Star of the recently renewed hit Fox series The Following and the upcoming film X-Men: Days of Future Past, Shawn Ashmore is having one hell of a year. We sit down with the actor to talk social media, his character FBI agent Mike Weston’s ever-evolving character traits in the second season of The Following and more.
Playboy.com: You’re really starting to explore another part of your character this season after having a little bit of a rough year, with killing a detainee and losing so many people that were close to you in the first season. What can we expect to see from Mike this season?
Ashmore: We picked up about a year after the events of the first season’s last episode. Mike has had about a year to stew over losing two partners and having his life almost taken several times, so when we find Mike in the beginning of the second season, he is in a pretty dark spot. His position at the FBI is compromised; he’s not sure where he’s even at from a job perspective, let alone personally. So Mike is starting from a much different place this time, as opposed to the first season where he was very green and overly excited to be a part of all of this [the FBI]. Knowing this show, we don’t let up, so it’s pretty clear that it will continue to be a rough ride for Mike!
Playboy.com: That must be cool as an actor, though, to know you’re going to be able to play around with your character.
Ashmore: It is. This character truly has this huge arc to play with, starting from what we did last season and continuing from there. Halfway through last season I realized that my character is really just a mirror of what happened to Ryan Hardy [Kevin Bacon]. Mike’s journey, emotionally, is what happened to Ryan, so we get to see that play out in every last detail for the audience. There’s a lot of range in this character, starting off from that innocent young agent and then transitioning into a version of Ryan Hardy, to a certain extent, and that’s what’s interesting this season. What’s Ryan going to do? He sees what’s happening to Weston, and how is he going to react? Can he help him from falling down this rabbit hole he’s going down? So it has been a really interesting season.
Playboy.com: You’re really connected to fans on Twitter. Is it strange for you to have such immediate responses from fans while the show airs?
Ashmore: It’s unique. Television is one of the only things that can give you that huge community. It airs live, people are engaging with the show socially now on Twitter. I really enjoy it. It’s not something that they make us do contractually or anything like that. I just think that the reason we get to make this show is because there are people out there that really love it. As an actor and performer you make things for people to see, and so it’s very interesting to watch what your audience will react to. There have been moments, reading the script, that I would guarantee that people will react to, and they have, but there are certain moments and twists that [you think] they would react to in bigger ways that they don’t necessarily, so you get a guide as to what people enjoy about the show and what works for them and what they’re not too sure about. For me it’s more of a tool to gauge how we’re doing as storytellers, and I like to interact online with our audience because, again, the only reason that I can continue to do this job and play this character that I love is because we have those people out there that are watching us. So I really do enjoy interacting with people and just to see what they think about the characters, the story and where we’re at. It’s fun for me!
Playboy.com: I am so interested by how social media is shaping the television, film and music industries.
Ashmore: Some critics argue that if you’re live-tweeting during the show, you’re not really paying attention to it. I understand that sort of criticism, but I also feel that a lot of people can do two things at once! [laughs] They can watch and digest and enjoy a show and during commercials send out a tweet. So yeah, I think it’s an interesting way to interact socially, and again, I think it ties back to the experience. Watching a television show, we will never have that communal experience we have in a movie theater, you know, that reaction where everyone jumps, or everybody laughs at the same joke. The energy of that crowd around you feeds your experience, and that feels like the social interaction on Twitter—you’re comparing your reaction to likeminded people’s at the same time. To me that sort of feels the same. We always want to reach out and have a communal experience when we’re being entertained. It started with theater, then films, and now it’s like that with TV. I think Twitter creates that community atmosphere.
Playboy.com: What’s in your…
Closet: I’m big into shoes, so my latest thing are these John Varvatos Converse that I love. I take them everywhere!
Suitcase: I travel a lot, so I need my technology. Phone, iPad, cords and every single adapter possible because I’m never really sure what country I’m going to end up in! I watch TV on my iPad, I read on my trips and I’m basically totally paperless now so I need my technology!
Playboy.com: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Ashmore: I started acting when I was young. When I was a kid I was given some advice by an older actor who is very experienced, he’s kind of a character guy, and he said, “Do you really want to do this?” and I asked what he meant and he said, “As a job? Do you want to do this?” and I thought for a second and said, “Yeah, I think so.” And he said, “Well, think on it and think on it again and then pursue it, because it’s not going to be easy.” And that was the truth! But I really did think long and hard about it. I was like 12 years old when he told me that and it stuck with me. It can be a very difficult career because you face a lot of rejection, but I always think back on the time when I wasn’t getting work or really struggling and because I really thought about it and because I really made the decision knowing the pros and the cons, I know that it was the right decision and this is truly what I love to do.
Playboy.com: What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned?
Ashmore: Perseverance. Whatever you want to do, whether it’s love, work, any sort of skill you’re trying to learn, you need to have perseverance. Keep at it! That’s all there is in life, you’ve got to keep at it!
Playboy.com: You guys were filming X-Men: Days of Future Past in Montreal last year. What was your favorite place to hang out while you were in the city?
Ashmore: We were in Montreal for about seven or eight weeks. I was staying in the Old Port, which I absolutely love. I grew up in Toronto, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Montreal over the years. We kept going to a restaurant called Le Club Chasse et Pêche and it was so good. We spent a lot of time there; we had some amazing meals and great conversations. Everyone was staying around that area so we always ended up communing there. But yeah, the food there is unbelievable!
Playboy.com: You’ve had an incredible acting career so far. Is there anything you’re still itching to do?
Ashmore: I want to do a western! Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actors and directors, so a western is something I’ve always wanted to do. A good western is so entertaining to me, there’s something about it that’s fascinating. Aside from the storytelling aspect and the entertainment, I think it’s a fascinating time in history. So maybe one day I’ll be on a horse with my six-shooter. That would be kind of fun!