Aleks Paunovic started his acting career after he was discovered playing onstage in a heavy metal band. He was offered a role in the 1994 TV movie “Heads”, where he worked with Roddy McDowell. Once bitten by the acting bug, Aleks decided to combine his life-long love of boxing (he is a Canadian Champion in amateur boxing) with his newfound appreciation for acting and took the opportunity to head to Hollywood as a stunt actor.
Sidelined in Vancouver on his way to Hollywood shortly after the towers were attacked in 2001, Aleks settled in and embarked on an acting career that has spanned more than a decade. You may not familiar with Aleks’ name, but you have probably seen him more than once on your TV screens and at the movies.
Aleks has worked continuously since launching his career and has appeared in reoccurring roles on Battlestar Galactica, Gotta Grudge?, Artic Air, iZombie, The 100 and Continuum. In addition, Aleks can be seen as a guest star on Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Andromeda, The Hitchhiker, Psych, Smallville, and Supernatural. Aleks’ latest appearance on Supernatural will air tonight. The episode is titled ‘Beyond The Mat’ and he is playing the role of Gunnar Lawless.
I have to tell you that I had to re-watch your appearance on the 100…
(laughs) That’s quite the beard isn’t it?
Yeah, it is a little hard to tell who’s under all the hair, but your nose and your eyes give you away. That grounder make-up and hair makes it really hard to tell who anyone is.
I know, I know. I was shooting iZombie at the same time and they had me clean-shaven for iZombie and they were like ‘argh! We really liked your scruff beard but…. let’s just make you one!’ (laughs)
And that went well beyond a scruffy beard. How did you like playing The Candyman on iZombie?
I loved it! I thought it was super fun; it was an interesting role where there was not a lot said, but a lot emoted. The best part of it was that whole crew behind the scenes, that whole crew was just so amazing and fun. I’m life-long friends with those guys. I had a great time; the writing was fantastic and the show moved really quickly, even when we were shooting and it was just a pleasure to be on.
Now I was told that you’re pretty excited about your guest starring role on Supernatural tonight. What can you share with me about that experience?
The Supernatural role… it’s interesting because I’ve been on it three… this is my third time. I started out with Steve Boyum directing and just doing this teaser as an architect friend of the guest star. Then the next time I was on, the part was bigger and I had more fun with it and then this one was like the pinnacle for me it was just a fantastic arc through the episode of who this guy was, what he was going through, what his struggles are. I got to be physical in the episode with the wrestling aspect of it. It was just a dream because I was just being physical using my body along with the story arc of what I was going through and I was really, really happy with the role.
I used to watch professional wrestling with my nephews…
Perfect! You’re going to love it!
I took my nephews to WWE shows and everything so I can’t wait to see this.
That’s so great, that’s hilarious because Jensen plays quite the fangirl of my character so that was kind of fun to play around with and explore. Since the first episode I did, I think back in season 2, I became friends with those guys so every time we see each other in the city or at events it’s always been…they are literally some of the most gracious people in the industry that I’ve met. The show’s been on eleven years and they haven’t changed a bit. If anything they’re even more grateful for this success that they’ve had and the people that they’re around, so it’s a pleasure.
You know, everybody says that about them which is really kind of cool. You never hear anything other than just how nice and down to earth they are. No one ever says anything really negative about either one of them and I think that’s rare.
I think that’s a testament to the show because they’re best friends off camera and you can’t have that type of chemistry with two leads sustained for 11 years if you’re not those guys. What they’ve accomplished isn’t normal and it’s a testament to who they are and the friendship they have.
So you got to be physical during this episode which is one of the things you really liked. That stretches back to your boxing experience, right?
Yeah, and what was interesting to me…. I have three generations of boxers in my family and I competed at a high level and so when I see a ring it’s about boxing. When I was growing up and I’d see wrestling in the ring, I didn’t give it the respect that I gave something I grew up with. Then when I…. I didn’t mind watching it but I felt like ‘that shouldn’t be in that ring, it should be in something else’. But honestly, when Paul Lazenby, who I wrestle with in the episode, started helping me with the choreography, the second we started I was like ‘I get it now you guys! This is so much fun; this is SO much fun!’ (laughs) So I really take my hat off to the physicality that wrestlers go through and the respect that I give them about the entertainment aspect, and that’s what it is, but it’s not easy and it’s super fun. I can see why it’s addictive to be in it and to watch it. I take my hat off to Paul Lazenby for really showing me the job of that sport.
