Longtime comic book fans will be more than familiar with the plethora of superheroes that have been created over the years within the pages of DC Comics. Along with these do-gooders have come several equally recognizable villains who have used their natural as well as manmade abilities to try to defeat our heroes. Most have failed, while a few have, unfortunately, triumphed. In the two-hour Smallville made-for-TV movie Absolute Justice, a cold-hearted baddie called Icicle (a.k.a. Cameron Mahkent) takes on Clark Kent and some of his super-powered allies as well as members of The Justice Society of America. Canadian-born actor Wesley MacInnes was cast to fill Icicle’s frosty shoes, although at first he was not quite sure what character he would be playing.
“Last October, my agent called me about an audition for Smallville, but it wasn’t specific, though, for Icicle,” notes the actor. “I think for this [ninth] season, what they [the show's producers] have been trying to do is bring in a lot of classic DC characters, and they’ve also tried to keep the identity of these new characters under wraps. So when I got the audition sides they were for someone named Troy Crawford, who was in no way related to Icicle.
“I went in and read for that part. I thought it went pretty well, but after two weeks passed and I didn’t hear anything I figured I didn’t get it. Then, however, I received a call from the show’s producers, who wanted to meet with me, so I went down to the Smallville offices in Vancouver and that’s when they told me, ‘OK, we’re giving you the part of Cameron, and he’s an albino villain with ice powers.’ I said, ‘But I didn’t audition for that,’ and they went on to tell me, ‘We changed all the characters for the audition.’ I think it was the same for Stargirl [Britt Irvin]and Hawkman [Michael Shanks].None of us read for the character that we ended up being cast in, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when we found out.”
Cameron Mahkent is the offspring of the original Icicle, European physicist Dr. Joar Mahkent, who, after creating a gun that could instantly freeze any moisture in the air, became an archenemy of the Green Lantern in the DC Comic books. The scientist’s constant use of his freeze gun eventually altered his genetic structure, allowing him to biologically pass on his freezing ability to his son. This power also resulted in Cameron’s skin developing its albino appearance. His character’s unusual looks coupled with his special abilities meant that MacInnes had to undergo a make-up process as well as some fight choreography training prior to going in front of the camera.
“I had a ball with the fight prep. That’s my kind of thing,” he enthuses. “They have a very talented group of [stunt] folks on Smallville and they took us through things piece by piece. We started off practicing with wooden poles, and then it got a little bit tougher when they gave us the actual props we would be working with on the day of filming. I was using this four-foot long icicle spear, which was really heavy, and Britt Irvin as well as her stunt double used this long Stargirl staff with a glowing crystal on the end of it. If you happened to hit the crystal during a fight sequence it would fly off the end of the staff and we’d have to stop filming while they stuck it back on,” jokes MacInnes.
“As for the make-up, that was the most extensive [make-up] process I’d ever been through. My first day there, they told me that they had to bleach my hair, which was fine. Then the episode kept expanding from one, to two, and finally to a TV movie. So I went through 11 rounds of bleaching, and during the last two weeks of shooting some of my hair started falling out. Fortunately, after we wrapped, it all grew back,” says the actor with a chuckle. “When it comes to the actual make-up, they [the make-up department] put a couple of layers of this sort of paste on my face, followed by a few layers of paint which was airbrushed on in order to give my skin a sparkle-like look. I also wore contact lenses to change the color of my eyes.”
Once he booked the Smallville role and before filming began, MacInnes made a point of finding out all he could about his character. “I did some digging around on the Internet and read any comic books I could get my hands on,” he says. “Basically, Cameron’s mother died during childbirth and he inherited his powers from his father. So he grew up without a mom, and The Justice Society of America eventually caught up with his dad, who was a villain, and more or less beat the hell out of him and put him in a coma.
“So my character had a pretty lonely life, and as far as playing him, some of the challenges stemmed from the fact that he was this super villain in a comic book-type show. There is a level of surrealism and a certain cheesiness to some of the lines that I think fit the show perfectly. At the same time, I wanted to make Cameron a guy who viewers could sympathize with. However, I knew that would be difficult because of the way he was written, given the number of characters he was killing off and the things he was saying.
“I really wanted to try, though, because I feel that he has quite a touching story. When you look at Cameron’s life you can understand why he ended up this way. My character hasn’t had a good run of luck and he blames The Justice Society of America. And they are to blame, but the thing is they were in the right. So it was a matter of trying to balance being the villain - and at times an over-the-top villain – and still being able to come back down to Earth with the more sentimental scenes, particularly those with his father, and play them convincingly.”
