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Langley’s leading man

At 19, Rustin Gresiuk has landed his first lead role in a feature film for UPtv
Paper Angels actors Rustin Gresiuk, Josie Bissett and Anja Savcic (back to camera) on set in Langley. The UPtv film marks Gresiuk’s first lead role.

After seven years of dedication to his chosen career a young Langley actor has landed his first lead role in a movie, opposite two industry veterans, well-known for their roles in American drama television.

Rustin Gresiuk, who is 19 years old, plays teenager Thomas Brandt in the upcoming adaptation of country singer Jimmy Wayne’s book, Paper Angels.

The movie also stars Matthew Settle of Gossip Girl fame and Josie Bissett, who is best known for her roles on Melrose Place and Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Paper Angels is set to debut this winter on the American UPtv network, formerly the Gospel Music Channel.

“I kind of grew up watching those shows ... and you would never think that you would be working with those actors,” said Gresiuk.

Gresiuk spoke to The Times on set during the last week of the production’s filming in Maple Ridge at the Maple Ridge Baptist Church at the end of July.

Filming also took place in Langley the week before.

“Sometime’s we’d be doing a scene and I’d just have to do a double take,” said Gresiuk of the opportunity to work with such actors as Settle and Bissett. He said the more experienced cast members have been happy to provide him with input and tips, which he described as invaluable.

Paper Angels, directed by David Winning, takes place during the Christmas season, and tells the story of how the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program helps bring together two families through a simple expression of kindness.

According to Gresiuk, the story — which includes themes of faith — resonated strongly.

“It really hit home and really hit my heart,” said Gresiuk, adding that his own faith is largely responsible for keeping him grounded through his busy schedule.

Gresiuk said the experience has been “a big learning curve,” and that the most challenging part so far has been the long days and heavy memorization — six to nine pages of script are shot each day — required of lead role actors.

“Being a lead, you’re working every single day. You’re in every single scene,” he said, noting that some days he won’t get home from set until two in the morning, with script pages still left to prepare for the next day of filming.

“I just learned you just kind of take a step back ... don’t look on what you all have to get done, just look [at] what you have to get done for that day, for that scene, and then move on from there. I find that really helped me get a good pace.”

Gresiuk said he averages two auditions per week and before Paper Angels, appeared in a sequel to the movie Flicka as well as an episode of the television show Fringe, and has plenty of other projects he’d like to chase next.

He recently wrapped production on a television pilot for Canada’s YTV network, called ReBoot the Guardian Code.

Gresiuk will find out this month whether the show is picked up and if it is, it will be another lead role to add to his credits.

Growing up in “Hollywood North” has given the young actor an advantage in landing roles like this, he said, as there are a large number of casting directors working in the Lower Mainland with plenty of new projects always coming through their offices.

However, it’s a small community compared to its southern counterpart.

“Everyone knows kind of everyone ... I’m going to stay here as long as it allows me,” he said, adding that he has had friends move to Los Angeles to pursue acting, only to land a role in something that is being produced back home in Canada.

Although Gresiuk said he will travel where the work takes him, he’s been excited to see the success of the B.C. industry over the last several years.

“One thing that you really do notice is how much the film industry really does support the economy in B.C.”

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