It’s no mystery that Syfy is quickly becoming one of the most trustworthy networks for quality programming with innovative content, phenomenal directing, and outstanding acting. As television continues its golden age, the channel known for fantastical concepts has given fans one highly applauded and critically acclaimed show after the next with “The Expanse,” “Aftermath,” the new smash sensation “Blood Drive,” and of course, “Van Helsing,”– which is already developing a cult following as great as “True Blood,” or “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” with its stars being just as worshiped- particularly Aleks Paunovic!
A former boxer, the 6″5 Canadian native has all the makings of what it takes to be a perfect action star- not only is he built like a living superhero, but the impressive artist also has a background doing stunt work! But, while the powerful actor is severely revered for his strength, physique, and mobile abilities when it comes to his demanding performances that are usually within the action and sci-fi world, it’s his talent that really has captured audiences and critics attention.
Heartfelt like Sylvester Stallone- an actor whom Paunovic calls a role model, and likeable like Tony Danza, the “Van Helsing” star manages to play anything from comedy to drama effortlessly and naturally in a way that is both relatable and enjoyable- particularly for male audiences who are looking for a hero that can actually act as well as throw punches, which is probably why the quickly rising performer has been cast in so many films alongside such touted names such as Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, and Keanu Reeves. But, while the jovial actor abundantly praises his esteemed co-stars, he remains humble as can be and serious about his craft, and the dedicated star continues to have no ego as he lists Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting coach Larry Moss as one of his most important relationships in the industry, always stressing the pertinence of the drama and story within the action or science fiction setting.
Not that there is any pretense whatsoever when it comes to Paunovic’s career choices. One of the greatest things about being a fan of the extremely down-to-earth star is that he is just as much of a fan of the genre’s that he stars in as those who watch him. The intuitive actor might seek depth in the stories he tells, but he’s still just as big of a fan of those stories and the action and fantasy they provide- which is precisely why he has signed on to one of the major blockbusters of the summer; “War For Planet Of The Apes,” and as he describes the movie as “A drama within an action science-fiction film,” Paunovic clearly feels right at home in his niche of smart storytelling inside outrageous action and science-fiction phenomenon.
With “War For Planet Of The Apes“ set to rule the box office this summer, “Van Helsing,” pegged to dominate television again this fall, and tons more projects in development, Wingman knew we had to sit down and talk to Aleks about his non-stop career, what we can expect from his hit film this summer, and what he would love to do in the future. Read below to see what he had to say!
WINGMAN: So, talk about “War For Planet Of The Apes.” What can fans expect from the new installment in the franchise, and how does it differ from the other films?
ALEKS PAUNOVIC: Well, people might think that it’s an action film, but it’s actually a drama, and the action just happens to be living in that world, and I’m just excited to be playing within that world. I play a character named Winter, and just to be involved in that franchise has been really big for me. I think the director Matt Reeves, as well as Andy Serkis, and the other actors were really phenomenal. Terry Notary plays Rocket, and he’s been on board since the other films and he helped us new actors find our footing in becoming apes, and that was very helpful. Matt Reeves knows how to make a film, and he does a great job, so this particular movie is going to be even a notch above the others- even though I absolutely loved the other two!
WINGMAN: Were you always a fan of the “Planet Of The Apes” films?
PAUNOVIC: Well, of course. I didn’t necessarily grow up on them, but I do remember my dad showing me the movies when I was young, and I saw a lot of movies when I was young, but I don’t remember many of them, and naturally “Planet Of The Apes” is the film to remember- it’s iconic. There aren’t so many films that have such legendary scenes like the Statue Of Liberty scene. It really resonates, and now I get to be a part of that franchise- so, I’m really excited about it.
WINGMAN: This particular movie has a great cast- Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Steve Zahn. Talk about the great company you’re in.
PAUNOVIC: That’s one of the major elements that made this so exciting; especially with Andy- he’s the godfather of motion capture, and even that is secondary to him because it’s truly his acting ability that makes him such a great artist, and it just so happens to be motion capture that he’s involved in, but he’s a phenomenal actor. His presence is so potent. And, of course, having Woody, Steve, and Judy there- it was such a wonderfully eclectic crew and we really got to bond throughout filming, and I was so happy to be around all of them.
WINGMAN: Then, speaking of great company, you’re also filming “Siberia” alongside Molly Ringwald and Keanu Reaves, and then “Hard Powder” alongside Emmy Rossum, Laura Dern, Benjamin Hollingsworth and Liam Neeson. What can you tell us about those films and being in such fantastic company?