In Absolute Justice, Cameron Mahkent is on a mission to kill the members of The Justice Society of America, who he blames for his father’s vegetative state. MacInnes’ debut in front of the Smallville cameras is one he will not soon forget.
“The first scene I shot is where Cameron walks into his father’s hospital room, says one line while standing over his dad, who’s lying there in a coma, and sheds a tear,” recalls the actor. “I was so nervous. I had never worked with any of these actors and I was supposed to stand there and cry. And once I got the contact lenses in, I realized that there was a problem because they dried my eyes up so much that there was no way I’d be able to shed a tear.
“I remember walking on-set that day and thinking, ‘My God, I can say the dialogue, I can look rather upset, but I’m not going to be able to cry.’ Then I was told that they were going to add in a CG [computer-generated] tear later on because they wanted an icicle tear to come out of Cameron’s eye. So things turned out great, and I was actually glad we did that scene right off the bat as it helped set the tone for a very positive work experience.”
While Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) are busy investigating the death of Sylvester Pemberton/The Star-Spangled Kid (Jim Shield), Icicle manages to find and murder Wesley Dodd/Sandman (Ken Lawson) as well. Unknown to Clark or Chloe, The Justice Society is trying to lure Icicle out into the open, and Hawkman chastises the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) for interfering with their efforts. Before Icicle kills him and steals his helmet (along with the powers that go along with it), Doctor Fate (Brent Stait) convinces Clark that they are all on the same side. The superheroes subsequently band together to take down Icicle in a climactic battle in The Watchtower. It is Hawkman who wields the final blow that stops their enemy in his tracks, but it was not an easy feat to accomplish.
“Michael Shanks was dressed in his Hawkman costume, including these massive wings, and on wires for most of the day, ” says MacInnes. “At one point, his character is supposed to fly down, swing his mace behind Icicle’s head and knock him out. They explained to us that, ‘You’ve got to time this just right – Michael you have to swing your mace, and Wes, you’ve got to hit the crash mat so that it looks good on camera.’
“I had my contacts in and was wearing the Doctor Fate helmet which had lights inside it that directly hit my eyes, so I couldn’t see a thing. Meanwhile, Mike was on wires and wearing the big Hawkman mask with eye coverings, and for this scene they used the coverings that he couldn’t easily see through. So Mike is basically blind and flying towards me swinging a mace. They’re telling us, ‘OK, just time it right,’ and Mike and I are killing ourselves laughing because there is no way we can do this. We literally couldn’t see each other. In the end, one of the stunt guys had to call out, ‘One, two and three.’ Mike swung, and I went down.
“There was another scene prior to this that was just as tricky to shoot and kind of funny in the moment. It’s where Icicle stabs Doctor Fate in the back. Brent was wearing his Doctor Fate costume, which looked great on-camera, but the poor guy was walking around in this tight leather outfit and a helmet, so he could hardly move and barely see. In the scene, Doctor Fate collapses and Brent had to be helped up in-between takes because his movements were so restricted. Again, what translates to the screen can be challenging to pull off, but in both these cases good for a laugh, too, no doubt about it.”
Absolute Justice was initially slated to be two individual episodes before subsequently becoming a two-hour movie. The first half, originally titled Society, was directed by Smallville director of photography Glen Winter, while part two, which was known as Legends, was directed by the show’s leading man, Tom Welling. “I really enjoyed working with both Glen and Tom, but for completely different reasons,” explains MacInnes. “Glen comes from a cinematography background, so you would do a take and his direction would be, ‘OK, you’ve got to move your head two inches to the left, and you’ve got to swing your arm a little bit wider this way.’ He was looking at the picture and how it was going to come through on the screen, and that really shows in his half of the episode. There are some shots that took a long time to get, but look amazing.
“Because Tom comes from an acting background, he had insights from a performance standpoint. There was a point in the final fight that was giving me a great deal of trouble on the day of filming. It’s where I’m wearing the Doctor Fate helmet and I have to do a spinning jump that knocks our heroes backwards and all over the place. I had to jump into the air, do a bit of a 360, then land and have my feet hit the ground as all the other actors are pulled back on wires. What was making it tough, again, was not being able to see and wearing a restrictive costume.
“It was a real timing issue and we screwed it up a couple of times. But then Tom came over to me and said, ‘It doesn’t really matter when your feet hit the ground. Just make sure that your arms shoot out and you act like you’ve hit the ground at the right time.’ That piece of advice, which he probably picked up from doing the series for nine years, made the difference. We did the next take, got it, and wrapped. So those little tips from Tom were invaluable.