I always thought that yeah they’re pulling punches a bit and there’s a bunch of acting going on, but that’s still really physical. They really have to be in great shape to pull off those moves.
Definitely! Again I was shown that when Paul was helping me out. I looked at it as it was my own ignorance for not opening up my mind to that other sport when I was younger. I’m so happy I got a chance to really connect to it now because I think it’s just really a wonderful, wonderful sport.
Your CV is pretty amazing. It’s like you got to Vancouver and you never stopped working. That’s pretty impressive.
I’ve been pretty lucky with the timing of a lot of shows because that’s a lot of it too. You can book something but be on another show where they just can’t let you work. My percentage is pretty high with things working out. I’ve just been really fortunate with the community and the casting directors and the producers that I’ve met here and the relationships that I’ve built and them seeing that I can perhaps be involved in some way – I’ve been just really fortunate.
There is always something pretty special in finding yourself employed in something you love to do.
Bang on – nail on the head. Absolutely, for me, it’s been really rewarding because actually all the work that I’ve done and the relationships I’ve built has given me the opportunity to produce more and get involved in both film and television that maybe the audience hasn’t seen me in and stories that I would like to tell personally. I love playing so many difference characters…at the end of the day I’m a character actor and I love finding the truth in different characters. But there’s also moments where I’m now fortunate enough to produce something and create a character I really want to tell the story behind so that, this industry has also given me that as well.
Do you think that it was easier for you to get started in Vancouver as opposed to Hollywood/LA?
I do. There are so many things being shot here (Vancouver). Most things are cast primarily in LA, but that’s the top 2% of the show’s cast there – maybe 1% if that. The rest is then cast in Vancouver, probably to take advantage of the tax credit and the working industry here. So to be a part of the Vancouver community…. the percentages are that much higher to actually get on set and work. When I first started that was a huge thing for me. I just wanted to work regardless of where it was and understanding my place of being a character. I have my work visa and I go back and forth from Los Angeles to here and I stay in Los Angeles quite a bit, but the work always brings me back here.
There’s been a few projects where I was passionately involved in wanting to be a part of here in Vancouver where I ended up turning down gigs in the US because of what the character was in Vancouver, even though I may not have been financially the best decision, but character-wise it was the best decision for me. There have been a few shows and films that I took the integrity of the work I wanted to do over the financial aspect of it.
Of course, it’s got to be great when you get to be able to be in a position to do that. I think that that’s a goal of probably a lot of actors to have the luxury of choice rather than having to take everything that’s placed in front of you.
Yeah, and I thank this industry so much for me getting to this aspect of me having the chance to choose what I want to do and that’s been a blessing.
Of course, it helps that you have talent, I don’t think you can discount that entirely.
I totally hear you and I have all the confidence in my talent but I’m telling you right now that the talent pool in Vancouver, in Canada in general, is pretty deep so to actually be a part of something when everyone else is telling their story of a character differently because they’re using…. everyone’s got a different vessel to tell it from. But the talent pool is quite deep here so I’m really thankful for whatever work that I can get because there’s some amazing talent here.
One of the reasons I asked you to compare Vancouver to Los Angeles is that I remember back in the late 80’s/early 90’s – yeah, I’m old – when more shows and films were starting to be shot in Vancouver; I remember people kind of looking down their noses at those that were Vancouver based. It seems that since then and perhaps even starting then, there has been such high-quality work coming out of Vancouver that we’re really looking at Vancouver as Hollywood II in terms of production.
Yeah, for sure, it’s nicknamed Hollywood of the north and I think a lot has to do with, and I’m not sure exactly how to go about this, but some of those people looking down their noses at Vancouver are doing so because that’s where all the work is. Most people looking down at the Vancouver industry aren’t working in the Vancouver industry. (laughs) So it’s one of those things where you go ‘oh man, wow, Vancouver again!’ but when you’re here it’s a pretty special thing.
I’ve shot at a lot of places around the world. I’ve shot in China at the Great Wall, I’ve had great experiences in my career but honestly, there is nothing for me personally like shooting in Vancouver. I just love it here. It’s a beautiful place, it’s two hours away from Los Angeles, and it’s in the same time zone. So that’s why a lot of things come here because it’s that close and you can use this city for so many different time periods and seasons. I’m just really proud of it.
