TORONTO - As he took on the role of a teacher who has an inappropriate relationship with his teenage student in the new film "Molly Maxwell," British-born, Canadian-based actor Charlie Carrick didn't form any judgment of his character.
Rather, he just did what he always does with his roles and tried to put himself in that situation and understand the cause of his actions, he says.
"I certainly didn't think of it as a scandalous thing or judge my character in that way before we started doing it," the 26-year-old said in a recent interview.
"I just thought of it as one of those rare occasions where you meet somebody that you have a good connection with, where sometimes the things that would usually stop you from pursuing that are just not quite strong enough to stand in the way of it."
Canadian filmmaker Sara St. Onge wrote and directed "Molly Maxwell," which opens Friday at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto.
Carrick makes his feature film debut as English teacher Ben, a kind-hearted 26-year-old expat who's disenchanted with his life in Toronto, where he works at a progressive alternative school filled with expressive and creative students.
When directionless 16-year-old student Molly (Lola Tash) takes up photography in an effort to find an identity, Ben goes out of his way to help her, and the two find themselves growing dangerously close. Co-stars include Rob Stewart, Krista Bridges and Richard Clarkin.
"Ben's really looking back on this other time of his life when he felt happier than he does now and something about Molly just reminds him of that," said Carrick, who was named the Toronto International Film Festival's Rising Star in 2011 and has been on TV series including "The Borgias" and "V."
"You know sometimes you just meet those people in life where it's just like your rhythms and your sensibilities, for some reason, it's just easy to be around them. ... And Ben is set up kind of as an alien in this school full of special kids, he doesn't feel special at all, and so it becomes even more important when he meets somebody that he is connected to and that he feels easy with.
"That's the only way that I thought about the relationship between those two."
To bring a natural feel to the film, St. Onge shot some of the most important scenes sequentially and didn't have Carrick or Tash (who was 18 at the time of shooting) meet ahead of time.
"Sara, quite rightly, I see now with hindsight, wanted to make us not comfortable with each other," said Carrick. "So the scenes where we were getting to know each other, that really was kind of happening."
Carrick understands Molly's feeling of being lost in a school filled with students who have already found their place in life.
Growing up in Newcastle, England, he felt insecure while attending the prestigious all-boys Royal Grammar School, "a big huge stone building with huge portraits of guys in funny wigs kind of thing," he said.
"When I was 16, I just wanted to be less self-conscious, so I was very envious of kids who were not self-conscious."
Theatre, books and films were always important to him, though, and eventually he got into acting.
Carrick came to live in Canada because his mother was born in Montreal and he found it an appealing country in which to live and build his acting career.
"When I was 18 I just wanted to get as far away from home as possible, I think lots of people have that feeling when they're 18, they've kind of been waiting for the chance to be off on their own," he said.
Carrick first moved to Vancouver, then Toronto. He's also lived briefly in Los Angeles and New York, and is due to fly back to Vancouver on Sunday to shoot a new TV series he said he can't talk about yet.
"I would love to just have a little house somewhere with all my stuff in it and just to be settled down but it's just the way things keep happening," said Carrick.
"I keep booking things that are someplace else, which you can't complain about, I guess. But it would be nice to have some kind of middle ground."