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North End actor living large

North End product making splash in Hollywood, Vancouver

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A North End raised actor is making his mark on the silver screen and TV with roles in such projects as I Spy, Human Target, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Supernatural and Stargate SG-1.

Aleks Paunovic’s first break into the world of acting reads like something out of a Hollywood script.

"I was playing in a band on stage and got asked to audition for a role by a casting director," said the 40-year-old actor.

The role was a minor part in the 1993 HBO film Heads starring Jon Cryer and Jennifer Tilly.

"It was for one line ‘built for comfort.’ That was it," he said, adding he felt no pressure during his first the audition.

"The experience was so new to me, that’s likely why I got the role."

It wasn’t long before Paunovic relocated from Winnipeg to Vancouver to be closer to both the Canadian and Hollywood film industries.

In addition to his onscreen work, he also found initial success doing stunts. However it was not long before he looked to jettison stunts from his resume.

"I wanted to understand the craft of acting and teachers and acting coaches helped me with this," he says, noting University of Winnipeg theatre instructor Rick Skene was an early influence.

Skene, who was a stunt co-ordinator when he met Paunovic, says it is Paunovic’s dedication to the craft of acting that has impressed him most.

"The guy has great discipline and takes the work very seriously," Skene says.

"He’s got a great talent and if he gets the slightest shot he is headed for big things."

Paunovic has already hit the big time in some respects. His sturdy 6-foot-5 frame casts a pretty imposing shadow. He admits that it can sometimes be difficult to convince people to look past his size and see him as something more than an imposing thug or bad guy.

"Sometimes, size really is a hindrance, but there are roles I’m considered for automatically because of my size as well," he says.

"In other cases, actors are cast purely due to the shots that will be happening in the film. The lead’s best friend can’t be towering over him and it doesn’t make for good composition or frame to have the lead always looking up, or always looking down, for that matter."

Paunovic says he remains appreciative of every opportunity he gets to be in front of the cameras.

"With huge things like a film like I Spy, it is great to see a set and production that is big time, firing on all cylinders," he says. "It was another great experience on Battlestar Galactica with such a cohesive team behind the camera and in front of it. With independent work I’ve gotten to play some great parts, that if they were a mainstream film, would go to the bigger names."

One of his most challenging roles to date was his role in the 2009 independent film Personal Effects starring Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. He add to put on an additional 65 pounds for his role as Tom Friedinger.

"The weight gain was something I came up with as I was working on character. I came out of the gym and was going to do some character work and I felt too strong (for the role). I sat down with the director and he said go for it."

Despite getting to eat all kinds of pizza and ice cream, the experience wasn’t great.

"It was not the best experience of my life, but in the environment of acting I was quite happy. It took me awhile to lose the weight. I dropped the first 30 or 40 OK but the last 20 were a journey."

He is currently working on developing a short film The Hostage and is looking at a 3-D project. He plans to return to Winnipeg this summer to visit family and friends and says it is a goal of his to work on a film that shoots in his hometown.

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