So, moving on…You’ve also got Van Helsing coming up, is there anything that you want to share? Anything you can share about the production?
I would love to share, but they’re supposed to do a media release in the next few days so I’m not too sure what I can share. Once the release happens, I’m more than happy to talk about it once the show starts airing if you want to have a chat about that.
Thanks so much. Going back to your CV, there are really quite a lot of Sci-Fi genre shows and movies in which you’ve been involved. Is that something you personally prefer or is it just the way your career has gone?
It’s basically been the way my career has gone. When I started in the industry I was never really a Sci-Fi fan, but working with the people in the industry here and how many Sci-Fi shows just happen to shoot here, I just became a fan. I became a fan of the roles… I became a fan of the people behind them, the creativity behind it. I’m very much a human interest piece type of actor, I mean I love human conflict and human struggles within a story and learning to incorporate that into the Sci-Fi world has been a joy as well as, learning all about the aspects of the Sci-Fi industry. So I grew into it as opposed to already being a fan which I think was quite a journey for me, going from something I didn’t know too much about to something that I love.
One of the things that occurs to me as I’m looking at Sci-Fi productions and the actors in them, is that you (as an actor) might actually be able to stretch your talent a little further because they’re asking you to portray some really not so ‘just out of the box’ characters. Right?
Right, yeah, it’s great, it just gives you the freedom to just get creative and build rather than just react. I’m a big fan of that. Especially with the people at The 100 and iZombie and the shows I’ve been a part of…Supernatural…just, uh, giving me the freedom to build a character within that human interest. It definitely gives me a reason of how I can portray a character through the tool box within and to get creative with things I couldn’t do when it’s not Sci-Fi. It’s pretty much a line to carry, so when you can incorporate both and get creative and make stuff up and have it resonate for an audience that’s the kind of gold coin in a bucket, you know?
It also seems like it is such a good time right now in terms of Sci-Fi shows being developed as opposed to when I was growing up where there was maybe one show if you were lucky. Now I think you could watch a Sci-Fi genre show every night if you wanted.
Yeah, the technology now with what we can shoot and how we can shoot it with vis effects and green screen allows all that to happen in a realistic, more believable way. Like The Flash and Arrow, great shows where you don’t get taken out of the story by cheesy special effects. The stunt teams on both of those shows are doing some amazing work that should definitely be recognized because it keeps everyone within the project, within the show when a stunt is done really well but is also extravagant and those guys are phenomenal.
Hopefully we’ll one day see some greater recognition of the talent that it takes to make these Sci-Fi/Horror genre shows. You were playing in a heavy metal band when you were discovered. What instrument did you play and do you still play?
I played bass guitar and I still play once in a while. Sometimes I’ll play with some of the cast in The 100. On Sundays, we have a little jam spot and sometimes I play with a friend of mine, Ed Quinn, who used to be on Eureka when I go to LA. So yeah, I still play a little bit.
Is there anything you wish you could do production-wise? Let’s say I give you free rein, no budget concerns, anything goes?
I think I definitely want to direct – I’d also want to be in it, but I’d definitely want to direct. I would want it to be an ensemble with all of my big dude friends, Ed Quinn, Victor Webster, Tahmoh Penikett, myself, Michael Trucco. We’re all over six feet and I think that’s just a super hero group right there. (Laughs) I would love to tell something almost like the A-Team type of vibe, that’s something I would love, love to do because I’d get to work with my best friends in the world and we get to just play. That to me would be great.
Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, will you share with us what you do or have done that qualifies you to Talk Nerdy?
I would probably say breaking down boxing matches. Because usually people love to watch fights, but I like to break down the specific movements. When I’m sitting down with my friends I’m always like ‘whenever he takes two steps to the right, he drops his left hand’ and then they’ll go ‘would you just watch the fight already?’ So I nerd out when I’m watching boxing and talk too much about what’s going to happen and why this person is going to be doing this specific move. I usually get my boys going ‘hey, hey, I’d like to watch this!’ That’s really it.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
Yes, there’s this movie that I recently produced and starred in called Puppet Killer along with the Soska twins, who are horror film legends, as well as Richard Harmon from The 100. The film is an homage to horror films with Lisa Ovies directing.
Find out more about Puppet Killer at IMdB.
You can follow Aleks on social media at: