Exclusive: Aleks Paunovich - From Human to Vampire and Back Again

Aleks PaunovichAt the end of last week's episode of Syfy's Van Helsing, Julius, played by Aleks Paunovic, was bitten by Vanessa (Kelly Overton) and was turned from vampire back to human. In this week's episode, more of Julius's backstory of before he was originally turned into a vampire was revealed.

Paunovic recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about playing Julius as both a vampire and human, what's to come for his character later in the season, and more.

SCIFI VISION: I know that for any vampire on the show, being bitten and turned by Vanessa is always a possibility, but when did you first find out that that's where your character was headed?

Aleks PaunovichALEKS PAUNOVIC: I was basically told after the first episode [of season two]. Neil LaBute said, "This is what we're thinking of doing," and I was ecstatic. There were inklings of maybe this or maybe that, but then it was really said, "Okay, so this is exactly what is going on." And I love that they like to keep most of the stuff fresh, as opposed to leading up to it. So, it was a pleasant surprise.

I know you started playing him human close to the beginning of the season, but was it difficult to kind of make that shift to the character that way, or because you always knew it could happen, was it more natural?

It was a little difficult, because I didn't want to go away from who Julius was, and I really wanted to have a big contrast to what he became when he was a vampire and what he was after.

I kind of like the vulnerability that I gave Julius as a human, and you know, the love for his mother surpasses anything, so, that whole juxtaposition of what he lost and what he needs revenge for when he becomes a vampire.

And for me to go into human, I really was trying to keep obviously the tough exterior, but obviously also the little bit of the vulnerability in there. I think it really kind of tells to the character, of how far he has come from being this person that, you know, was basically just trying to save his mom, just trying to get a decent earning job, and who puts himself and his body out there, so he can pay for his mother and keep her in the hospital, to then the huge switch into who he is as a vampire. That was what I really wanted to get across, how different the character was.

Learning that he was going to be human, did that change the way that you approached playing him while he was still a vampire?

Well, not necessarily, because I already developed a backstory, and I needed to make the stakes higher. I needed to know like, "Why is he the way he is, and how can I make him an interesting character instead of just one dimensional?"

So, I filled in a very extensive backstory as to how I got there, what my life was before I was a vampire, and how old I was.

Aleks PaunovichSo, I had a lot of stuff in the backstory that was kind of close to what actually ended up happening in the show, and that's because the writers, Jonathan Walker and Neil and Jackie [May] and everyone, they just want to know, because the actors have each built this specific character, and we kind of give them ideas. And they jam on it a little bit, and then it hopefully progresses into this thing that is along the same lines of the backstory that you built.

So, for me, it actually put the magnifying glass on the backstory that I did, and it was really helpful for me.

I was actually going to ask you about his backstory next, if they wrote it because of you, because I had read that you were an amateur boxer. How was that, getting to kind of bring that part of yourself into it?

Well, I'd worked with Simon Barry before. I'm really good friends with him, so they all knew that I had a boxing background and a fight background. It was just another little interesting piece to put into who Julius was before he became a vampire.

So, yeah, I mean, it's one of those things I look at as, you know, you throw spaghetti on a wall, and you just see what sticks. I like to throw a bunch of ideas out there, and if they take them, great; if they don't, that's fine, but at least I got it off my chest. At least I got to express it. It may not be in line with what the creators had thought, or they may see that it would be a good addition to the character.

So, I'm a big fan of communicating that kind of thing with the bosses.

I know last season when I talked to you, you said that you like getting makeup and everything put on to get into character, but I'm curious, in this week's episode, the makeup you had after getting beat up looked very uncomfortable, when your face as they said, was "hamburger." Can you talk a bit about that?

Yeah, it definitely was uncomfortable, [laughs] but the makeup effects on this show are phenomenal. First season was making the vampires and making them more original than anything, and then, now, with things that would happen in any genre, which is somebody getting beaten up.

And with that makeup, I love the fact that they really went brutal with it. Yeah, it definitely was uncomfortable, but it's all a part of the job, and I loved what they did. I thought they did a phenomenal job to make Julius look like he was at the end of his rope.

