By LANA MICHELIN
Up-and-coming actor and Rocky native Jason Cermak was completely caught off guard when he recently won an Alberta Film and Television Award over veteran Heartland actor Shaun Johnston and others.
Had Cermak suspected that he would win a Rosie for playing a young father who fights for custody of his daughter in the Alberta-made flick Common Chord, he might have encouraged his parents to come to the Calgary premiere of the feature film, even though the weather was bad last winter.
As it was, Cermak discouraged them from making the trip from Rocky Mountain House, so his mom and dad have yet to see what the fuss is about.
Even Cermak considered it to be an upset when he won the best actor award over Johnston, Kevin Davy from Hell on Wheels, Sheldon Elter from Blackstone and Tiny Plastic Men’s Chris Craddock.
“I was shocked to win,” said the 36-year-old actor, who accepted the glass trophy last month in Calgary.
Common Chord was a small-budget project that still has no distribution deal. Cermak described it as an “intelligent” story of “a really beautiful character” — a young musician who has to grow up fast when the mother of his young daughter dies of cancer and her grandfather wants to deny him custody of the girl.
He hopes Common Chord eventually finds a home on Netflix, or some other kind of streaming service so his parents and other people can see it.
Cermak also hopes his best actor prize will open more doors in the highly competitive film and television industry.
But as it is, his resume is none too shabby.
Cermak finished filming a small role in the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey film — about which he is strictly sworn to secrecy. Cermak recalled he couldn’t even walk from the film studio to the catering tent without being accompanied by security guards, who shielded him behind big black umbrellas from the prying lenses of the paparazzi.
“I was only a day player, but I think my role is fairly important to the story, so I don’t think it will be cut,” said Cermak, who believes appearing in such as highly publicized film could boost his career, which has included several television roles.
The actor has a reoccurring part in the AMC western Hell on Wheels, and has also appeared in Supernatural, Psych and Once Upon a Time.
He also recently finished filming the movie Fallout Asylum for the SyFy Network. The show, expected to premiere in the fall, is slated for a name change, but also stars Ashanti, Heartland’s Amber Marshall, Hemlock Grove’s Holly Devereau and Kim Coates of the U.S. series Sons of Anarchy.
One of Cermak’s biggest projects, the big-budget Hollywood movie Interstellar, won’t make him a household name, but was highly exciting for the actor, who got to rub shoulders with recent Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey, as well as Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Matt Damon and Topher Grace.
Cermak acted as McConaughey’s stand-in and photo double in the film about a wormhole directed by Christopher Nolan, as he’s exactly the same height, build and colouring as the well-known actor.
“I actually have a lot of screen time” in the movie slated for a November release, he said — although the audience won’t recognize him.
Cermak found the Interstellar filming experience fascinating, as he got to watch how some very talented actors behave on and off screen. He was also later invited to attend the premiere of McConaughey’s Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club at the Toronto Film Festival.
The Vancouver resident said he learned that McConaughey has a gregarious public persona that is very different from his real, more quiet demeanour with his wife and kids.
He noticed a similar dichotomy while working with Coates. The Sons of Anarchy actor and Saskatchewan native told him to hold onto the values he gleaned during his Prairie upbringing, and to not to get caught up in the artifice and attractions that are freely available to those in the film industry — namely drugs and alcohol. “During our one-on-one talk, he told me, ‘Don’t compromise your morality.’ ”
Cermak admitted he learned many valuable things while growing up in Rocky — not the least of which is to ride horses, a skill that’s come in handy for several film projects.
After graduating from Will Sinclair High School, he studied commerce and information technology at college.
Acting, which he had always loved to do in school, was supposed to be his “Plan B” said the actor, who later took classes at Calgary’s Company of Rogues.
But his film work is now becoming just as time consuming and financially viable as his parallel IT career, in which he problem-solves for oil and gas clients.
The trick is balancing both, Cermak added. “Both are demanding about 100 per cent of my time, so I don’t have any kind of personal life.”
As his acting takes off, he admitted he might have to hire some help to run his IT business.