Aleks Paunovic Interview
Van Helsing regular Aleks Paunovic spoke to us about the series, his upcoming Planet of the Apes movie and more. Below, a transcript of that conversation.
Can you talk about what it has been like filming and starring in Van Helsing and give those who haven’t seen the show yet some insight into the series and your character?
Being involved in this project has been nothing but surreal and fantastic. I feel like I’m very lucky to be a part of this ensemble— we have such an amazing team. For people that have not seen “Van Helsing,” it’s about a struggle of two sides- humans and vampires. There’s a shift that happens in 2016 that brings the vampires from a subversive world into the forefront and the humans are trying to get it back. Vanessa is a reluctant hero. Her DNA can actually turn vampires back to human which makes for a very valuable commodity. Van Helsing is a post apocalyptic civil war within deep visceral characters and the struggle is real. Simon Berry and Neil Labute have created a world that’s been such a blast. I can’t say enough about the whole team I’m very excited to be a part of this and for us to get picked up for a second season has been fantastic. My character Julius is seriously next level bad news and it’s been so fun to play. He is one of the most ruthless characters I’ve ever played and I’m looking forward to season two so fans can see why Julius has become what he has become. No one has seen scripts yet but I’m hoping we see why he’s so ruthless.
Next summer you will be appearing in the box office film War for the Planet of the Apes. What was it like filming that movie and what, if anything, can you share about the basic premise of that film?
Being a part of Planet of the Apes has been a very special time in my life because I’ve always been a fan of the films. Even from the beginning the Charlton Heston one with Roddy McDowell—both legends, and now here I am, a big kid from Winnipeg Manitoba Canada being a part of the franchise. Surreal. Believe me I want to talk on and on about War For the Planet of the Apes but I can’t just yet. I’m bursting at the seems wanting to share more. When I get the go ahead let’s talk again. Lol.
Now let’s turn back time and talk about how you got your start in acting. You were performing on stage in your rock band when you were asked about auditioning for the HBO movie Heads. Had you thought about acting at that time or were you primarily focused on music?
Yeah, that was back in the day when music was my life. It was music and Boxing for me and acting wasn’t even on the radar. When someone asked me to come and give it a shot, I thought, why not?! I like to try things and be challenged. I think that comes from my years of boxing. I went into the audition and ended up booking the role. I was a fish out of water but the community was so welcoming. I became friends with the stunt coordinator and watched a lot of the actors. The wheels started turning and I thought to myself, this is something I want to give a shot. So I did. I’ve been fortunate that it’s worked out.
Given how busy you are with your acting career, do you get much time to spend on your music? If so, what can fans expect from you in the near future?
I wish I had more time for music. I think about the boys that I played with years back in Winnipeg, and a few years ago we had a reunion gig and It was like we didn’t even miss a beat. It was one of the best times I’ve had in my life. I jam a little bit with the guys from the TV show “The 100,” but that’s about it. Hoping to spend more time with it soon.
Can you talk about which musician or artist had the most impact on you?
I’m a huge Foo Fighters fan— not only because I dig their music but because of how Dave Growl, one of the best drummers in the world with one of the most popular bands (Nirvana), dealt with the tragedy and end of a band with the death of Kurt Cobain. When you watch him in interviews he’s joyful and gracious. For him to go on to FOO FIGHTERS, who have been together for over 10 years, and spread the love of music to span a career of 30 years makes me want to keep pushing in my art. We all have ups and downs but my perception of that dude is that he not only morned his friend but he continued with joy in his heart, and that is a tribute to his friend.
What was the best piece of advice you were given by a teacher, friend or mentor? And do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans; especially those who are hoping to break into acting?
The best piece of advice I was ever given was when I did a workshop with world renowned acting coach Larry Moss. It was for a room of about 200 people and I was doing a scene. I was nervous and scared and I was just trying to talk myself into having fun, and I wasn’t taking it as serious as I should have, because I thought just having fun was acting. He stopped my scene and recalled when he and I had spoken before. ”You said you played the bass in your band correct?” I nodded, smiling, then he said, “I have a feeling you played the bass rather poorly, and you would rather be a visual show than play well.” I said, “ Yeah, it was a metal band.” the crowd laughed a bit and so did Larry with his deep voice and yelled and hushed the whole room. “ HOW DARE YOU! How dare you give me a poorly played bass when you have an Orchestra inside you!?” We are sitting out here, paying good money to be affected by humanity and you rip all of us off by poorly playing a bass. You have an Orchestra son. I see it. Most people don’t have the Instruments you have. Don’t waste it. Work hard, work long, the rewards are there if you just trust. Now get off my stage.” That day changed my life.
You will be seen in the film Personal Effects – a film that you seem very proud to have been involved in. How challenging was the role and what can you share about working on that film?
I shot this film years ago with director David HOLLANDER who had become a good friend. I played a mentally challenged man that’s accused of a murder. It was tough because I usually play very strong characters and this was a very vulnerable, emotional man so I had to really tap into leaving my ego at home. I had to be really be vulnerable and open, and David HOLLANDER saw that he could work with me, and I was very lucky that he did because it was one of the best experiences of my career.
You have appeared in quite a number of sci-fi themed shows. Which one was the most fun to appear in, the most challenging to work on and the most difficult to film?
“Dead Rising” was the most fun because it was a lot of improv and just getting as crazy as possible. “Eve of Distraction” was the most challenging, because it was about a father that lost his family and he was just trying to do the right thing. “The 100” was the most difficult because we were outside all the time in the rain, and I had to go through 3 hours of make up. The coat I wore when wet added another 30 pounds and dragged on the ground so I was catching it on everything and people were stepping on it. lol. And learning the Grounder language on top of all of it.
Is there one genre you prefer working in more than any other or is it more about the role than the genre?
It’s always about the role, so it doesn’t matter on the genre. I’m loving playing multi-faceted characters. The challenge is what I always look for.
If you had a full 24 hours free to do whatever you wanted; who would you spend the day with and what would you do?
I would wake up, have coffee with Charlie Chaplin, go to the boxing gym with Muhammed Ali, have dinner with Marlon Brando and end with a night cap with Sophia Loren ;).
Do you have a hidden skill or talent that your fans would be surprised to learn about?
I can do a long distance dog bark—It even tricks dogs. No idea how I learned it it just happened. Ha. I love doing it on set, and the sound department has to stop because there’s a dog somewhere barking. Baaha. I’m such an ass.
Do you like to watch TV? Which shows are you currently watching?
I’m all about Ray Donavan
Do you have a dream project that you would like to work on one day; and if so, can you share what that project would be?
My dream gig would be a Game Of Thrones/ BraveHeart Mel Gibson character. So much emotion and nobility and character. That would be fun. Great questions!!! Thanks for the chat!