exciting because it pumps you up for the next season and I understand why they do that. But, sometimes there's a sense that there's no closure, no satisfaction about what happened in that season. The creative team really does a great job of not only tying up and giving some satisfaction, emotionally and character-wise, but also leaving it wide open for a second season. It's a huge episode.
It's been a while since you've been a regular on a TV series. How has it been staying with one character for an extended period?
I love it. I was ready for it, to be honest. TV was something I had been thinking about for a while, but it just hadn't come through. The opportunities or the right thing hadn't come along. I was ready because television in the last five years has taken huge steps. It was what I was excited about entertainment-wise ... the TV shows I was watching as opposed to the films I was going to see. Again, I read "The Following" and I went after it as hard as I could. But I like the idea of spending 15 hours with a character each season as opposed to two hours with a character for a film. There's something satisfying about jumping into a character for a short period of time and then walking away to the next thing. I love that too, but this is just a change of pace.
Catch "The Following" on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox in the U.S. and on CTV in Canada.