Far and Away — Local actor had to leave Winnipeg to find success at home

By Peter Vesuwalla
Uptown Magazine — March 4, 2004

His goofy, lovable, anal-retentive character in Sean Garrity's Inertia could have earned him the moniker "Canada 's David Schwimmer," but 30 year-old Winnipeg expat Jonas Chernick had a different influence in mind for the part of a con man in Seven Times Lucky.

When I was pitching myself to (director) Gary (Yates) for the role, I told him I was inspired by Ed Norton, particularly his early work where he plays kind of dirty or edgy or fast-talking, guy-you-love-to-hate characters," says Chernick. "That was totally how I saw Sonny when I read the script. It's just that manic energy that he brings to the screen."

Lately, Chernick has managed to muster up some energy of his own. Between jobs in Winnipeg including Seven Times Lucky and Paul Christie's short, Eugene (both of which are screening at FilmExchange), he's been dividing his time between Toronto and L.A., scoring television roles in Eloise at the Plaza opposite Julie Andrews, Defending Our Kids with Annie Potts and The Pentagon Papers with James Spader.

He's also getting ready for a couple of roles in Winnipeg features he co-wrote: Sean Garrity's Lucid, which he hopes will go into production in the fall, and Norma Bailey's Highball.

Chernick has been acting since the age of seven with Actors' Showcase (now Manitoba Theatre for Young People), was a veteran of the Black Hole Theatre and co-founded the Conspiracy Network.

Ironically (or, perhaps, typically) it was only when he left Winnipeg for Toronto in 2000 that he started getting larger parts here.

"In Winnipeg I was going for everything that would come to town that was casting for my age range and my description," he says. "I'd usually be competing against the same three or four people. There was a regular cycle there where I knew work would come. I built up a really strong demo reel of film work, but I wasn't getting the real meaty stuff I was yearning for. I wasn't getting the juicy parts."

But he says playing Sonny in Seven Times Lucky has given him a chance to get in touch with the darker side of his character. The film opens with Sonny losing a toe over an unpaid debt to a gangster, so it looks as if Chernick's gotten his dark chance. Actually, you'd need a scoreboard to keep track of all the double-crosses between the film's opening and closing credits, but it's a safe bet Sonny would come out on top.

"A lot of people would agree I'd be an uncharacteristic choice for that role," says Chernick, who'll be in town for the weekend screening.

"Based on my body of work, it's not the kind of role I do. I'm usually the hapless, romantically-challenged, affable lovable, sweet guy who you feel sorry for," he says. "I think taking that persona and cross-referencing it with a dirtier, edgier, not-as-likable character gives this hybrid that works very interestingly on screen."

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