For Serbian-Canadian actress Jelena Popovich, home is wherever her feet roam. “People ask me, ‘Where do you live now?’ and I say, ‘Well, where I sleep tonight,’” she says.
The energetic actress is always on the move, driven by a wide-eyed passion and commitment to her craft. After graduating with a BA in film studies and psychology from Western in 2005, Popovich decided to pursue her dream of acting.
From London, she traveled to Toronto and studied at the prestigious Equity Showcase Theatre and Professional Actors Lab. The next great acting adventure led her to Prague for a conservatory in film acting at the Prague Film School. Now in New York City, Popovich is under the guidance of esteemed acting mentor, Susan Batson, who has coached Oscar award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, and the legendary Tom Cruise.
Despite the pressure to become a big name in the Big Apple, Popovich remains grounded. “It’s an inspiration, really,” the actress says. “It’s a blessing to be here and to be trained by the woman that helped [Kidman’s and Cruise’s] career move forward.”
Whether honing her Shakespeare theatre skills in Prague, or debuting dark, cutting edge independent films like The House of Gaudet at last year’s Toronto Alternative Fashion Week, Popovich always applies her experience from Western to the art of acting.
“You can imagine that building a character is very intense and emotional,” she says. “So [taking psychology] helped me in my acting, to really understand the human being in a more complex way. It just gave me another perspective on cinema and it also fed my desire for acting.”
In the midst of New York sirens, Popovich raves about her latest trip to Mexico for the upcoming theatre production, Tree of Hope Keep Standing Firm. A one-woman show focusing on the life and legacy of painter Frida Kahlo, the Western alumnus describes the journey as life changing. “It was so rich. I immersed myself in the culture—I went to places that Frida went to. I visited the house that she and Diego [Rivera] built for themselves. I think that’s when I realized that she’s not just a character, but she’s a human being. I’m building a life.”
As for aspiring actors at Western, Popovich emphasizes how a university education enhances a dramatic career. “Every action counts,” she says. “Whether it’s maybe signing up in the local theatre or amateur group, or shooting yourself and putting it on YouTube.”
With the same infectious enthusiasm she had as a student, Popovich believes that a passion for acting and travel will make anywhere feel like home. “It is competitive, but it is possible.”