[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
This holiday season, we get bonus Killjoys people! First, we had Luke Macfarlane in October with Chateau Christmas, then Rob Stewart Friday night in Too Close For Christmas, and now we get Aaron Ashmore Monday night on Lifetime in The Santa Squad.
In the film, he plays Gordon, a single dad to two young daughters whose annual tradition of outsourcing Christmas preparations pays unexpected dividends when Allie (Rebecca Dalton), the design consultant assigned to him by “The Santa Squad,” goes above and beyond the established preference for minimalism and breathes not only Christmas, but a renewed sense of family, into his home. Haven‘s Jayne Eastwood also stars in her second holiday movie this year (after Heart of the Holidays).
A couple of weeks ago, I caught with Ashmore by phone to chat about the movie, Locke & Key, and where else you can see him soon.
The Santa Squad had an unusual production schedule, initially kicking off at the beginning of the year, pre-COVID, and then returning to finish up this summer with a whole new set of rules in place. “When you sign on to do Christmas movies, you know what you’re getting into. Getting a chance to play a dad was really exciting because I don’t even really remember if I played a dad before I actually was dad,” he shares.
”Before, [I might have thought], ‘I don’t know if I can do this. Are people gonna buy me as a dad?’ Now, I know I can do this. Granted, the girls in the movie are a little bit older than my girls. It was really fun and the girls are amazing.”
“We began shooting [last winter] and were only about a week or ten days into production and it shut down and then we came back in July to finish the film. It’s very strange to be starting when it’s winter and then coming back and putting the costumes on and it being 30 degrees Celsius. It was a very different experience from the first half of the film.”
“It took a few days to wrap your head around it because everything had changed, from everybody being masked and having to keep your distance from people to the way they serve food to where you can eat your lunch. Doing your hair and makeup now is a whole different thing because everybody has to be gowned up and they have to change their gloves.”
“As far as the day to day of working, it felt very strange for the first couple of days. But I was also very excited to get back to work because I’d been sitting around for four months and, at least here in Ontario, where we were shooting the film, the cases had dropped significantly by that time [and] there were only a few really in the entire province. I felt very grateful to be working and being able to finish the movie because it was a real bummer to have to shut it down halfway through.”
Ashmore says it helped that everyone had already met. “I think starting a brand new project off in the pandemic would be difficult, so it was nice that everybody knew each other, even for the sense of being able to know who you’re working with,” he explains “So much of your experience is everybody just being masked up on set. So it was nice to just be able to know everybody’s faces and have met everybody ahead of time.”
In the film, Ashmore’s character, Gordon, is a businessman first and dad second, until Allie arrives, and he says he enjoyed the family scenes. “I really liked working with the girls and Rebecca Dalton when all of us worked together. It felt like this fun little family,” he points out.
“Everything’s supposed to be clicking with this little family and everybody gets along. Anytime that we had scenes together with all of us, I really enjoyed those. I thought they were well-written and it was just nice to kind of play the Christmas spirit.”
Canadian audiences just caught Ashmore in an episode of Private Eyes, which will eventually end up in the US on ION. “It’s funny because we actually shot that episode over a year ago. I hadn’t met Jason briefly before, so that was very cool. He was super down to earth and funny and just a really nice guy to work with,” he recalls.
“And Cindy Samson and I had done a horror movie together called The Shrine and spent a couple of months together working ten years ago. So it was nice to see her and great to catch up. It was a really, really fun guest star role, in and out and part of the case of the week.”
Ashmore also completed a feature film called The Retreat last year. “It’s about two gay couples who go out for a retreat in the woods. There are some people who live out there who are not happy to see them and a bit of a psychological thriller horror movie [ensues],” he points out.
“So I’ll just say that I got to play a bad guy. I think it’s going to be a really cool movie. It’s an interesting take on that kind of horror movie, slightly different and with a little bit of an intelligent twist on the genre.”
Ashmore’s fellow Killjoys nerd, Kelly McCormack wrote and stars in another feature, Sugar Daddy, which opened the Whistler Film Festival this month and is now streaming through the end of the month for Canadian viewers. Ashmore appears in the film along with another Killjoys alumni, Rob Stewart and a who’s who of #CdnTV faves. “That was fantastic. There’s a bunch of great Toronto actors and Canadian actors who Kelly got to be in the film because she’s just really well-respected and she knows everybody,” he says.
“That was really cool to see the amazing cast she got together. We had so much fun. I got to play a very different character, a different relationship between the characters of Zeph and Johnny. There may be a little romance in the movie, too. It’s been quite an accomplishment to produce and to star in a film and actually get it made. And it’s obviously gotten some attention [from] festivals, so that’s pretty cool.”
This fall, Ashmore shot a short film called Things We Feel But Do Not Say for another Killjoys colleague “On the first season of Killjoys, there was a producer named Lauren Grant who is super cool. We lived in the same neighborhood in Toronto. She produced The Retreat and Sugar Daddy, as well,” he explains.
“We have a very good working relationship and we’ve worked together a ton and she always has been very good to me when there’s parts and things that she thinks that I would be right for. She kind of pitches me for them. And this short film was hers that she’d written and was planning to direct.”
“She just called me and said, ‘I really want to do this and was hoping that you would want to be a part of it once you read the script.’ And I did. And I thought it was a very interesting short, and so we shot that just a few days before we started shooting Locke & Key this year.”
“I really liked doing short films because it’s just a chance to do something that maybe you wouldn’t normally do. And I like working with people who are trying to do different things and Lauren hadn’t directed before, or if she had, it had been quite a while. So this is her stepping up and giving it a shot. I think she was a great director. And I’m looking forward to seeing the film.”
“It’s about a woman who has a miscarriage and what that’s like and how we don’t talk about those things, really. [Instead], we internalize the things that are sometimes hardest for us. And that’s the general premise.”
Ashmore is currently filming Season 2 of Locke & Key and was excited to come back as a series regular this time. It’s good news for us, too, because we’ll get to see more of Duncan this go around vs. in Season 1, when he didn’t get a ton of screen time. “When I went on the show [for Season 1], I was a big fan of the comic books, so I was very, very happy to be part of it at all,” he says.
“But [by season’s end, I thought], ‘I hope that there’s a season two. I hope if I do a good job, maybe they’ll give me a little bit more to do.’ And, that’s what’s happened. So I’m very happy about that.”
The Santa Squad premieres Monday at 8 pm/7c on Lifetime and repeats at midnight/11c and throughout the rest of the holiday season and is streaming online at Lifetime. In Canada, it will air at 3 pm ET on Christmas Day on Citytv. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos Courtesy of Lifetime.
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