If you’re going to make your feature film debut, you couldn’t do much better than Elysium. The popular sci-fi action flick starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster is South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to the hugely successful District 9.

But actor Josh Blacker isn’t exactly about half measures. A born entertainer, he initially planned to study acting but a wave of doubt about whether or not it was a “true profession” sent him down a different career path. But four years into practicing law in Calgary, he could no longer ignore the fact that his heart really wasn’t in it.

“I just realized while practicing that it was something that I really didn’t enjoy,” says Blacker.

So he packed it in and left Calgary for Vancouver to rekindle his acting dream ... Just like that. And, he’s been working ever since.

Did his background in law help him in his new vocation?

“Absolutely. Going to school and practicing law is a pretty grueling process,” says Blacker. “You have to work really, really hard. And I think a lot of people want to do film but this is a business and the people that are ultimately successful are talented but also work hard.

“So I think it gave me a work ethic that allowed me to persevere during difficult times but also approach it like a profession. I still appreciate the art and the craft involved and I consider myself an artist, but I can separate the business side of it.”

In nine years, Blacker got steady work in television, his martial arts training coming in handy in what were mostly sci-fi and action roles in series like SGU Stargate Universe, V, Fringe and Transporter: The Series.

And now you can see him on the big screen as Crowe, a soldier who works alongside Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to defend the wealthy on Elysium from the huddled masses that dwell below on a destroyed Earth.

Working with Blomkamp was a dream come true. After seeing District 9, Blacker walked out of the theatre thinking that this was a director who was going places.

“As soon as I found out that it was filming in Vancouver, I got on the phone with my agent and said, ‘I don’t care what happens, you have to get me in that room so I can audition for him,’” Blacker says.

From there, it turned out to be an even better experience than he’d anticipated.

“Neill is a very collaborative director and he allows the actors to fully inhabit the worlds of the characters and we improvised a lot,” says Blacker. “If he’s comfortable with an actor, he is 100% behind you and it gives you much more creative horsepower.”

blacker-damon.jpgWith a director like that, you never want to disappoint him. So when it came down to doing a difficult stunt, Blacker couldn’t refuse. He’d already bulked up for the role, putting on 15 pounds of muscle. Surely, he could handle this task.

“There was one particular stunt that Neill wanted me to do because we couldn’t get a stunt actor to do it because of the way they were going to film it. It would have been too obvious that it was not me,” Blacker recalls. “So he talked to the stunt coordinator and he said, no problem. And that was the most physically intimidating part of the process, but it gave me a whole new appreciation and understanding for stunt actors and what they do. “

His next feature film is a complete departure from the sci-fi world – a workplace comedy that he co-wrote as well as stars in called Focus. At present, they’re looking at doing the festival circuit to find a distributor.

“It’s sort of Office Space meets Trading Places,” says Blacker. “It was so good to do a comedy.”

No stunts, just laughs. But as the versatile Blacker has proven, he has no trouble changing things up.

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