PAUNOVIC: I started my career playing music in bands across the country, and I also had a little bit of a boxing career, and I never really had any acting family that lead me down this path. I just happened to stumble upon being a stunt man and then started acting- I just wanted to make a living. The last thing I ever thought was that I would share a screen with amazing talents like Laura Dern, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reaves, and the wonderful people you’re naming- so, just to be working alongside these brilliant people and telling a story that they want to tell is great. I’m having a blast. Liam Neeson and Laura Dern are amazing, and “Hard Powder” is fantastic- I think that movie is really going to be something that people will enjoy. And, “Siberia” with Keanu Reeves actually shot in my home town, Winnipeg, Manitoba, so I got to go home and see my folks, and I had a great welcome when I went back, and that entire experience was nothing short of thrilling. Every part of this job has left a smile on my face.
WINGMAN: One actor you work with a lot, of course, is your main squeeze; Aliyah O’Brien- who you have “Mercs,” and “Hard Days, Wet Nights” on the horizon with. What can you tell us about those films, and how is it working alongside someone you’re so close to?
PAUNOVIC: “Mercs” is by a friend of mine, Brente Cote and his producing partner Gabriel Napora, and they asked us, so Aliyah and I were immediately interested because we were excited to work with our friends. That’s always fun! And then, “Hard Days, Wet Nights” was one of those projects where we got to not only work on, but also hang out for a few weeks and do this six episode series alongside one another- and it’s always great to work with someone that you love and want to be next to. Those moments are always wonderful.
WINGMAN: You have so many films on the horizon and you’ve been working with such great people- like EGOT winner Whoopi Goldberg in “A Very Sordid Wedding.“ Who else would you love to work with, and what other roles are you looking to play?
PAUNOVIC: Oh, man! Keanu Reeves was a good one to knock off my list because I’ve always been a major fan of his. But, I would love to work with Sylvester Stallone, and I would love to do something along the lines of “Rocky.” Being an ex-boxer, that is one of the most influential films I’ve ever seen. I got the chance to work with Larry Moss, who is an amazing acting coach that has coached Leonardo DiCaprio and Hilary Swank, and to get him to help guide me a bit was really incredible and those are the kind of relationships I really thrive on.
WINGMAN: Then, you’re also stepping behind the camera as producer on another film coming up- “Puppet Killer.” Tell us about that, and is stepping behind the camera something you’d like to do more of?
PAUNOVIC: Definitely. I’ve done a little producing on a film called “Numb,” and that was more along the lines of troubleshooting on set, working with the little details and what have you- and I loved that. It was definitely something that was worth pursuing more of. So, when I was approached to be the lead in this film, I asked if I could take on a producing role as well. It’s a fun horror film. Richard Harmon is in it, fans would know him from “The 100.” I get to not only act in the movie, but also work on story, troubleshoot, develop the movie, and that really appeals to me and I’m looking to do a lot more of that.
WINGMAN: Then, of course, we can’t not mention “Van Helsing”! It’s been a huge hit! Can you talk about what fans can expect from the new season?
PAUNOVIC: A lot of the second season is still very under wraps. I love the show and the fans response has been wonderful, and the writing is so amazing- Neil Labute’s writing is so incredible, and him being a part of the show is so important to me. That’s all the top of the cake, and being able to play Julius is just a blessing. This season has so many twists and turns. I’m really chomping at the bit to tell everyone what’s going on, but I can’t wait for everyone to watch it- it’s going to be quite a season!
WINGMAN: Syfy has really become a must watch network with shows like “Van Helsing,” “The Expanse,” and now “Blood Drive.” Can you talk about working with the network, and the amazing Kelly Overton?
PAUNOVIC: Syfy has been nothing but an amazing host for us. I’ve been on other shows for the network, and honestly, I can’t say enough about how great they treat us. And, as for Kelly, I’ve been a fan of hers since before “True Blood.” I’m a huge fan. When I found out she was a part of “Van Helsing” I was extremely excited and knew this would be a success. She’s a great leader- fierce, gentle, super-smart about figuring out the scene and helping other actors figure out the scene, knowledgeable, kind, and loving, and I’m really glad I got to work with her.
WINGMAN: And you have another film on the way- “Volition”, another sci-fi movie. Was this always a genre you loved, and what can you tell fans about the movie?
PAUNOVIC: “Volition” is going to be great. It’s just starting production and I think fans are going to really enjoy it. That movie is due out in 2018, it’s by Tony Dean Smith and his brother Ryan W. Smith, and it’s a sci-fi murder mystery. I’m really excited to be a part of this film. I just love sci-fi- especially drama within sci-fi, because you’re getting the realism along with the fantastic. You step out of reality and get to play and make that a new reality, so it’s a lot of fun.
And we couldn’t be happier that the gifted actor enjoys one of our favorite genre’s so heartily, because now that Paunovic is conquering Hollywood, we all have a new sci-fi action hero to look up to! “Van Helsing” won’t return on Syfy until this Fall, but, in the meantime, check out our favorite new star on the big screen this summer in “War For Planet Of The Apes” on July 14th!