Aleks PaunovichI know last season was dark, and this season starts to get really dark now that Sam (Chris Heyerdahl) is back. So, for all of that, I was just curious, is it hard for you to kind of get in and out of that kind of dark stuff? Is it hard to step away from that? Is there anything you do after to kind of not be affected by it and get your mood up, or does it not affect you?

No, it doesn't affect me. Basically, I know that the show gets darker, and we know obviously reading the script that we have to really drop in and get into the darkness of the show, and the characters, to express it, to make it authentic. And I'm actually pretty good with getting in and out of those situations as an actor, because I get excited with the idea of telling the story authentically. So, it hasn't been a problem for me.

And for everyone around set, whatever director we have, we make sure that no matter how much fun we have when the camera's off, when it's time to turn the camera on and do the show, everyone reminds each other that we've got to really drop in.

So, for me personally, I find it alive when I have to drop into that kind of darkness, and it's not a hard thing for me to come back out of, because I know the reality of it.

What's your favorite part about playing Julius?

Aleks PaunovichWell, especially this season, I think my favorite part is that I'm usually the guy - and I have no problem with it. I have such a great time with playing the "villain," you know, somebody that's willing to go that much further than anybody else, as I like to look at it, but, you know, playing the antagonist within pieces and in films that I've done, I have a blast with it, but being on the other side, being, you know, on a team that's getting chased, as opposed to me being the one chasing, [laughs] it's kind of refreshing. And I kind of loved being a part of that group, especially with the caliber of characters and actors that we have on the show that I'm with, and you know, being able to work with Kelly. I've been a huge fan of her work before Van Helsing, and seeing what she did during the show, and then in the second season, I'm her sidekick basically, and I really, really enjoyed that aspect of the role.

Do you have a favorite scene that you can talk about filming?

I would have to say one of my favorite things is the boxing episode. I just love that boxing scene so much. We got to really choreograph it in a way; we had to adapt the 1936 type style. I just love that story; I loved doing that. Basically I loved the backstory of who Julius was before he got turned, and that was my favorite thing to do, for sure - a little bit of a period piece.

Is there anything that you can tease about what's coming up for Julius?

There's a face-off between Sam and Julius that was exciting, and to me, quite epic, and I've been a massive fan of Chris Heyerdahl throughout his career, so getting a chance for us to work together on screen like that, in the viciousness that you're going to see, was pretty great.

Another scene that looked like fun was the snowball fight. Was that just a blast and funny to do?

Aleks Paunovich[laughs] Well, the funny thing about the snowball fight is that there was no snow the day before. All of a sudden we got all this snow, and we're like, "This is amazing; this is awesome!" And then it was, [laughs] "Seriously, like maybe you guys should just walk along and have a snowball fight." I went, "Oh, yes we will!" And sure enough, there were some good outtakes with some good hits in there, which was pretty hilarious.

Speaking of outtakes, is there anything you can think of that you added or ad-libbed to the show that they just ended up keeping in?

Nothing comes to the top of my head. But there's a scene when we're all in the van, in Wanda, with Missy [Peregym]'s character, and there was quite a bit of improv that was quite hilarious. I'm actually really curious at what they're going to keep.

But Missy has been such a beautiful add to the show. Not only is she a phenomenal actress, but just she's a sarcastic, hilarious woman who constantly busts my balls, and it's hilarious. So, it was fun to have her around.

And I think there are some cool moments; I can't wait to see the cut, if some of our improv made it in that.

Usually I ask actors to give me three words to describe their character, but can you give me three words to describe Julius as a vampire and Julius now?

That's really interesting, because you want to do all the clichés. [laughs] I would say he's definitely hungry for power, so hunger, power, and committed.

And Julius now is compassion, strength, and vulnerability.

Aleks PaunovichDo you have anything else besides Van Helsing that you want to promote?

October 4th I'm in the new season of Dirk Gently['s Holistic Detective Agency]. I play a character named Wygar Oak, and it's in this fictional fairyland that's part of the show. So I'm excited about that.

And I'm excited about one I've got that I produced and starred in called Puppet Killer; it's a Christmas horror film.

And I have one called Siberia with Keanu Reeves coming out.

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