10 THINGS – Aleks Paunovic
With your athletic skills as an amateur boxing champion, it’s very likely that you would be on your way to a career in sports. What made you transition into acting?
It’s true, I would have. Baseball and boxing were my things, but it was boxing that shaped me. My father, grandfather and uncle, were all champion boxers in the old Yugoslavia, so naturally, I had to grow up with it. It was always a part of my life. Even as a teenager, playing in my band, I would sneak off and go spar at boxing gyms. The guys didn’t like it too much, because if I hurt my hand, they were out of a job. So, I did it for fun mostly. Then, after the band broke up, I decided to go for it and have my Pop as my coach. I really enjoyed our time, but then, I got injured at the Pre Pan Am games in a boxing match, and that recovery period, in part, led to me really re-thinking my journey. I always knew I wanted to tell stories. I feel like sports is mental, physical, and shapes character with so much humility wrapped up in confidence. I found it compelling, and acting is in the same world. I wanted to recreate those emotions and feelings in people, by telling stories.
What actors influenced your decision and which ones have had the most impact on your career?
I’m more about the performances, than the actual actor. I think that’s why I love character actors so much. They are chameleons. But, I would say the film, “Rocky”, for sure had a massive impact on me and influenced what I’m doing. But, at the time I didn’t know it. I’m not gonna lie, I love anything Tom Hardy and Anthony Hopkins do.
Besides acting, you also express your creativity through music. What more can you tell us about how you got started and what you have coming up in that space?
Well, even though I played sports, it was music and playing in bands that was my creative outlet growing up. It was always about music and live performing for me. Writing songs and figuring out where the songs work best in our lives, was always story telling. I began working with a great friend of mine that was one of the most gifted creative men I’ve ever been in contact with. And, he showed me how to express more.
I actually got my start in acting when a casting director watched me play one night with my band and asked me to come in the next day and audition. I ended up getting the gig. That was the start. The bug bit me, right there.
Have you been able to incorporate your music with acting, whether for film or television?
Actually, years ago, I did an indie film called “Taming Tammy”, and it was about a boxer who played guitar and fell in love. A very “Taming of the Shrew” feel. But, that was years ago. I learned a lot from it. But man, I would love to do a Rock movie. Playing bass in a rock band. Let’s bring back the old days! Man, do I have a script in my head. Haha.
Back to acting, you seem to have a knack for the sci-fi space. Either that, or the genre simply loves you. What roles do you tend to gravitate to?
It’s funny, I never was a SyFy guy until I started acting. What I love about it, is that you get to create your own ideas of a characters, and create the way a character walks, looks, all of that. There’s so much freedom in the SyFy world. I feel like I gravitate to it, but it also pulls me in–and I don’t mind one bit.
How were you first introduced to the series, Van Helsing, on SyFy, and why were you excited to take on this project?
Simon Barry has become a close friend of mine. I knew of him and his reputation as being one of the sweetest dudes out there, and it was true when I worked for him in “Continuum”. When he was dubbed to cast “Van Helsing” and Neil Labute jumped on board, I think the whole SyFy industry wanted in. I just ended up being really fortunate that they wanted me to be a part of it. If my job was to get coffee for them, I would have done it. They’re great dudes and stupidly talented. I’m learning so much.
On the show, you play the role of Julius. What more can you tell us about your character and why you enjoy playing him on screen?
I LOVE JULIUS!! I’m so lucky to play this vampire. Julius is a little bit of a rouge; his thirst for power is almost as potent as his thirst for blood. He doesn’t WANT to rule the vampires he NEEDS to. The dichotomy between him and Demitri (who’s a more level headed in the long game of it, thinks ahead type of vampire) is amazing. We are polar opposites and that lends to some interesting exchanges.
What can viewers expect to see from Julius this season and the series itself?
It’s a ride! There are a bunch interesting story lines to follow: the humans, the Ancients, Julius’ Vampires. Simon said it best…it’s a post- apocalyptic Civil war. The characters are so well flushed and they are compelling and interesting. With the world of Syfy and the story being thick and dark, Simon Barry and Neil Labute are a perfect match for this.
Here’s a curve ball for you. When it comes to fashion, who are your favorite designers and styles?
Whoa!! That’s a curve ball alright. Lol. I’m a big dude, so Hugo Boss has always been good to me.
Besides Van Helsing, what other projects do you have coming up?
I’m really excited to be a part of the new Planet of the Apes franchise “War for the Planet of the Apes.” I can’t say much, but people will be blown away. What a gift it was to work with that cast and crew. I’m also really proud of a short film that I executive produced and starred in, called “Ganjy”. Its about an ex-boxer with Pugilistic Dementia, that’s at the end of the line and his old boxer friends show up to help. It’s a story about friendship.
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Photos: Courtesy Syfy & Dennys Ilic