Veronika London brings out the protective instinct in a man. She’s pretty and demure, and immediately makes one think of throwing a raincoat over a puddle or holding open a door. But best to proceed with caution. She studies martial arts, takes kick-boxing classes, has undergone medieval combat training and plays a terrorist in an upcoming Spanish-language film. She’s like pretty Miho, the mute female assassin in Frank Miller’s Sin City – silent and graceful, yet potentially deadly. London reflects on her militaristic exercise regime: “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t know how to handle stress. I’d need to punch something.”

Gallery: Veronika London

It’s startling to think of this petite young woman kicking ass. I wonder if, outside of a brightly lit narrative, she’d be able to defend herself. “Oh, completely,” she says. “It’s just that you feel strength within yourself. There was a time when I took a year off from working out, and I just felt tired all the time. And now I feel strong.” While she aspires to be a big-screen action star, her most recent project featured an entirely different kind of action.

She plays an up-and-coming lingerie model named Cindy in a new TV series set to premiere this summer, conspicuously titled Lingerie. The show is set in New York, that mecca of doe-eyed but voluptuous international lingerie models, and it takes viewers behind the scenes to witness beautiful young women learning tough lessons at the hands of unscrupulous photographers and directors. Not surprisingly, the series features simulated sex scenes. Was that problematic? London says, “You know, I find it so easy these days. It’s almost kind of sad, because it’s just like anything else. They say you have to kiss this person. Okay. And then they say that you’re going to be making out with this person really passionately. Okay. It’s just acting, after all.” Indeed. But outside of the make-believe scenarios, isn’t that kind of work tough on real-life relationships?

“My last relationship didn’t work out partly because we met when I was just getting started in the industry ... you’re mingling with a lot of guys, you’re reading lines with guy, you’re kissing guys. On set, you do create very strong relationships with people when you spend 16 hours a day with them. And then if you end up making out with the person, I could see how sometimes that maybe causes problems,” she says with a laugh.

Yet what, amid all the combat training and simulated sex, is the ultimate goal? Where does this path strewn with bloody lips and bare bodies lead? “Honestly, it’s the feeling of peace within myself,” London explains, eyes brightening. “Because this is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I feel that by following this path I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.”

Veronika London met with photographer Franco Deleo at his Toronto studio for this exclusive TORO Woman shoot and revealed insights into her personality in the following Q & A.

Q: What is your present state of mind?
A: Focused. I’m just immersed in work right now. And I think that’s the best feeling, because I always have to have jobs lined up. And that’s the only thing I see right now.

Q: What is the quality you like most in a man?
A: Ambitious. I like someone who is goal-oriented and driven, because I am that way, and I thrive off that also.

Q: The quality you like most in a woman?
A: Trustworthy. I find nowadays that you have to really be selective about who you’re going to hang out with, and what information you’re going to disclose.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A: Just feeling absolute peace and self-fulfillment. And I find that I get that from what I’m doing right now.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m a really big fan of Jennifer Lopez and Pamela Anderson. Just because they built such a huge franchise and hit every single market. And it really comes down to persistence in this business. You can be not as talented but if you’re absolutely driven, you will get exactly what you want to get. The sky’s the limit.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance and/or indulgence?
A: I’m always working out and I eat a very strict diet, so days that I can just indulge and eat anything and everything are great. Like a really rich chocolate cake [laughs].

Q: What is your most treasured possession?
A: My memories.

Q: Which talent – other than ones you are blessed with – would you most like to have?
A: I really love stunt work. Like you know when someone can run against a wall and flip over? Stuff like that. I dropped gymnastics five years ago, so I probably can’t do all those crazy tricks. But tumbling. Any of that stuff is really cool.

Q: Other than your present occupation, what occupation would you like to try?
A: My state of mind right now is so focused on what I’m doing that I can’t even think of doing anything else.

Q: If you were to die and come back as a person and/or thing, what do you think it would be?
A: I love dogs. Maybe like a husky.

Q: What is your greatest fear?
A: Giving in to fear. I find right now I’m living completely outside my comfort zone, because normally I can be very sheltered and not want to do things. I can be shy. But this industry consists of always being out there, attending events, meeting new people, being in front of the camera and so on. And just going after what you want can also be so scary. It’s like, “What am I doing? Where am I?” But it’s also very exciting – I actually get a rush out of it. And I also think, “Oh my God, I feel so alive.”

Q: What trait do you deplore most in others?
A: Arrogance.

Q: What trait do you deplore most in yourself?
A: I can get into very workaholic stages, where I don’t make time for friends and family. And that’s something that I’m definitely trying to fix, because it’s so important to make time for the people that you love.

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A: I think in this industry, it’s the whole idea of beauty. I think anyone can be beautiful, but I think it’s so overrated that you have to look a certain way. And in this business, you sometimes feel forced or pressured to change how you naturally look.

Q: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
A: Go big or go home.

Q: What is your most defining characteristic?
A: Ambition.

Q: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A: Being in front of the camera. I just love it. It feels right.

Q:What is your motto?
A: It’s the same as my most overused phrase [laughs] – go big or go home.

William Morassutti is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TOROmagazine.com. Prior to joining TORO, he worked in Canadian broadcasting as a writer, producer, director, reporter and host.