“All the guest-stars on Smallville say this and I’ve got to say it as well – they’re a well-oiled machine on that show. The cast has amazing chemistry off-screen and it’s the same type of chemistry onscreen. They’re a great bunch of folks as well as actors, and working with them was in some ways overwhelming. I first began watching the program when I was in seventh or eight grade, and to all of a sudden be stepping on that set and having to interact with these people, well, it definitely took me a second or two to adjust. It helped, though, having the other guest-stars in the episode. All of us were new to the set and trying to feel out our characters, so it made things a little less daunting.”
Although Icicle had his own agenda with regard to The Justice Society of America, he was, in fact, working for a clandestine organization called Checkmate. With the help of John Jones/Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris), Clark and the others are able to defeat Icicle and he ends up a prisoner of Checkmate. His fate is left in the hands of one of its operatives, Amanda Walker (Pam Grier), who reveals to Icicle that he was just being used by her organization. She then kills him.
“Pam Grier is quite an acting legend and I really enjoyed working with her,” says MacInnes. “My character’s death scene was especially fun to shoot. The only thing was that he’s supposed to be in restraining clamps, and when I shook the chair around, they’d break off and would have to be repaired. But no matter how much glue they used, it didn’t have time to set, so the clamps were flying all over the place.
“Tom Welling was directing us and he just let me and Pam run with it and gave us a lot of room to play with things. It’s not a big deal to those watching, but at the very end when Amanda pulls the gun on Icicle, the way it was originally written, my character withdrew and sort of cowered in the chair. Tom said, ‘I don’t think he’d do that. Wes, change it up. Do whatever you want, just add something,’ So we totally flipped things around and I leaned into the gun and said to Pam, ‘Come on, shoot me.’ And that’s what they ended up going with in the final cut, which was neat.”
A native of Calgary, Alberta, MacInnes first broke into the entertainment business playing in a band for nine years with a few of his friends. “We all moved out to Vancouver and went to school at the University of British Columbia,” says the actor. “At the same time, we played music and recorded some albums, That was my goal back then and it still is. That band isn’t together any more, but I’m still recording music and looking at that as a viable option. I got back into acting about halfway through university and started taking theater classes. It was only about a year-and-a-half ago that I began going out for movie and TV auditions. I hadn’t done any acting since high school and realized how much I missed it. And I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Prior to Smallville, the actor appeared in the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie A Dog Named Christmas. He also had a small role in the pilot for the CW Network series The Vampire Diaries. “That was pretty cool, and looking back at it now, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic,” he says. “I got to the studio and they put me in a tiny little trailer with just a chair, but it was fantastic because I’d never experience that before. When I got on-set, I literally had to walk out of a washroom, almost collide with the lead actress, say, ‘Whoa, pants down, chick,’ and then walk out of the frame. There’s nothing special about that, but I’ll never forget those words. To this day, whenever I walk out of a washroom, my friends will say, ‘Whoa, pants down, chick,’” laughs the actor.
Currently, MacInnes is finishing up recording a solo album, which is set to be released later this year. He is also looking forward to filming a TV pilot. “A film company from Norway is expanding into the States and they’re shooting a pilot in the fall,” says the actor. “They saw my work on Smallville and want me to play the lead.
“The pilot is called The Valentines, at least that’s the title right now, and they’re selling it as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The O.C. It’s a Sci-Fi show and I’m really excited about it. They sent me the pilot script and it’s a very interesting and mysterious story with a cliffhanger-type ending. I don’t want to throw out any names because I don’t know if they’ve officially signed on yet, but they’ve got a couple of other actors who you will have definitely heard of playing some of the bigger roles in the project.”
Unlike many jobs, acting is full of daily unexpected twists and turns for MacInnes, and he is more than happy with that. “Even if you’re working on something for a couple of months or even a year, it’s not going to be the same thing every day,” he says. “There will always be new challenges to face, and you’re playing a different person with each role. It’s like opening a whole new can of worms and I think that’s what I like most about acting, the fact that it’s never boring.”
As noted above, photo by Jack Rowand and copyright of Warner Bros. Television Entertainment or courtesy of/copyright of The Promotion People, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
Tags: Absolute Justice, Allison Mack, Amanda Walker, Brent Stait, Britt Irvin, Cameron Mahkent, Checkmate, Chloe Armstrong, Clark Kent, DC Comics, Doctor Fate, Dr. Joah Mahkent, Entertainment, Glen Winter, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Icicle, Jim Shield, John Jones, Justin Hartley, Martin Manhunter, Michael Shanks, Pam Grier, Phil Morris, Sandman, Science Fiction, Smallville, Stargirl, Sylvester Pemberton, The Green Lantern, The Justice Society of America, The Star-Spangled Kid, The Watchtower, Tom Welling, TV, Wesley Dodd, Wesley MacInnes