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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Bold and Brave: BRICK MANSIONS’ Carolina Bartczak

Some actors catch the acting bug early—they dream of working on big Hollywood pictures as a child and fantasize about accepting their Best Actor Academy Award by the age of twenty-five. They take acting classes at the community center, pose for head shots taken by their friends, and make sure to catch every film by their favourite actors. Sometimes this dream turns into a serious pursuit of the craft; sometimes it fades away when reality sets in and other career possibilities take center stage.

And sometimes actors don’t even consider acting until the possibility practically drops into their lap.

That’s exactly what happened to actress Carolina Bartczak, who was planning to become a scientist before she was bit by the acting bug. Now, five years later, she’s working in both the United States and Canada and stars in the upcoming Hollywood thriller, Brick Mansions.

Credit Dave Gillespie

“I didn’t really like school,” Bartczak tells me when I ask her about her seemingly sudden career shift. “I was drowning in the biochemistry program at the University of Toronto, and a friend suggested I audition for his short film. I had no idea what to expect and discovered a group of people who were so passionate, driven, knowledgeable, and as interested in the human condition as I was. But I had no acting experience, so naturally I bombed the audition!”

While many would have taken an unsuccessful audition as a deterrent, the experience only piqued Bartczak’s interest. She began taking acting classes, learning the techniques of storytelling and how to understand human motivations and behavior. Soon enough, her classes paid off and she landed a gig voicing the lead in the children’s detective series, The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog, for TVO and Discovery Kids.

“I feel so lucky to have found a career that I love and to have the training that allows me to work professionally as an actor,” she says.

Her training eventually lead Bartczak to New York City, where she trained at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse Theatre and was cast as the lead in the sci-fidrama Plato’s Reality Machine. While living and working in New York City was fulfilling, Bartczak eventually set her sights on returning to Canada to work. Yet with many Canadian actors striving to pursue careers in the United States, I had to ask: what made her want to return to Canada to work?

“You mean besides the fact that my visa was expiring?” she jokes. “Kidding! Actually, it didn’t have much to do with that at all. I love moving around, and I don’t usually spend more than three years in a city before I set my sights on something else. I loved my life in New York, but I was getting a lot of calls from my Canadian agents for auditions in Toronto and Montreal. I was getting the itch to move again thought that I would give Toronto a try. So many great TV shows have come out of Canada recently: Bomb Girls, Reign, Being Human, Helix, The Strain—I wanted the opportunity to audition for these shows right away. But I haven’t forgotten about you, New York. I’ll come back for you!”

When it was work on Canadian television that Bartczak wanted and strove for, it was work on Canadian television that the determined actress found. She was cast in roles on CTV’s The Listener, ABC’s Lucky 7, and the USA Network’s Covert Affairs.

“Now that we’ve entered the golden age of television, each season of a TV show is now a seven- to ten-hour film where we’re drawn into very well-crafted worlds and get long, complex arcs of development,” Bartczak points out when I ask her about acting in television today. “It’s exciting. Thankfully, actors on television are finally able to stretch their limbs and give more full and nuanced performances.  It makes it more and more difficult to decide what to watch and do next!”

Credit The Neighborhood Playhouse

Though Bartczak loves the new trends in television, her career also spans the stage and big screen. She recently starred as the lead in the hard-hitting play Dolores by Edward Allen Baker, and was seen in The Smurfs 2 alongside Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris.

Up next for Bartczak is the dramatic feature film Brick Mansions, in which she stars opposite the late Paul Walker. Brick Mansions follows an undercover cop that tries to take down a ruthless crime lord with access to a neutron bomb by infiltrating his gang. Bartczak plays Clara, the love interest to Paul Walker’s Damien.

“Clara is a lovely no-nonsense woman with a great sense of humour who works at the nursing home where Damien’s grandfather lives,” she tells me. “I imagine because of her charisma that she’d have been a rock star in another life. She has a great sense of liveliness to her, which I think is why Paul Walker’s character is drawn to her—besides her hot nurse’s outfit! However, she doesn’t easily get seduced by his charm, which of course entices him to work harder for her attention.”

Brick Mansions, also starring David Belle and RZA, is a remake of the 2004 French action film District 13. It’s described as an intense, action-packed thriller. When Bartczak became aware of Brick Mansions’ origins, she was even more excited to have landed the part.

“I’m a huge fan of Luc Besson, who had written District 13, and I saw that film years ago. I was absolutely thrilled when I realized that Brick Mansions was a remake, although my character didn’t appear in the original,” Bartczak enthuses. “I haven’t seen Brick Mansions yet, so I don’t know how closely it will resemble the original. Although I’m sure Paul Walker and RZA will bring their own personal charm and charisma! That will definitely shape the way the movie turns out.”

Fans and critics alike are excited for Brick Mansions’ release, and many are looking forward to what’s being labeled as “one of Paul Walker’s final film roles”. Bartczak has great memories of working with Walker, and developed a fondness for him right from the start.

Credit Dave Gillespie

“Working with Paul was such a wonderful experience. He set an example for everyone on how to have fun while still maintaining professionalism on set,” she tells me. “I know very little about him and his [personal] life, but seeing how open and generous he was with me, a virtual stranger—I can only imagine how kind and caring he was with his loved ones.”

And Walker definitely knew when to have a little fun. “I think that the funniest—or should I say most awkward?—moment on set happened when the stills photographer asked to have a picture of Paul and I ‘gazing romantically at each other’,” Bartczak recalls. “He asked us to stand extremely close to each other, nose-to-nose… at which point his camera stopped working. But he wouldn’t let us out of the pose! Paul and I had to sit there, breathing on each other, while the photographer fumbled with his equipment. I was trying to act as though I was so professional and that this wasn’t uncomfortable at all, despite it being a very awkward situation. But then Paul looked me straight in the eye and burst out laughing, breaking out of the pose! And I promptly went and hid in a corner.”

While Bartczak’s been busy promoting Brick Mansions, she has several projects right around the corner—including her passion project, The Flying Pigeon.

“Flying Pigeon is a project that I started with my brother, importing classic Chinese bicycles into Toronto,” Bartczak explains. “Flying Pigeon [bicycles] are regarded as one of the three ‘must-haves’ of every Chinese citizen, and are often given as gifts to foreign dignitaries. My brother and I are both avid cyclists and started an online bike store to have the opportunity to share these bikes with our fellow cyclists.”

Despite her love for cycling, Bartczak may not have much time to do so in the next few months. With her career only growing stronger, she has plenty of work on the horizon to look forward to.

“I’m currently prepping for a wonderful film about a young woman coping with the possible death of her sister from cancer. She’s a free spirit and looks for help in the most unlikely of places,” Bartczak shares with me. She also has another thrilling project coming up, but she swears she can’t reveal any details just yet.

“It’s so awesome that I want to tell you all about it, but I pinky swore—and signed a non-disclosure agreement—that I wouldn’t talk about it,” she says. “If only I could!”

Bartczak may not be able to share all the details of her exciting career moves with us just yet, but her work on Canadian television and in the drama Brick Mansions just prove one thing: she’s one to watch for.

Brick Mansions opens nationwide on April 25, 2014. For more information and showtimes, visit them on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.

Visit Carolina Bartczak at her official website, and check out her company, The Flying Pigeon.

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